Steven Esom, the former Waitrose and M&S exec, has acquired a majority stake in Product Chain, one of the UK's best-known sales agencies, to help deliver his vision of a "seed to harvest" solution for startups and fast-growth fmcg companies.

Esom bought the stake through Cogn8, a joint venture consultancy he set up with former Waitrose colleague Sara Pearson in 2009. It will be the first of "two or three" acquisitions to help create, re-engineer and expand brands for UK and international clients.

Founded by Simon Dunn in 1990, Product Chain was behind the early success of high-profile brands including Ecover, Copella, Dentyl pH and Grove Fresh. And with the demise of Jenks and Food Brokers, and a contraction in both the retailer and supply base, Esom believes the time is right to "reinvent" the third-party sales agency model, to help small players navigate the complexities of the retail trade. "I've seen so many good brands fail over the years. They had good ideas, but can't make the phases. They lack the insights into how retail, PR or marketing work and end up spending huge amounts on things retailers don't value or appreciate, while the basics like invoicing and deliveries are forgotten."

With a billing engine that results in 98% of invoices being paid first time, and offering expert advice in logistics, packaging, PR support and positioning, Product Chain takes the hassle out of running a small business, said Esom,

"If you're a small business, how many areas can you be best at? You'll never compete with the likes of P&G on all of them, but you might win the brand battle and I believe small companies are better served investing in brand managers rather than sales execs."

Esom said the role would complement his part-time role as a senior partner at Langholm Private Equity. "Langholm is about getting from the second to third and fourth stage. Product Chain is about first steps, though we will have the facility to manage brands to quite a large size."