Ice cream maker Jude’s is courting outside investment for the first time after hiring advisors as the brand looks to take on the category’s giants, The Grocer can reveal.
Independent corporate finance firm Spayne Lindsay has been charged with exploring strategic options, including a potential sale or bringing in a new investment partner.
Jude’s has been self-funded since Theo Mezger produced his first ice cream in 2002, naming the brand after his wife. Today, the business is run by Mezger’s sons Chow and Alex as co-CEOs, as well as long-time MD James Wright.
Dealmakers in the City expect significant interest from trade players and private equity firms given “huge momentum” at the business, coupled with the sustainable mission, B Corp status and ESG compliance.
“It’s growing well, got impressive scale and distribution, and is bang on-trend,” one City source said. “It’s run by a great team at the top and the sustainability side is a way of life for them; they absolutely believe it is the right thing to do.
“They have ambitions to be a global brand, and now is the time for them to assess whether there is the right partner out there to accelerate plans for growth.”
Jude’s has registered rapid growth in recent years, outperforming the wider ice cream category.
Revenues jumped 21% to £11.5m in the year ended 31 September 2021, with forecasts for “material” growth in the coming years, according to the group’s first set of full accounts at Companies House. The Grocer understands turnover has since moved on significantly and is on track for £22m this year.
One dealmaker added the business should attract “a proper branded multiple”, with any deal potentially valuing Jude’s at up to £40m.
Jude’s has expanded its range of tubs and mini-tubs into flavours such as black coconut, rose and gin & tonic, with distribution in all the top supermarkets, as well as supplying high-end restaurants, cinemas and theatres on the foodservice side.
It has also stretched into lower-calorie offerings, plant-based ice cream and lower-sugar ice lollies for kids under the Little Jude’s brand, as well as launching a rival product to Unilever’s Magnum with handheld variants and branching out into milkshakes, sauces and desserts.
“The plant-based product is fantastic, and that side is going well and the snacking on-the-go market for ice cream is seeing significant growth,” the City source said.
Jude’s has committed to making half its products plant-based by 2025, up from 36% currently, with 75% of launches in 2022 being plant-based, which has a lower carbon footprint than dairy.
It is part of the company’s ambition to reduce its carbon intensity per litre of ice cream by 43% by 2030.
In 2021, it announced it was the UK’s first official carbon negative ice cream brand. An impact report for 2023 released last year highlighted a 21% reduction in carbon intensity, with measures including the UK’s first walk-in ice cream freezer powered by solar panels, more solar panels on the factory roof in Twyford and 100% of virgin paper and board from certified renewable sources.
Jude’s and Spayne Lindsay declined to comment.