Little Dish founder Hillary Graves and CEO Dean Brown

US investment firm Profile Capital has acquired a majority stake in Little Dish, valuing the healthy children’s food brand at $21.5m (£17m) as it draws up plans to break the American market.

Founder Hillary Graves and CEO Dean Brown will retain a significant minority holding and work alongside Profile, a US family office based in Chicago, to internationalise the brand.

The husband-and-wife team, who will continue to run the business in the UK and US, will use the additional firepower to further accelerate UK growth and fund expansion into the US, their first export market.

“Profile brings significant cash and funding and, more importantly, they have US relationships and knowledge of the local market,” Graves told The Grocer.

“We’ve always wanted to take Little Dish to the States. It is in keeping with the social mission of the company to change the children’s food industry for the better by getting kids to eat healthy, nutritious, proper food from a very early age. It’s been the mission in the UK so bringing that to the US is very exciting as there is a consumer need here - and from a commercial perspective the market is huge.”

Little Dish launched its fresh meals for toddlers in a handful of stores in 2006 and today has nationwide listings for its expanded range in the chilled meals and baby aisles across Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda, Waitrose, Morrison’s, Ocado, Co-op, Booths, Boots and Nisa.

The business, which made its first move into ambient meals and snack in May, is currently growing 40% year on year, with 2017 retail sales value expected to hit £15m by the year end.

“2018 will be a transformational year for the company as we launch our first above-the-line marketing campaign in the UK and bring Little Dish to the US market,” Graves said. “These strategic initiatives are exciting milestones for the company.”

Profile Capital founder Benjamin Chereskin added: “Little Dish is the category leader with a superior product range in the toddler food market. Their fresh meals offering represents the next major innovation in children’s nutrition. With the right financial backing and strategic relationships, we see substantial potential for further expansion both in the UK and US.”