Little Moons

Siblings Vivien and Howard Wong founded Little Moons in 2010 and the pair will retain a majority stake in the brand following the deal

Premium ice cream challenger Little Moons has secured investment from L Catterton following a hotly contested private equity battle to grab a share of the rapidly growing brand, The Grocer can reveal.

The terms of the deal for the significant minority shareholding were not disclosed but are understood to value the business at much higher than £100m, according to sources in the City.

With Catterton’s support, Little Moons would be positioned to accelerate its growth and international expansion, the PE firm said.

As revealed by The Grocer last month, Little Moons hired advisors at Houlihan Lokey to find an investment partner, with at least five PE houses in the running to back the brand, including Catterton.

Dealmakers in the City called the process “a good old-fashioned dog fight”, with Catterton pushed right to the line by Bridgepoint to secure a deal.

Little Moons founders Howard and Vivien Wong have retained a controlling stake in the business.

Howard Wong called the transaction “an exciting milestone” for Little Moons as it looked to capitalise on “explosive demand” for its Mochi Ice Cream in the UK and overseas.

“We firmly believe that, in L Catterton, we’ve found a partner that shares not only our ambitions but also our values, and their support will help us to scale our reach globally,” he added.

“The L Catterton team brings an extensive track record in the retail and food categories, and we look forward to benefiting from their expertise so we can continue doing what we do best – creating little lifts that spark positivity for more people around the world.”

Growth at Little Moons rocketed in the past year thanks to a viral TikTok video in early 2021 of a Tesco customer buying the brand. The video has since been watched more than 300 million times and inspired other users sharing similar content on social media using the hashtag #LittleMoons.

Sales surged by 700% in Tesco as a result, with new listings with Sainsbury’s, Morrisons and Asda swiftly following, supplementing distribution already in place with Waitrose and Ocado.

Little Moons added an extra £17.6m in value sales in 2021, from a base of just under £2m to almost £20m, registering growth of 900%, according to The Grocer’s annual Top Products Survey [NielsenIQ 52 w/e 11 September 2021].

That figure is now understood to be much higher, with annualised revenues running at about £50m.

“Little Moons has developed a market-defining brand with significant global expansion potential,” said L Catterton partner Jean-Philippe Barade.

“We see a tremendous opportunity to accelerate growth and expansion not only within the attractive and growing premium ice cream category, but also within the even larger premium snack category.

“We are excited to be partnering up with Vivien, Howard and their outstanding management team and support them in bringing Little Moons to a wider and more global audience.”

Little Moons’ mochi balls are available in 20 countries across Europe, the Middle East and Asia, but it has yet to make headway in North America.

US-headquartered L Catterton has significant experience investing in the food and beverage industry, with current and past investments including Kettle, Lily’s Kitchen, Butternut Box, Ferrara Candy Company, YoCrunch, Plum Organics and Cholula.