Premium dogfood supplier Forthglade is eyeing an international expansion push and broader range after its £50m sale to European investment firm IK Investment Partners.

IK this week bought a majority stake in a deal that sees existing investor Piper Private Equity exit the business.

The deal, understood to be worth more than £50m, is the first under IK’s recently established London ‘small cap’ team and will also see Forthglade’s existing management team reinvest in the business.

IK will look to expand Forthglade’s exports business, initially focusing on markets in which the investor has a footprint, including France, Germany, the Netherlands and Scandinavia.

Forthglade will also look to repeat its success in building a leading wet dogfood brand with a new cold-pressed range and treat products.

Joint MD Gerard Lovell, told The Grocer: ”Our wet ranges have helped us deliver over 30% brand CAGR for each of the last 3 years, but there are still significant innovation opportunities for the brand.”

He said the new cold pressed natural dry dog food and treats ranges are ”performing extremely well” with more innovation on the way, while its efforts to drive consumer awareness “will help us increase distribution of the Forthglade brand throughout the UK”.

The supplier of wet and dry dogfood and treats was founded in 1971 and has been led by joint MDs Gerard Lovell and Chris Brooking since an MBO in 2011 and after Piper’s £6m investment in 2015.

The business has revenues of £22m, of which the Forthglade brand now makes up 70%, having risen by more than four times in five years.

One City source suggested Forthglade still had plenty of room for growth in the UK: “They make their own product, which differentiates them from many of their competitors, and have got a nice factory with room for growth and a strongly growing branded business with a good, solid management team.”

Another source suggested Forthglade’s new factory in Devon had been a key driver of IK’s interest, with plenty of scope to increase capacity and automation at the existing facility.

Forthglade has recently investment £8m in its purpose built factory and it will continue to invest in the facility.

It is thought IK faced competition from at least one other UK private equity player, but sealed the deal before a formal bidding process had been launched.

“Forthglade is a challenger brand within this high-growth category,” commented joint MD Lovell. “It’s well placed to capitalise on the trends towards natural petfood. In addition, as a manufacturer we have the ability to deliver high-quality products at an affordable price, whilst retaining flexibility to adapt to future trends.”

The deal comes after The Grocer revealed Forthglade was one a flurry of – largely premium-end – petfood brands set to come to market in 2020.

Forthglade and Piper had been worked with corporate finance house Houlihan Lokey, which also worked on the sale of Lily’s Kitchen to Nestlé Purina earlier this year, to find a buyer.

“The UK pet sector is very hot at the moment,” notes one dealmaker. “Consumers want better-quality products for their beloved pets and pet ownership is going up having been boosted by the Covid lockdown – it’s almost a perfect storm.”