Tree of Life range

The Health Store is the sister wholesale business of Tree of Life

Wholesaler Hunt’s Food Group has stepped in to rescue collapsed health food distributor The Health Store, the sister company of Tree of Life, The Grocer can reveal.

Administrators at insolvency firm Interpath Advisory completed the sale of The Health Store brand and assets to the Dorset-headquartered group today.

The deal will save 17 jobs at the business, with the employees at the Nottingham head office transferring to the buyer.

However, Health Stores (Wholesale) Ltd, which traded as The Health Store, employed 88 staff when it was placed into administration on 22 August.

The Grocer understands administrators are continuing to explore options surrounding a sale of Tree of Life, which had a headcount of 118 staff at its Newcastle-under-Lyme DC, with the majority already made redundant.

Wholesaler Hunt’s Food Group supplies a range of chilled, ambient and natural foods to the foodservice and retail industries. The family firm – with a history dating back to 1912 – employs more than 450 staff and saw turnover bounce back from the pandemic to a record £110m in the year ended 31 March 2022

Interpath joint administrator Chris Pole said: “Hunt’s Food Group has an excellent reputation within the industry and has broadened its produce and service offerings in recent years to supply a wide-ranging customer base.”

It follows administrators striking a rescue deal for the two brands owned by Health Made Easy earlier this week, with VMS manufacturer Higher Nature and sugar-free chewing gum and mint brand Peppersmith sold to private investment firm CGK Consulting, saving 33 jobs.

The Health Store was acquired by Tree of Life owner Health Made Easy in 2018 to create the UK’s largest independent health food and wellness products distribution platform, supplying thousands of third party and owned-brand SKUs across food & drink, personal care and vitamins, minerals and supplements.

The business generated revenues of £36m in 2019/2020, according to the latest available accounts at Companies House, with the wider group turning over £99m in that financial year.

“We’re pleased to have concluded the sale of The Health Store brand and its assets to Hunt’s Food Group, ensuring it will continue to trade and providing certainty for those employees who will transfer to the new owners,” Pole added.

“We’d like to thank all those who helped to deliver this transaction within a short timetable and wish Hunt’s Food Group every success in the future.”

Tree of Life and The Health Store collapsed after failing to secure the financing needed to keep the group going in the face of a number of challenges in recent months, including the loss of a large customer on top of unprecedented market conditions.

The group had also struggled in the aftermath of Brexit, which caused problems with exporting its products to the EU, with a significant minority of revenues coming from the Irish market.

A process to find new investors run by corporate finance firm FinnCap Cavendish ended without success earlier this year, as revealed by The Grocer last month, with the group blaming Brexit for the failure to find a buyer.