Olivia Wollenberg founded the brand in 2014

Free-from snack brand Livia’s has been bought out of administration by investment firm S-Ventures after struggling to stay afloat throughout the pandemic.

Livia’s was founded by Olivia Wollenberg in 2014 and supplied a range of vegan, gluten-free and dairy-free biscuits to the supermarkets, including Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose, Ocado, Boots and Holland & Barrett.

Despite rapid growth up to 2020, coronavirus lockdowns had a negative effect on sales, hitting out-of-home snacking, impulse buys and meal deal purchases, with the brand a favourite of office workers.

Clare Lloyd and Finbarr O’Connell of Smith & Williamson were appointed as joint administrators of the business on 17 February 2022.

Almost 1,400 crowdfunding backers, who invested £1.9m in the company in 2020, will fail to see a return on their investment as a result.

Its 2020 crowdfunding campaign on the Seedrs platform valued the business at £11.3m. However, S-Ventures paid administrators just £355k for the brand.

Smith & Williamson said that despite Livia’s distribution in UK retailers, instability caused by the pandemic meant it did not have sufficient working capital to continue trading in its existing form.

Lloyd added the deal had saved the jobs of the business’ staff and would allow Livia’s the opportunity to “flourish” under new investment.

“We are certain that S-Ventures is the right fit for Livia’s business and we are continuing to work with the new owners to ensure a smooth transfer of operations,” she said.

S-Ventures is listed on the UK’s AQUIS Exchange and has invested in a number of food business in the health & wellness and organic food spaces in recent years, including the acquisition of plant-based nutrition brand Pulsin for £7.5m in 2021, as well deals struck with healthy gut confectionery maker Ohso Chocolate and Plant Punk. It is also an investor in juice business Coldpress.

S-Ventures highlighted that revenues at Livia’s for the year ended 30 September 2020 were £1.6m, with pre-tax losses of £1.4m. Unaudited accounts for the 12 months ended 31 January 2022 showed sales of £1.3m, according to the firm.

The firm will pay a bonus of up to an additional £100,000 in cash and new S-Ventures shares if Livia’s revenues exceed £600k in the 10 months following the acquisition.

S-Ventures CEO Scott Livingston said: “The Livia’s team have done a fantastic job in establishing and building a respected and successful brand and set of healthy plant based snacking products across multiple channels.

“As part of the S-Ventures Group, Livia’s can expand and progress and become a mainstream player in this growing natural based products market. I am very excited about the prospects of this innovative business and the enthusiasm of its management team.”

Finbarr O’Connell of Smith & Williamson added: “Whilst it is always sad to see an iconic business like Livia’s get into financial difficulties, the team at Livia’s have got health, innovation and a social conscience baked into their DNA. I predict that this business is not going anywhere… except up.”