Bridges Ventures invests in North Wales-based Wholebake
The new investment will support capacity expansion, brand
development and the creation of at least 60 jobs in an area of high
Bridges Ventures (“Bridges”) announces that it has acquired a
controlling interest in Wholebake Limited (“Wholebake”), a
manufacturer and distributor of great tasting healthier snack
bars.This is a selection of Finance Wales’ media releases and those
of our portfolio and partners.
Bridges are backing the existing management team, Mark Gould,
CEO, and Richard Shaw, Operations Director, who will continue to
drive the business forward.
Founded in 1996, Wholebake currently employs 104 people at its
sites in Corwen and Wrexham, in North Wales. Since Mark and Richard
acquired the business in 2011, with the backing of Finance Wales,
they have successfully grown it from £4m in 2011 to over £11m of
sales in the year to 31 March 2014.
A growing number of consumers are searching for health and
convenience with food made only with natural ingredients. In
addition, active healthy lifestyles are increasing interest in
convenient energy and reducing or avoiding gluten. Wholebake, which
manufactures and markets its 9bar brand as well as co-packing for
other growing brands, has experienced rapid growth in sales in
recent years (with over 50% growth again so far this year).
Bridges identified Wholebake as an ideal investment for its fund
with the potential to deliver strong returns for investors as well
as impact, through significant job creation and by supporting the
growth of the healthier snacking sector. The investment has been
led by Oliver Wyncoll, Partner, who has years of investment
experience in the sector, and was a board member of both Dorset
Cereals and Tyrrells Crisps, and Khidhr Shafiq, Associate. The
Bridges investment provides a full exit for Finance Wales, and
provides additional funding to support ongoing growth and new
capacity, and will create at least 60 high quality jobs over the
next 3-5 years, in an area of higher unemployment.
Bridges has further strengthened the management team, with the
appointment of Jaclyn Kelly as CFO. Jaclyn was until recently FD of
Soreen, before it was acquired by Samworth Brothers earlier this
year. In addition, Peter Farquhar, former CEO of Dorset Cereals and
Chairman of Clipper Teas, has been appointed to the board as a
Non-Executive Director. Peter brings significant commercial
experience which will help the business to develop additional
distribution and build increased consumer awareness for 9bar.
This is the latest of six investments made so far from the
Bridges Sustainable Growth Fund III, which last year completed its
final close at £125m. The fund focuses on the provision of growth
capital to ambitious businesses that generate impact through the
products they sell in certain sectors, such as health &
well-being, education & skills, or the environment. It also
supports consumer champion businesses serving underserved markets
or companies building economic dynamism in under-invested
Mark Gould, CEO of Wholebake, said: “We are excited by the
opportunity of working with Oliver and the whole Bridges team to
fulfil the potential that we see in our business. Healthy snacking
is an exciting market, which we expect to continue to develop
rapidly in the UK and internationally.”
Oliver Wyncoll, Partner, Bridges Sustainable Growth Funds, said:
“We have been impressed by Mark, his team and the quality of
Wholebake’s products. These natural products are bang on trend with
consumer demand for great tasting, higher protein, gluten-free
snacking. With our investment, we hope to widen the strong and
loyal following that 9bar has developed and open-up new sales
channels which will create many new jobs in North Wales.”
With a 5.5 times return over the lifetime of our investment, this is our most profitable exit to date and we look forward to backing more successful Welsh businesses like Wholebake in future.
Jerry MobbsDeputy Fund Manager
Jerry Mobbs, deputy fund manager at Finance Wales said: “A
package of debt and equity investment from Finance Wales helped
Mark and Richard’s MBO in 2011 and they’ve successfully grown the
business since they took the helm.
“Profits have more than doubled and they’ve also more than
tripled their workforce in Corwen as they’ve expanded Wholebake’s
own-brand and contract-manufacturing operations.
"Wholebake is a real success story, demonstrating the difference
Finance Wales’ backing can make and we hope it continues to go from
strength to strength, creating more Welsh jobs.
"With a 5.5 times return over the lifetime of our investment,
this is our most profitable exit to date and we look forward to
backing more successful Welsh businesses like Wholebake in