Pet food investment firm buys Ontario raw food maker

Tollden Farms to join United Raw Pet Foods

A Toronto-area investment firm billed as “the pet industry’s merchant bank” has bought control of its fifth Canadian maker of frozen raw pet foods in three years.

Mississauga-based Dane Creek Capital Corp., the 70 per cent controlling shareholder in United Raw Pet Foods, announced Thursday that United Raw has bought Tollden Farms of Kemptville, Ont.

Financial terms weren’t disclosed for the deal, other than that it was an all-cash sale with a purchase price representing 1.1 times trailing 12-month revenues.

Annette McAleer, who with husband Kevin founded Tollden Farms in 2002, will stay on as head of Tollden and become a “key member” of the Dane Creek team, the company said.

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“Over the last several weeks we have witnessed a dramatic shift in consumer buying habits, many of which we believe will outlast the current health crisis being faced by Canadians,” Dane Creek CEO said in a release Thursday.

“While we are not naive about the long-term impact on the overall Canadian economy, we also believe that the sudden and significant growth in the ‘stay at home economy’ witnessed recently will outlast the current economic turmoil and benefit the pet industry specifically.”

Tollden’s frozen raw pet foods use “only human-grade meat and vegetables” and are sold in three formats: meat and vegetable blends; meat and botanical blends; and “DIY” meat and vegetable ingredients for pet owners looking to customize an animal’s diet.

The deal for Tollden follows United Raw’s acquisitions of Edmonton-based Mountain Dog Enterprises in 2017 and of three companies — Pets 4 Life and Naturawls Pet Products, both of St. Thomas, Ont., and Saskatoon-based Natural Chow Pet Food Corp. — in 2018.

United Raw in 2018 also bought a minority stake in a New York company, Pet Plate, a direct-to-consumer maker of lightly cooked pet food based in the U.S.

“Conventional wisdom would suggest that as we acquire these raw pet food manufacturers, we consolidate operations,” Warren said, but “if anything, the current health crisis supports our model of maintaining smaller regional manufacturing facilities across the country which are capable of making two or more of our brands.”

Freezer capacity in pet specialty retail stores has “grown dramatically,” Dane Creek said, adding that many “raw-focused” retailers have reported “record” sales in the first quarter of 2020 and are now looking for “more brand, format and price options.”

Annette McAleer, in the same release, said she and her husband believe the deal with United Raw “is the best way for us to take Tollden Farms from a top regional raw pet food to a national leader.” — Glacier FarmMedia Network

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