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Brand aggregation company eyes aggressive growth strategy

Brian Hartz

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Growve's headquarters in downtown St. Petersburg. Courtesy photo.

With a recently announced $175 million credit facility at the ready, Growve, a St. Petersburg company that specializes in acquiring and growing smaller health, wellness and beauty brands, is set for another round of aggressive expansion.

President Dave Bunch said Growve has made seven acquisitions in the past year and is set to close four more by the end of June, which will boost its gross annual revenue to more than $250 million. The brands it invests in and owns make products in a range of categories, but primarily in the supplement, body care, food, household and pet verticals.

“When we launch products, we really start on Amazon, Shopify and our own websites,” said Bunch, who’s based in Utah but visits St. Pete once or twice a month. “We start there first and then leverage the success.”

Growve President Dave Bunch. Courtesy photo.

In St. Pete, Growve has a 60-strong team devoted to Amazon.com sales and marketing. It has packaging plants in Illinois and Wisconsin, a gummy manufacturing plant in Minnesota and, all in Utah, a distribution center, creative studio, sales and marketing team and powder manufacturing facility. Nationwide, it has more than 400 employees and aims to significantly ramp up hiring thanks to the credit facility, which was led by Truist Securities and included participation from a syndicate made up of Compeer Financial, Wells Fargo, First Horizon Bank, JP Morgan Chase & Co., Synovus Bank, South State Bank, Atlantic Capital Bank, HSBC Bank USA and Seaside Bank and Trust.

“We’re always hiring,” Bunch said. “We’ve hired more than 300 people in the past 12 months. And now we have a credit facility that gives us access to $175 million in capital, which will really accelerate what we’re doing in terms of acquiring as well as building out infrastructure.”

In addition to growing via acquisition, Growve has achieved organic growth from the development of its own products, including Fruily, a brand of nutritional gummies that are sold at health food stores and specialty markets, such as Rollin’ Oats in St. Pete. Just launched in March, Fruily has seen “tremendous success” so far, which Bunch attributes to Growve’s ability to use data to predict, identify and act on trends in the product categories it serves.

“Gummies are now 30 percent of the supplement market,” Bunch said. “People are tired of swallowing capsules and tablets. But the difference between our gummies and traditional gummies is that the basis of ours is fruit, whereas 90 percent of most gummies, the first ingredient is sugar or some type of sugar.”

A great deal of organic growth has also come from the development of the brands in which Growve invests, Bunch said. Of the 13 acquisitions the company has made since 2018, 12 have seen their revenue rise substantially.

“We’re looking for brands that are doing well, up and coming and growing, but maybe have reached that point where they can’t do a lot more on their own,” he said. “Once they bring on additional capital and build out their team by partnering with someone like Growve, that can really help them. They might have great ideas, but they just need some additional help.”

The announcement of the credit facility comes on the heels of another financial breakthrough for Growve — a minority ownership stake acquired by Palm Beach Capital, a private equity investment firm that has offices in West Palm Beach and Sarasota. PBC, according to a press release, has invested in more than 50 companies, with a focus on helping management teams strategically scale their businesses.

“Our partnership with Palm Beach Capital is an exciting and powerful next step in the swift expansion of our business,” Growve CEO Brian Baer stated in the release. “Our leading brands and products already have a strong presence within e-commerce and, more recently, in-store retailers, and we welcome this important capital and strategic support from a highly respected equity team as it provides additional firepower for robust and responsible growth.”

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