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Encore Invests in Tender Belly

Meagan McGinnes

This week, Tender Belly is bringing home the bacon — figuratively and literally.

Encore Consumer Capital announced Wednesday that it has made an undisclosed investment in the premium bacon and pork product maker. Denver-based Tender Belly, which was founded in 2010 by brothers Shannon and Erik Duffy, is known for its ethically raised, clean pork products and has made the Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing private companies for three consecutive years.

Though interest in plant-based meat alternatives is on the rise — largely within the natural channel — investors and companies are still making moves on meat, especially of the craft or premium variety.

In 2015, Hormel purchased organic processed meats maker Applegate Farms for $775 million as a gateway into the natural space. Now, some of its most substantial growth this year has been seen within that channel, including its own “Natural Choice” line. That same year poultry company Perdue acquired specialty meat business Niman Ranch as part of its strategy to become “the most trusted brand in premium proteins,” Jim Perdue, the company’s chief executive, told The New York Times.

Last month, packaged meat company Land O’ Frost announced that it had purchased Wellshire Farms, a New Jersey-based company that sells sausages, bacon and other meat products in Whole Foods Market stores across the U.S. and Canada.

Consumers are trying to eat less animal products, but — when they are eating meat — many seek out products that are high quality, ethically sourced, or free from antibiotics and preservatives. That’s why, despite the decline in sales of beef and pork produced in traditional manners, sales of fresh grass-fed beef soared from $17 million in 2012 to $272 million four years later, according to Nielsen data.

To stand out amid this competitive market, Tender Belly said they will use the funds to bring premium bacon to more grocery stores and restaurants across the country. With the investment TenderBelly has also added several experienced senior level executives to its board of directors. Jim Skidmore joins from Coleman Natural Foods, where he led acquisitions and integration of multiple brands to create the largest domestic organic and antibiotic-free protein company. Jeff Swain, a former CEO of Coleman Natural Foods and founder of Niman Ranch, is also taking a seat on the board. Tender Belly did not share how, if at all, M&A strategies will play a role in the future of the company.

“We started Tender Belly to do things the right way, not the easy way, and we’re excited to partner with Encore to continue along that path,” Shannon Duffy, Tender Belly co-founder and CEO said via a release. “With Encore’s support, resources and industry expertise, we’ll be able to continue to grow Tender Belly into the leading brand of bacon and pork, while making sure everyone has access to our products.”

To learn more about the investment, read the full release below:

Tender Belly Announces Investment from Encore Consumer Capital to Further Grow the Brand

DENVER — Tender Belly LLC (“Tender Belly”) today announced that it has received an investment from Encore Consumer Capital (“Encore”), a private equity firm that invests exclusively in leading consumer products companies.

Tender Belly, based in Denver, Colorado, is a rapidly growing, premium bacon and pork products company. The company has set the bar high in the pork world by sourcing the best pedigreed pigs, inspiring food-source awareness and following processes that ensure every detail is met with tenacity, passion and ambition — they call it Certified Awesome. Founded in 2010 by brothers Shannon and Erik Duffy, Tender Belly’s high-quality products stem from their belief in going big and doing things according to their Certified Awesome standards.

“We started Tender Belly to do things the right way, not the easy way, and we’re excited to partner with Encore to continue along that path,” said Shannon Duffy, Tender Belly Founder and CEO. “With Encore’s support, resources, and industry expertise, we’ll be able to continue to grow Tender Belly into the leading brand of bacon and pork, while making sure everyone has access to our products. I am particularly excited to be adding two experienced industry executives to my board of directors, Jim Skidmore, a former board member who led acquisitions and integration of multiple brands to create Coleman Natural Foods, the largest domestic organic and antibiotic-free protein company; and Jeff Swain, the former CEO of Coleman Natural Foods and later Niman Ranch prior to its sale to Perdue Farms.”

Tender Belly’s Signature Dry-Cured bacon takes two weeks to make, is cherrywood-smoked and comes from the extra tender bellies of Heritage Breed hogs. They’re fed rich, 100 percent vegetarian diets, are antibiotic-free and raised in a crate-free environment which creates exquisite intramuscular marbling.

Robert Brown, Managing Director at Encore Consumer Capital, said, “We are thrilled to have the opportunity to partner with Shannon and Erik to grow Tender Belly. We have great confidence that the entire team will grow Tender Belly to become the leading premium bacon offering in grocery stores and restaurants across the country.”

About Tender Belly

Tender Belly was founded in 2010 by two brothers from Iowa, Shannon and Erik Duffy, who saw a demand for good, clean, pure, superior pork products. They made it their mission to become the purveyors of the finest pork products around with a philosophy ingrained in their brand that pigs raised with patience and commitment make for better pork. Plain and simple. Today, the company has grown (and made the Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing private companies for three years in a row) but their mission still stays the same — to create superior products by sourcing only the best pedigreed pigs, inspiring food-source conscience in food lovers and following processes that ensure every detail is met with tenacity, passion and ambition. That’s Certified Awesome. Tender Belly products can be found on the Company website and at select retailers and restaurants across the US. For more information please visit http://www.tenderbelly.com.

About Encore Consumer Capital

Encore Consumer Capital is a San Francisco-based private equity investment firm focused on the consumer products industry. The firm has raised over $600 million in equity capital and invested in over 25 companies in the sector. Encore is currently investing out of its $260 million third fund. Encore’s current and prior investments include branded protein companies such as Aidells Sausage Company and Duke’s Smoked Meats along with other branded foods such as Ancient Harvest, Brownie Brittle, Isopure, and Navitas Organics. The firm targets food & beverage, pet products, and personal care & beauty companies with between $10 million and $100 million in annual revenues, where Encore’s strong operating expertise in strategy development, brand marketing and distribution expansion can help drive performance. For more information please visit http://www.EncoreConsumerCapital.com.

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