Organic Growth Masterclass: Lintbells, backed by Inflexion Private Equity

Organic growth is essential for materially improving a company’s professionalism, geographical reach and product and service offering. Ben Long, Partner at Inflexion, explains how Lintbells secured growth by enhancing its ecommerce platform.

Lintbells is a market leader in the UK nutritional supplement for pets, providing a number of products such as Yumove, a joint supplement for dogs which is entirely natural and works within four to six weeks so owners can see the difference in their pets quite quickly.

Lintbells’ products are sold through places like Pets at Home and can also be available directly through vets, which accounted for around a quarter of the business’ sales when we acquired the business in 2017. At that time it sold a bit internationally and through its site, though its ecommerce offering was still a relatively small proportion of the business.

Leveraging expertise

At the time of Inflexion’s investment, Lintbells were looking to upgrade their ecommerce platform with the help of an agency, however our dedicated digital team was able to assess the opportunity prior to closing and suggest an alternative. Once the deal closed, we appointed an Inflexion digital associate to enhance their ecommerce platform at a cost much less than the agency would have charged.

Since partnering, there has always been at least one Inflexion digital associate working with Lintbells on various projects. It started with the web upgrade, then performance marketing and now the focus is on online customer recruitment in the US. The Lintbells team is exceptionally high quality and we’ve been able to add real value on the digital side to take the business further more quickly.

Together with the CEO we recruited a chief commercial officer within eight months of our investment. Shortly thereafter she brought in a head of direct to consumer whom she had worked with before, and they have built a really strong team together. More recently we have brought in our talent director from Inflexion to assist with building Lintbells’ team further. We’ve been able to bring in senior resource as well as build the team below them in order to drive growth in the long term.

International expansion

While the US is clearly a big opportunity, the business hadn’t actually sold anything there at all at the time of our investment.

We set about expanding in the US shortly after partnering and, while it was a long process to get it right, Lintbells is now successfully established there. The model that has worked for us was developed through a combination of trial and error as well as Inflexion’s deep network. Before we invested in the business, we put together an advisory panel to devise a US strategy, because it was a fundamental part of why we thought the business was interesting. After we invested, we interviewed around 15 serious senior execs who had launched UK brands into the US and we were able to aggregate those learnings and share them with the team. Inflexion’s office in Boston has also provided useful support as Lintbells has expanded into the US. As well as the nitty gritty of setting up local entities and navigating the accountancy landscape, they are also providing ongoing market intelligence.

One member of our network in particular put us in touch with two people who used to work with him at one of the largest pet health companies in the world. They have formed the bedrock of the operations team that we now have in the US. We have been able to sign a distribution deal with one of the largest vet wholesalers in the US and we’ve also made various tweaks to the product range.
At the moment, we are also running our first TV advert campaign in the US, taking advantage of low costs and picking up attractive TV slots.