Organic Growth Masterclass: Wholebake, backed by Bridges Fund Management
Investing in employees has played a key role in driving organic growth at healthy snack bar company Wholebake, says Tom Redpath, Investment Director & Head of Value Creation at Bridges Fund Management.
Wholebake is a healthy snack bar manufacturer whose brands include Nakd, Bounce and Trek. Bridges Fund Management first invested in Wholebake in July 2014, and it was clear that the business was really focused on supporting the local community, by building up employment there and also by making good quality products that could help people to be a bit healthier.
Tom Redpath, Investment Director & Head of Value Creation at Bridges Fund Management says: “People are always key to the foundation building phase of our holding period. We worked with management to build out the team and in particular, invested in the sales and marketing team, hiring heads of those areas. But over time, we ended up specialising a little more, by introducing category leads - people who could sell into retailers, as well as people who could sell into other brands.
There was a heavy investment in people. We also wanted to make sure that the business continued to give back to the local community. We increased the number of employees from 112 to 230, with a focus on those from underserved backgrounds, and put a lot of investment behind perks and increasing wages.
As the business grew, we hired more talent, and we brought in experienced advisors to guide them on what best practice looks like.”
Tom says: “On the manufacturing side of the business, where Wholebake makes the products for other brands, we made innovations and efficiencies, as well as new product development alongside those brands.
After we added more capacity, more lines, and even introduced a second factory, we wanted to achieve BRC accreditation, and then go on to build relationships and manufacture white label products with the major supermarkets. Being the manufacturer, it didn’t matter which brands customers bought from, as we were betting on the whole market for healthy snacking to keep growing.
At the beginning of this year, we achieved BCorp certification for Wholebake.”
REALITIES OF THE PANDEMIC
Tom says: “The Covid-19 pandemic affected sales in a way. One of the main themes of healthy snacking is that the products are designed to be on-the-go, and people aren’t commuting anymore. Because supermarkets’ sales were growing, we had to refocus the business to take advantage of that and bring the products into more retailers.
The pandemic also affected the factories. There was disruption with how many of the team could come in, but they handled it really well. When we went on to sell the business, Elysian recognised the issues were temporary and could see good quality and consistent processes in place over a significant period of time.”