Natural Foods Merchandiser

Nature's Gate Sold to NY Investment Firm

Levlad Inc., the company that manufactures the Nature's Gate and Nature's Gate Organics brands of natural personal care products, was acquired last week by New York investment firm Harvest Partners Inc.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Levlad and its subsidiary, Arbonne International Inc., had combined estimated net sales of $200 million in 2004. Arbonne, which sells herbal and botanical personal care products direct to consumers, was included in the deal.

Ira Kleinman, senior managing director at Harvest Partners, said "The personal care products industry is a very large, growing market in which we have seen major shifts toward natural and organic products. The acquisition of Levlad and Arbonne provides us with a diverse platform that will allow us to capitalize on both dynamics."

Levlad, founded in 1972, was a pioneer in the natural personal care products market, and still holds the No. 1 position in natural hair care. The company sells about 350 branded products, and Arbonne has about 250.

"Our investment in Levlad will bolster the Nature's Gate and Nature's Gate Organics brands and expand upon their leadership positions in the fast-growing natural and organic personal care care market," said Michael DeFlorio, managing director at Harvest. "At the same time, we seek to build upon the company's partnerships with its key private label customers."

Levlad is Harvest's second major deal in consumer products this year. In July it acquired Evenflo, a manufacturer of infant and juvenile care products.

Levlad CEO Stephen Biroczky will retain his position. The chief executive position at Arbonne will be filled by Robert Henry, a seasoned direct-selling industry executive with experience at Avon and Amway, and most recently as CEO at Mannatech Inc.

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