Manna Pro kicks off pet food M&A for 2022 with Oxbow deal

The robust pet food mergers and acquisitions scene involves multiple deals, private equity and expanding into other segments, a script followed by Manna Pro.

Online marketing provides plenty of opportunities for pet food packaging to expand its branding role. (Husar Kristian | iStockPhoto.com)
Online marketing provides plenty of opportunities for pet food packaging to expand its branding role. (Husar Kristian | iStockPhoto.com)

One of the first pet food mergers and acquisitions (M&A) deals announced in 2021 happened on January 4, when Manna Pro Products bought Bullymake, a direct-to-consumer dog treat subscription service.

Perhaps Manna Pro considers that an important or lucky date: On January 4, 2022, it announced it’s acquiring Oxbow Animal Health, which has provided pet foods, treats, supplements and other products for small mammals for 30 years.

Manna Pro: Microcosm of pet food M&A scene

Manna Pro itself has roots dating back to 1842. For many of those years, the company was known for providing nutrition and other products for backyard chickens and similar animals. Starting as early as 2015, it began to branch into the health and wellness market for dogs, cats and horses via acquisitions of companies in those spaces; then, in 2018, it entered the pet food/treats category by buying VetScience and its Fruitables brand of pet treats and supplements.

Since then, Manna Pro has been on an acquisition spree: Hero Pet Brands (pet food, treats and other products) in June 2019; Promika Pet Brands (health products) in February 2020, followed by Doggie Dailies (pet supplements/wellness products) in August of that year; then three deals in 2021. Besides the Bullymake one to kick off the year, Manna Pro also acquired Zupreem (maker of foods and treats for birds and other small pets) in April and Dinovite (an online pet supplement and wellness products purveyor) in September 2021.

In the midst of all this activity, Manna Pro itself was acquired by Carlyle Group in November 2020. The private equity group bought the pet nutrition company from Morgan Stanley Capital Partners, owners of Manna Pro since late 2017.

The entire scenario—multiple deals, private equity involvement, branching into other species and segments of the pet market—serves as a microcosm of the overall pet industry M&A environment for the past several years.

Not just dogs and cats enjoying the boom

Oxbow Animal Health is Manna Pro’s largest acquisition to date, according to a press release. Some may consider that less significant because Oxbow serves the small mammals segment, which holds a very small share of the overall pet food market, at least in the U.S.—but remember, its share is definitely larger in markets like Western Europe. Plus, it’s important to note that the U.S. pet ownership boom starting in the early stages of the pandemic has happened in nearly all species of pets, not just dogs and cats.

“In fact, new pet acquisitions of these types raised ownership levels of animals other than dogs and cats to the highest in 10 years for three of the four main “other pet” types (pet birds were the exception),” wrote Lindsay Beaton, editor of Petfood Industry magazine, in a September 2021 article. “Now, 12.2% of U.S. households own one or more type of pet other than dogs or cats, according to Packaged Facts, up from 10.8% five years ago.”

The result, Beaton reported, citing the 2021­–2022 American Pet Products Association National Pet Owners Survey, is that in the U.S. now, “9.9 million homes own a bird, 6.2 million homes have a small pet (usually small mammals) and 5.7 million homes own a reptile. Multi-pet households are increasing, which means dog and cat customers may also be parrot or lizard customers.”

More of these types of pets means higher sales of products intended for them, including food and treats. In an August 2021 report on this segment, Packaged Facts said sales of products for small mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians have spiked during the past two years.

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