Suitors line up for Jude’s as ice cream brand explores options for growth | News

Ice cream maker Jude’s is courting outside investment for the first time after hiring advisers as the brand seeks to take on category giants, The Grocer can reveal.

Independent corporate finance firm Spayne Lindsay was tasked with exploring strategic options, including a potential sale or bringing in a new investment partner.

Jude’s has been self-funded since Theo Mezger produced his first ice cream in 2002, naming the brand after his wife. Today, the company is led by Mezger’s sons, Chow and Alex, as co-CEOs, along with longtime MD James Wright.

City dealmakers expect significant interest from business players and private equity firms, given the company’s “huge momentum” coupled with enduring mission, B Corp status and ESG compliance.

“It’s growing well, has an impressive scale and cast, and is very trendy,” a city source said. “It’s run by a great team at the top and sustainability is a way of life for them; they absolutely believe it’s the right thing to do.

“They have ambitions to be a global brand, and now is the time for them to assess whether there is the right partner to accelerate growth plans.”

Jude’s has grown rapidly in recent years, outpacing the broader ice cream category.

Revenue jumped 21% to £11.5m in the financial year to September 31, 2021, with ‘material’ growth expected in the years to come, according to the first set of full accounts from the group at Companies House. The grocer understands that turnover has since evolved considerably and is on track for £22m this year.

A negotiator added that the company should attract “an appropriate brand multiple”, with any deal potentially valuing Jude at up to £40m.

Jude’s has expanded its line of tubs and mini tubs to flavors such as Black Coconut, Rose and Gin & Tonic, with distribution to all major supermarkets, as well as high-end restaurants, cinemas and theaters on the catering side.

It also expanded into low-calorie offerings, plant-based ice cream and low-sugar popsicles for kids under the Little Jude’s brand, as well as the launch of a rival product. Unilever’s Magnum with portable variants and diversifying into milkshakes, sauces and desserts.

“The plant-based product is fantastic, and that side is doing well and the on-the-go ice cream snack market is seeing significant growth,” the city source said.

Jude’s has pledged to make half of its products plant-based by 2025, up from 36% currently, with 75% of launches in 2022 being plant-based, which has a lower carbon footprint than dairy.

This is part of the company’s ambition to reduce its carbon intensity per liter of ice cream by 43% by 2030.

In 2021 it announced it was the UK’s first official carbon negative ice cream brand. An impact report for 2023 published last year highlighted a 21% reduction in carbon intensity, with measures such as the UK’s first walk-in ice cream freezer powered by panels solar panels, more solar panels on the factory roof in Twyford and 100% virgin paper and board from certified renewable sources.

Jude’s and Spayne Lindsay declined to comment.

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