Justin’s merges with California equity firm

BOULDER – Nut butter and candy bar company Justin’s LLC merged with private equity firm VMG Partners, in a $47 million transaction, according to founder Justin Gold.

At the same time, Justin’s received a $4.7 million working capital investment in the transaction, according to Gold and to a regulatory filing made Thursday with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

The Justin’s office will remain in Boulder, Gold said. He said he has plans to hire an unspecified number of new people as well.

Gold characterized the merger as a “smart money” transaction that will keep Justin’s growing steadily. The company has 20 employees in the Boulder administrative office. Six contract manufacturers around the nation make the Justin’s brand nut butters and candy bars, Gold said.

“We’re having a hard time keeping up with demand, and when you grow really fast, quality sometimes can suffer,” Gold said. “This was a need to find smart capital to invest in us and help us achieve our goals.”

Some of the money invested by VMG was to buy out some of the Justin’s local angel investors, Gold said. He did not give details.

California-based VMG Partners has a number of food companies and others in its portfolio, including Pirate’s Booty and Kind Healthy Snacks. Two VMG principals, Michael Mauze and Wayne Wu, will sit on the Justin’s board of directors, according to the SEC filing.

“It’s a great thing for this company,” Gold said. “They’re a wonderful partner to keep things growing as steadily as we can.”

Justin’s is expected to post revenue of around $40 million in 2013, Gold said – double the posted company revenue of about $20 million in 2012. Separately, the company is getting ready to launch a white chocolate peanut butter cup at Whole Foods Markets soon, Gold said.

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