VMG Partners, a private equity firm specializing in building consumer brands in the food and beverage, personal care and beauty, pet food and wellness categories debuted a new branded snacking platform, Velocity Snack Brands (VSB). The platform will acquire, incubate and grow a portfolio of snack brands, beginning with the acquisition of the Popchips brand in North America and most international markets outside of the United Kingdom and Europe. VSB will be headquartered in Los Angeles and led by CEO, Amit Pandhi, who was most recently president and CEO of Arctic Zero, a frozen desserts brand.
Founded in 2005, VMG has experience investing in scaling, and exiting consumer packaged goods businesses.
VSB, along with other future VMG platform concepts, will house a portfolio of brands that meet an array of consumer needs and usage occasions, providing a single source for retailers across brick and mortar and digital channels. Platforms like VSB will be dynamic, nimble and flexible, as small start-ups are, but will also bring best practices, experience and expertise, such as that of larger, more corporate entities, without the cumbersome standards and processes that can hinder growth potential.
As part of a cohesive business model, VSB will provide founders and entrepreneurs of snacking brands the opportunity to build upon initial momentum while also creating a springboard for category-leading innovation and seamless omnichannel execution. In the years to come, VSB will invest broadly in snacking across salty, sweet and nutrition bar categories, with Popchips as the initial brand leading this endeavor.
“I couldn’t think of a better starting point for VSB than the acquisition of Popchips,” says Wayne Wu, general partner at VMG Partners. “Building platforms in categories where VMG has been actively investing for nearly 15 years has been something we have been contemplating for some time and we are thrilled to kick off our first consumer products platform with Popchips as a partner. Keith Belling, Popchips’ lead investor, Verlinvest and their teams have built an exceptional brand in Popchips; we’re excited for it to be the first of many exciting companies that VSB acquires and supports through its network, resources and infrastructure.”
Popchips was founded in 2007 by Keith Belling (a serial food entrepreneur who recently launched RightRice) and Patrick Turpin. Since Belling and Turpin launched the Popchips brand, its products, including original rounds, ridges, Nutter Puffs and Yes Peas, have been winning awards, including being named one of America’s hottest brands by Advertising Age. Verlinvest, a global consumer focused private investment group and the majority shareholder of the company, along with the Popchips board of directors have elected to sell Popchips to VSB.
“I’ve been a fan of VMG for a long time and am thrilled to see Popchips as the anchor brand within the new Velocity Snack Brands platform,” says Keith Belling, founder and former CEO of Popchips. “VSB’s mission is so well aligned with Popchips’ commitment to innovation and leadership in the better-for-you snack category, and I look forward to seeing how they leverage the expertise and operating synergies of the snack platform they are building to take Popchips to the next level.”
“We are so proud to have been a part of the Popchips journey,” says Eric Melloul, managing director at Verlinvest. “We are excited for the next chapter in the company’s life and trust that popchips will continue to grow and prosper through the VSB platform and under the leadership of VMG.”
As the inaugural brand under the VSB platform, Popchips will be led by VSB CEO, Amit Pandhi. Prior to joining VSB, Pandhi served as President and CEO of Arctic Zero, a low-calorie ice cream, bootstrapping the brand from inception to becoming the No. 6 pint brand in the category, reaching consumers via distribution in more than 18,000 doors. Pandhi currently serves as a board member for Dang Foods, Bright Foods and Nutista. In his new role, Pandhi will provide data-driven execution and support to VSB brands, entrepreneurs and founders as the portfolio of brands builds additional scale.
“Amit is an enthusiastic, thoughtful and detail-oriented leader who brings tremendous experience across brand building, leadership and investing. Amit’s skill set and passion will be invaluable as we build out the Velocity Snack Brands platform,” says Jon Marshall, VP at VMG Partners. “The Popchips brand is the perfect anchor for our platform with its strong brand awareness and broad consumer appeal amongst those seeking healthy snacks.”
“I’m beyond honored and grateful for this opportunity to develop and build VSB,” says Pandhi. “With Popchips as our anchor acquisition, we plan to grow brands that meet consumer demand and make better-for-you food more accessible. Through the growth and development of a world-class team at our home base in Los Angeles, we expect to be the leading destination for exceptional talent, innovation and brand building excellence throughout the snacking industry.”
Barclays served as exclusive financial advisor to Popchips and Verlinvest in the transaction. Morrison Foerster served as legal advisor to Popchips in the transaction.