In a deal announced by Grove Collaborative on August 8, sexual wellness startup Sustain Natural agreed to be acquired by the eco-products subscription service for an undisclosed sum. Grove Collaborative will buy out Sustain's current majority shareholder Combe, the White Plains, New York-based owner of consumer-products brands such as Just for Men and Vagisil.
The deal marks the latest in a string of consumer-products startup acquisitions, which includes Edgewell Personal Care's purchase of Harry's for $1.37 billion in May and Walker & Company Brands sale to Procter & Gamble in 2018 for between $20 million and $40 million.
It differs in that Grove and Sustain Natural are both relatively young. Grove, which focuses on selling natural and environmentally friendly home and personal care products, was founded in 2012 by the now 34-year-old Stuart Landesberg. Meika Hollender, 31, co-founded Sustain Natural, a New York City-based feminine-care products company in 2013, alongside her father Jeffrey Hollender, a consumer-products veteran and co-founder of Seventh Generation.
The union may help pave the way for similar mergers among smaller brands, as companies continue to look for ways to compete with Amazon. The online shopping juggernaut currently accounts for 47 percent of all U.S. e-commerce sales, according to a February analysis from market researcher eMarketer. Further, its e-commerce business is expected to grow 20.4 percent to reach $282.5 billion this year.
Meika Hollender says the tie-up offers mutual benefits, including helping Sustain reach a wider audience and increase the sustainability of its packaging. It'll also help the company bring new products to market "way faster than the brand could have ever done on its own," she says. Hollender will both remain CEO of her company and join Grove's senior leadership team in San Francisco. Sustain declined to provide revenue information.
For Grove, a Certified B Corporation that booked $104 million in 2018 revenue, the addition of Hollender and Sustain--also a Certified B Corporation--should help it push further into women's personal care products. Sustain's products include all-natural and organic condoms, lubricants, and feminine hygiene items like tampons and period-proof underwear. The company's bold marketing and awareness campaigns to promote women's sexual health have helped it stand out in the personal care industry. Sustain encourages women to "get on top" and take charge of their sexual-health purchases.
Prior to Grove's acquisition of Sustain, Hollender says she wasn't actively looking for a buyer. Earlier this year, Sustain sold a majority stake to Combe for an undisclosed amount. Talks of another sale began to materialize a few months ago when Landesberg approached Hollender, wanting to get Grove involved in the women's health product space.
"For me, being able to exit our business to another B Corp feels almost like a luxury," Hollender says. "Usually the ability to scale your business so rapidly means sacrificing your values, and with Grove that's not the case."
Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated Sustain Natural's founding year. It was 2013.