With Unilever snapping up natural products company Seventh Generation for around a reported $600 million, you can likely cross the massive consumer packaged goods company off the list of suitors courting Jessica Alba's Honest Company.
In recent weeks, press reports suggested that Honest was in early-stage talks with Unilever about a deal with a potential price above $1 billion but below Honest's most recent valuation of $1.7 billion.
To be sure, it's impossible to completely rule out a Unilever-Honest deal--Fortune suggests the consumer products giant might be considering cornering the green market. But scooping up Honest would introduce a lot of overlap in Unilever's product portfolio because the two companies compete directly on goods such as diapers, feminine care, and household cleaning products.
So what does this mean for the future of Honest?
It's entirely possibly its founders are still talking to several big CPG companies, as Recode suggested recently, noting Procter & Gamble as another possible suitor.
Ali Dibadj, a senior vice president and analyst who covers household and personal products for Sanford C. Bernstein & Co., echoes the suggestion that P&G--which has been trying to grow without big M&A deals--might be looking at Honest closely. Unilever's Seventh Generation deal "puts P&G further behind, so they may also be buyers in this space," Dibadj says.
It's also possible that Honest is shaping up to be a tougher sell, or at least a bigger risk, as an acquisition target. Seventh Generation looks like a safer bet in a lot of ways. It's more than 25 years old, it's profitable, and it has grown steadily to more than 200 SKUs by keeping a tight focus on household products, baby care, and feminine care.
By contrast, Honest is more of an unknown quantity. In less than five years, the startup hit unicorn status and launched more than 100 SKUs (according to its website), though they range across more categories--from cleaning products and diapers to vitamins and cosmetics.
"Right now Honest's portfolio doesn't make sense to me, given the breadth of the products relative to its size," Dibadj says. "Selling vitamins and baby food is very different from selling diapers, believe it or not."
He also suggests that the negative press Honest has received in the last year over whether the company's products are as natural and non-toxic as advertised could be hurting the brand in the eyes of potential acquirers--but this is something that consumers will likely forget with time.
It might be true that if Honest Company wanted to sell, now is the time to try do it. M&A activity in the personal care products space has heated up: baby care company Babyganics sold to SC Johnson in July for an undisclosed sum, Unilever picked up Dollar Shave Club for a billion dollars in July, and CB Insights notes that the broader category of consumer packaged goods saw 101 deals in the first quarter of the year alone and is on track to outpace the previous two years' deal flow.
But it would be a mistake to assume Honest, which will pull in a reported $250 million in sales this year, isn't considering all of its options at this point. CEO Brian Lee has had his eye on an IPO since nearly the beginning of the company and has said "as an entrepreneur, if you're going to start something, if you're going to put in the effort, dream big."
"Net-net, an IPO is still an option over time and selling is an option over time," Dibadj says.