Private-equity firm L Catterton has entered the Chinese pet-food market with an undisclosed investment in Pure & Natural brand owner Shanghai Enova Pet Products.

Set up in 2009 by CEO Herman Zhao to serve the premium segment, Enova supplies dog and cat food. No details of the company’s sales and profits, nor the size of the investment, were revealed by Connecticut-based L Catterton, which has around US$30bn of assets under management.

“The investment comes amid the rapid growth of China’s pet-food market, which has expanded considerably over the past five years,” the investor said in a statement today (18 February). L Catterton added the “premium segment is experiencing the fastest growth and is expected to more than triple over the next five years”.

Zhao said: “With a focus on science and pets’ natural diets, we are committed to producing pet food with balanced nutritional profiles and high-quality ingredients.

“L Catterton’s investment will catalyse the next stage of our growth as the firm has an abundance of world-class strategic and operating expertise in the pet-food space which we can harness to further build the Pure & Natural brand, drive top-line growth, and broaden our suite of products.”

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In January, L Catterton made an undisclosed investment in Alliance Animal Health, an acquirer and operator of veterinary hospitals. It also led a GBP40m (US$54.4m) investment round last year in Butternut Box, a UK-based direct-to-consumer dog-food business.

Petlove, an online company in Brazil with its own brands, received an investment from the private-equity firm in 2020. In 2017, US-based JustFoodForDogs was the recipient of a “significant” investment from L Catterton.

L Catterton has also sold assets in the pet-food space. In 2020, it disposed of a majority stake in UK-based Inspired Pet Nutrition to peer Capvest and offloaded another UK firm, Lily’s Kitchen, to Nestle. In 2018, the investor disposed of US-based Ainsworth Pet Nutrition to the J.M. Smucker Company.

Scott Chen, a managing partner of L Catterton’s Asia division, said: “Macro trends such as rising disposable incomes and the increasing humanisation of pets provide favourable tailwinds for the premium pet-food category in China.

“Enova is well positioned to benefit from these trends, given its strong research and development capabilities, superior product quality, as well as a significant and expanding omni-channel presence.”

The Chinese business sells into local retail and also online at Alibaba-owned Tmall and the e-commerce giant’s competitor, along with TikTok online stores. Its cat-food lines include Inne, and in dog food, Raw & Fresh and Original Hunting.

In the human-food categories, L Catterton took a majority stake last year in US-based bakery Kodiak Cakes and also led a $105m Series B round in Aleph Farms, a cell-based meat business in Israel.