Simple Mills, a US-based producer of “natural” crackers, cookies and baking mixes, has sold a minority stake to private-equity investor Vestar Capital Partners.

Vestar, located in New York, did not disclose the value of the investment or the size of the stake in a statement but said its involvement will help support new product development, brand building and distribution.

Simple Mills was founded in 2012 by Katlin Smith as a clean-label manufacturer, with its products free from dairy, soy, gluten, grains, and GMOs. Customers include Whole Foods, Kroger, Publix, Safeway and Target. 

Vestar describes Chicago-based Simple Mills as a “driving force in transforming the centre grocery aisle with innovative whole-food snack alternatives in categories traditionally lacking better-for-you options”. 

Winston Song, a managing partner at the investor, said: “Simple Mills has helped shape the next generation natural food movement, fundamentally changing consumers’ concept of healthy food. We are excited to partner with Katlin Smith, a true visionary in this space, to grow the company as it develops new products and enters new categories in the cleaner food category while staying true to Simple Mills’ brand promise.” 

Other recent investments from Vestar Capital in the food space include the 2017 purchase of US-based Nonni’s Food Group. Last year, it pulled its investment in Hearthside Food Solutions, with private-equity firms Charlesbank Capital Partners and investment manager Partners Group teaming up to buy the US-based contract manufacturer. 

Simple Mills’ chief executive Smith added: “Vestar is fully aligned with our vision of improving Americans’ eating habits, has the CPG expertise and connections to help us take the company to the next level, and will allow us to continue operating as an independent entity with the same strict clean-food principles that have driven our growth.

“It’s an ideal match that gives us new resources to expand our footprint and influence on the clean-food movement.”