Dr. Praeger’s Sensible Foods, the US vegetarian- and vegan-foods business, has sold a majority stake to private-equity firm Vestar Capital Partners.

Set up in 1994, Dr. Praeger’s is run by second-generation family members Larry Praeger, the company’s CEO, and Adam Somberg, the New Jersey-based firm’s president. Both men will continue in their current roles and will remain “significant investors” in Dr Praeger’s, a statement announcing the deal read.

The company’s product range includes veggie burgers, meat-alternative options, snacks and sides. Stockists include Kroger, Safeway and Whole Foods Market. 

Somberg said the deal would help fund further innovation. "With Vestar's support, the company aims to launch further product innovations that will continue to deliver healthy, great-tasting foods at an attractive price," he added. "We are fortunate to have some of the most loyal customers in the industry, but with more consumers eating in and looking for better food choices, the timing couldn't be better to team with Vestar to explore ways to expand the brand."

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As part of Vestar's investment, Jeffrey Ansell, the chairman of data-and-insights group IRI and an advisor to the private-equity firm, will join the Dr. Praeger's board as chairman. Ansell's career includes a spell as CEO of US food manufacturer Pinnacle Foods (now part of Conagra Brands) and 25 years at Procter & Gamble.

Ansell said: "There's great opportunity to build on this strong foundation and grow the Dr. Praeger's brand through increased awareness, trial, distribution and continued innovation. Vestar has a long history of partnering with companies to strengthen these fundamentals and help position them for greater success."

Vestar's current investments in the food industry include a shareholding in US crackers and cookies business Simple Mills. The company has also invested in US importer Roland Foods and another US baked-goods firm, Nonni's.