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Bain Buys Majority Stake in Beauty Incubator Maesa

Maesa handles manufacturing for popular lines like Kristin Ess and Flower Beauty.

Bain is betting on beauty.

Bain Capital Private Equity has acquired a majority stake in Maesa, the business behind lines like Drew Barrymore’s Flower Beauty and Kristin Ess Hair Care. Maesa has about $230 million in annual sales, the company said, and more than 300 employees across seven global offices. The business is headquartered in New York and Levallois-Perret, France.

Flower Beauty Wanderlust Palette
Flower Beauty’s Wanderlust Palette.

Maesa provides marketing, design, engineering, product development and operations services for the brands it works with, across hair, makeup, personal care and fragrance. Maesa also makes private-label products for Walmart, Target, Sephora, A.S. Watson, Ulta Beauty, Dollar General and H&M.

Julien Saada and Gregory Mager, who cofounded Maesa in 1997, said the Bain investment should allow the business to get to its next phase of growth as a global beauty supplier and beauty brand incubator. While Maesa’s roots are in private label, the brand has recently taken on more exclusive projects, like Kristin Ess, which was a fast success story. That brand, launched in 2017 exclusively with Target, is expected to do $100 million in retail sales for 2019.

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“We believe that there are many exciting opportunities to accelerate our growth across different geographies, brands and retailers. We look forward to working with the Bain Capital team, who bring valuable global reach and a wealth of experience in partnering with entrepreneurial and innovative businesses,” said Mager.

Bain Capital Private Equity has made several consumer and beauty investments before, including Sundial, which is now owned by Unilever, and Canada Goose, which is now traded on the public markets. “The Bain Capital team has a long and successful history of working with founders to support the growth of differentiated business models that are leading change across their sectors,” said Nigel Walder, managing director at Bain Capital Private Equity, in a statement.

Kristin Ess Hair
Kristin Ess hair products. Courtesy

Maesa is said to provide Bain access to the mass and masstige end of the beauty world, which hasn’t yet been disrupted in the same way as prestige beauty.

Bain’s Maesa investment underscores continued interest in private equity firms in the manufacturing side of beauty, versus the brand side.

For some, manufacturing investments are considered less risky than brand deals, which are generally a singular bet. But manufacturing investments allow firms potential to access multiple growth levers, including expansion with emerging indie brands, geographic growth and brand incubation. With so many balls in the air, it also allows the flexibility to kill projects that aren’t working quickly, sources noted.

Bain is not the only private equity firm to get in on the back end of beauty. L Catterton bought a stake in Intercos in 2014, and in 2018, Cornell Capital, HarbourVest Partners and other investors invested in KDC. Also in 2018, Vee Pak purchased Cosmetic Essence Innovations.

Strategic buyers have also expressed interest — International Flavors & Fragrances Inc. has been on an acquisition streak over the past few years, picking up new capabilities and companies that allow it to expand its customer base and natural offerings.

Andera Partners, a minority shareholder since 2014, is selling its stake in Maesa as part of the deal. Bain’s purchase is subject to regulatory approval and is expected to be finalized in the first half of 2019.

Financo advised Maesa on the transaction. Lazard and RBC Capital Markets advised Bain.