Men’s grooming brand Duke Cannon has a new investor: Main Post Partners.
The brand, founded in 2011 by Anthony Albanese and Sam Swartz, makes men’s products for the mass market with elevated scent profiles meant to meet the personal-care needs of “hardworking men,” according to chief executive officer Ryan O’Connell. The product line centers around clean ingredients, and products are meant to be fun and functional, O’Connell noted.
“We really saw this mainstream everyday guy who wasn’t being spoken to very well by brands at the time because either they were too high-end…or they were legacy brands. There weren’t options for the everyday guy that made sense for him,” Albanese said.
Duke Cannon takes inspiration from the military, and products include Big Ass Brick of Soap, Thick High Viscosity Body Wash, Grunt Foot Powder and Cannon Balm. The brand also makes liquid and solid fragrances featuring neroli, vetiver and sandalwood. A portion of proceeds is donated to support veterans groups.
Main Post managing partner Jeff Mills noted that Duke Cannon’s take on fragrances also stood out, and reminded him of Too Faced’s differentiated approach to fragrance in the makeup category. Main Post backed Too Faced before it was sold to General Atlantic, which eventually sold it to the Estée Lauder Cos. Inc. Main Post also backs Dr. Dennis Gross Skin care, Sugared + Bronzed and Milk Makeup.
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“One of the reasons we started this brand was to pull grooming away from a brand like Axe, which was a little more geared toward a teenager. Our scents err on the side of being a little more subtle…they’re meant to be discovered, not announced,” said Swartz.
Duke Cannon is sold in some traditional, but also some unusual, channels, including Target, CVS and Walgreens, as well as Carhartt, Duluth Trading Co. and Ace Hardware.
“We resonate equally well with consumers whether they’re shopping at Target, online or at their local Ace Hardware store,” O’Connell said. “As a growing brand, there’s different points in the consumer journey where they may see you — a cool independently owned retail store, they may see us online or they may purchase at a large retail banner.”
Matt Short, principal at Main Post, noted that some of the brand’s more irreverent products, like Bloody Knuckles Hand Repair Balm, help attract shoppers who may not otherwise be looking for personal-care products. “That’s bringing a customer into the brand, whether it’s at Target or whether it’s at your local hardware store,” Short said.
Main Post is partnering with Albanese and Swartz, as well as existing investor Wayzata Brands’ ceo Jeff Breazeale, on the investment. Drew Fraser, former ceo of Method, also invested, and is joining Duke Cannon’s board.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but industry sources said Duke Cannon has about $50 million in sales and $10 million in earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization. WWD previously reported that Duke Cannon was in the market with financial adviser Houlihan Lokey.
With Main Post, Duke Cannon plans to grow business with its existing distribution partners, O’Connell said, as well as strengthen marketing and branding.
“Premium men’s grooming is a very healthy category, it’s growing. Men are increasingly engaged in personal care, in their regimens,” O’Connell said. “Our products are designed to meet functional needs,” he added, highlighting the brand’s thicker-than-average body wash as something designed specifically with men’s cleanliness in mind.
“Men’s historically has been viewed as a pretty small niche…[Duke Cannon is] not just going after men with beards, they’re not just going after the hipster Millennial man who wants a clean product, or who wants a sophisticated favorite fragrance. They’re going after the whole world of men’s,” said Mills.
Men’s is an increasingly active category for investors as Millennial men build out personal care routines. There are a handful of men’s grooming brands in the market seeking investors, and the Carlyle Group just bought a majority position in Every Man Jack.
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