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Unilever Sells North America Suave Business

The brand is now owned by Yellow Wood Partners in the U.S. and Canada.

Unilever has sold the Suave business in North America to a private equity firm.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, and the transaction is expect to close in the second quarter. Outside of the U.S. and Canada, Unilever will maintain ownership of the brand.

“This is another step on our path to shift our portfolio towards strategic growth spaces,” said Esi Eggleston Bracey, president of Unilever USA and chief executive officer of Unilever Personal Care in North America. “Suave has been a much-loved brand since the 1930s, and I am confident it will continue to thrive and serve consumers under its new ownership in North America.”

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Unilever’s divestiture comes after a year of softening sales for Suave. According to data from IRI, conditioner sales fell double-digits in an otherwise flat category; shampoo sales dipped in the single-digits. Though those are key categories by size, the brand also develops body products and antiperspirants.

“We see it as the best value brand in the hair care, body wash and deodorant categories out there,” said Dana Schmaltz, partner at Yellow Wood. “The brand equity and heritage is strong, the household usage of the brand is so strong, and a brand of that price point — especially during challenging economic times — with the right support and investment behind it, we can grow quite nicely.”

For example, the brand is underrepresented in the drug channel, and from a marketing point of view, has lots of runway digitally. “They haven’t been pushed as strong from a digital perspective,” Schmaltz said. “With a significant investment in marketing, consumers want this product at this price. Making them aware of it is something that we do well.”

It’s also the first mass hair care brand of this size at Yellow Wood. “These large carve-outs are not easy,” Schmaltz said. “This brand sells over 250 million units a year. To be able to take it out of the Unilever infrastructure is no easy risk, and it’s something we’ve been working on for a while.”

Yellow Wood focuses on affordable beauty products, and previously backed PDC (owner of Dr. Teals, Cantu and Bod Man), before selling it to CVC Capital Partners in 2017.

Currently, Yellow Wood’s portfolio is comprised of Dr. Scholl’s, School International, Beacon Wellness Brands, Real Techniques, EcoTools, Isle of Paradise, Tanologist, TanLuxe, Freeman Beauty and Byoma.