Products from Vita Liberata

Crown Laboratories is buying self-tanning brand Vita Liberata.

For Crown, the deal provides access to a burgeoning category. “With the acquisition of Vita, we’ll be getting into the beauty premium space and then leveraging the assets throughout the portfolio,” chief executive officer Jeff Bedard said.

Crown is primarily a vertically integrated manufacturing business that has focused on health-care products and also makes Blue Lizard Australian Sunscreen.

Vita Liberata makes a line of organic, sunless tanning products that are sold through QVC, Sephora, Space NK, Ulta Beauty. The company’s product lineup includes Ten Minute Tan, $39; Body Blur Instant HD Skin Finish, $45; Phenomenal 2-3 Week Tan Mousse, $54; Self Tanning Anti Age Serum, $45; Self Tan Dry Oil SPF 50 with Marula, $27; Fabulous Instant Self Tan Illuminate Wash Off Body Bronzer, $30, and Self Tanning Night Moisture Mask, $45.

Alyson Hogg founded the brand, headquartered in Ballyclare, Northern Ireland, in 2003. Vita Liberata has introduced new technologies into its formulations that focus on moisture-locking, eliminating smells, long-lasting tans and antiaging. The business also uses a Trystal3 technology for dry, crystallized tanning options.

Industry sources estimated the business does about $50 million in retail sales. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Vita sits in a small but growing segment of the prestige beauty industry. The prestige self-tanning market grew 10 percent for the year ended November 2017 to $52.2 million, according to figures from the NPD Group. For the prior year, prestige self tanner was up 5 percent, to $52.2 million, according to NPD.

For Vita, the deal should expand its access to the doctors’ office networks — a new distribution opportunity.

“We’re adding not just numbers of people to the potential base of brains, but we’re also adding different kinds of smarts and experiences, particularly in the area of distribution channels,” Hogg said. “Being a tanning brand, [the physician channel] is not really a channel we’d explored before, but part of what was so interesting in the conversation that we’ve had is the kind of product we’ve been making…is very dermatologist appropriate.”

Dermatologists are consistently advising their patients to stay out of the sun, but could provide a self-tanner to patients that hadn’t been heeding that advice, Hogg explained.

“With this merger we have the opportunity to prove organics aren’t just the pretty little sister of real skin care,” Hogg said, noting that the deal gives the company more “chemistry brains” to work on product development.

“The combination when we have a chance to get in the lab together…I don’t even have the words to imagine what it is we might create,” Hogg said, adding that whatever it is will be folded into the retail side of Vita for consumers.

Crown is backed by family office Hildred Capital Partners, which acquired a majority stake in the business in December. Vita Liberata has been backed by Dublin private equity firm Broadlake since 2012.

Vita is Crown’s first acquisition under Hildred, but more are likely, according to David Solomon, partner at Hildred. Solomon was part of the team that built pharmaceutical business Forest Laboratories, which is now owned by Allergan.

“We were successful at building a company by licensing and acquiring and partnering, and that very much is and will continue to be part of the strategy for Crown,” Solomon said.

“Vita represents Crown’s first acquisition and is a meaningful step toward building its OTC branded consumer division,” said Andrew Charbin, director at The Sage Group, which advised Vita on the deal.

The deal for Vita marks the latest transaction in a years-long beauty buying spree. Strategic buyers, private equity firms and venture capital firms have all been active, with many newcomers (like Hildred and Crown) moving into the space.

Recent transactions include MidOcean Partners’ investment in BH Cosmetics, Kao’s purchase of luxury hair-care line Oribe, Colgate-Palmolive’s venture into professional skin care with acquisitions of Elta MD and PCA Skin, and TSG Consumer’s investment in HudaBeauty.