honest co. jessica alba unilever

Unilever’s push to get natural has led it to a deal with Vermont-based home and personal-care products brand Seventh Generation, an acquisition that seems to lead it away from Jessica Alba’s Honest Co.

The consumer-products giant — which boasts of having 2 billion customers on a given day — had taken a close look at Honest and, until as recently as last week, was in the early stages of weighing an acquisition, according to sources and a swirl of media reports.

Unilever, it turns out, was in late-stage talks with Seventh Generation as well.

Investors were less than bullish about the notion of Unilever picking up Seventh Generation and traded shares of the Anglo-Dutch giant down 5.2 percent to $43.04 in after-hours trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

Honest — which was founded five years ago by Alba, Christopher Gavigan, Sean Kane and Brian Lee, who serves as chief executive officer — has been exploring a range of options with Morgan Stanley and Goldman, Sachs & Co., including an initial public offering and a potential sale.

In recent months, a sale was seen more likely with strategic players buzzing around the brand, which mixes a dash of celebrity and a bit of wholesomeness to sell cleaning products and, since last year, beauty goods. It’s a combination many are keen on. Johnson & Johnson is another company said to have been in contact with Honest.

But while the IPO market has been rather blah, it might be starting to open up some. E.l.f. Cosmetics, for instance, is set to start trading this week.

Honest is reported to have sales of about $300 million and is seen as a little larger than Seventh Generation, which Unilever said had sales of over $200 million last year.

Both companies sell cleaning supplies and diapers, but Honest has made more inroads into beauty, although it’s also been dogged by some complaints that its sunscreen and the naturalness of its products haven’t lived up to their billing. Honest has stood by its goods.

While there is overlap between the two brands, Unilever is also very acquisitive in nature. The firm finalized its acquisition of Dollar Shave Club last month in what was said to be a $1 billion transaction. It also agreed to buy indoor air purification firm Blueair — showing the breadth of the group’s business.

The Dollar Shave and Seventh Generation deals put Unilever in more direct competition with consumer products rival Procter & Gamble.