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Procter & Gamble Acquires Walker & Co.

The deal is expected to deepen P&G's presence in multicultural products.

As it works to reach more multicultural consumers, Procter & Gamble is buying Walker & Co., the beauty company started by venture capitalist Tristan Walker.

The business contains two brands — Bevel, a men’s shaving brand, and Form, a women’s hair-care business.

“Five years ago when I started this business, I really only had one goal in mind and that was to make health and beauty simple for people of color,” said Walker, who will remain with the business as chief executive officer. His goal is to build a company that will be around as long as P&G has, he noted, and anticipates being able to leverage P&G’s capabilities going forward to “build a suite of brands that are world-class.”

“This partnership with Tristan and the Walker & Co. brands will allow us to accelerate in our consumer understanding and relevance in the very important and growing multicultural consumer space,” said Alex Keith, head of P&G Beauty. “He and his team have done an incredible job in understanding the needs of African-ancestry consumers and creating propositions that are really meaningful.”

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Both Walker & Co. brands specialize in making products for multicultural consumers and have subscription options. At Bevel, for example, the shaving products aim specifically to avoid ingrown hairs, and at Form, the focus is in coily hair types and multi-day styling options. Bevel’s bestseller is its electric trimmer, $199.95, and Form’s is its Multitask 3-in-1 Leave-In Lotion, $32, Walker said. Bevel is also sold on Amazon and at Target, and Form is also available at Sephora. Terms of the P&G deal were not disclosed.

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Right now, the combined brands have 36 stockkeeping units. But new products are on the way — Bevel has a significant launch coming next month, and just introduced a hair-care product, Walker noted.

Walker & Co. will operate as a wholly owned P&G subsidiary, with Walker at the helm. But not everything is staying the same — the company’s headquarters are moving to Atlanta in 2019, Walker said.

“A big reason and impetus for that is we care about being where our customers are…Atlanta has shown us an inordinate amount of love since we started the business. It is one of our biggest cities, not only sales from e-commerce and retail but also our community and our support are there. This sends a signal that we care very deeply about serving the needs of our community and about meeting them face to face,” Walker said. 

For P&G, Walker provides deeper access and understanding of the multicultural consumer, an area where P&G has started to spend increasing time. In 2017, Lela Coffey was appointed brand director of multicultural marketing at the company. “She’s been one of the main partners for Tristan through this process,” Keith said.

On its own, P&G has worked to develop products that meet multicultural needs, including the Pantene Gold Series, which Keith said is “doing quite well” and increasing distribution. “Over the course of the last year, the majority of our beauty brands are growing household penetration with the [African-American] consumer,” Keith said. “Our core brands haven’t been brands that were organically part of this consumer community and culture.”

But Walker, Keith said, can help P&G speed its understanding and connection to the community.

While multicultural insights were touted as a main focus of the deal, P&G is also buying brands with strong direct-to-consumer presences. There will be a “free flow of information,” Keith said, between Walker & Co. and multiple segments of P&G, including grooming.

Another key part of the transaction from Walker’s point of view was being able to work with Keith, he said. “This is a bit of a gush-fest, but very real — you can hear the excitement in our voices. It’s important not only for me, but for our community to know there’s a company that’s willing to put a stake in the ground and commit to this.”