S-Ventures plc (AQSE:SVEN) Chief Executive Officer Scott Livingston caught up with DirectorsTalk for an exclusive interview to discuss what the company does, how it has progressed since listing, the brands they’ve acquired, their impressive Board members and what investors can expect from the company during 2022.
Q1: Scott, first off, can you just tell us a little more about what S-Ventures does?
A1: Basically, we are an investment business, but more so an operating business where we own the majority stakes in consumer brands that tend to be plant-based, natural or organic that fit in line with the trend of healthy snacking and eating well and removing chemicals etc.
Our platform, if you like, is to centralise multiple brands, sharing resources, sharing sales teams, marketing teams, finance functions, sharing distribution, manufacturing etc.
So, we look for opportunities where there’s a strategic fit, where the brands are similar to each other, and we look to basically help each brand expand exponentially given the shared resources of the group.
Q2: Now, this was the company’s first year as a public company, how has the group progressed since listing?
A2: We’ve accelerated at pace.
We’ve done a number of deals, we’ve done five/six deals in total with one minority stake but we’ve bought 100% of Pulsin, which is a very well-known brand in protein shakes, protein bars, fibre bars, keto bars etc. It has a decent track record, has a really nice story to it over the years, it’s been established I think since 2007. We acquired 75.1% of Ohso Chocolate, we also acquired a majority stake in Purely Plantain Chips business and we now have a joint venture with a meat-free, plant- based business.
All of these brands share commonality, they share the same consume, they share the same processes, it’s the same buyer and some of the retailers, and they all have a common goal. Just to add, we also bought very recently Livia’s which is a plant-based treats and snack business.
We’ve done a deal or two more than we had planned and we didn’t expect to accelerate so quickly, but we’ve managed to build a team that can work effectively and work quick and we’ve managed to enjoy a lot of the efficiencies that we had planned.
I think that some of the lockdowns have helped in the sense that everyone’s at their desks and we’ve been able to get a lot of things done but we’re very happy with where we are and what we’ve achieved to date.
Q3: Can you just tell us more about those brands that you’ve acquired and what each one offers really?
A3: So, Pulsin is all about feel good nutrition, of having the right ingredients, removing all the nasties and having something that really, really tastes good, but is plant-based, is organic, is vegan is natural etc. Now, the secret to making it tasty is something that our scientists, if you like, work very hard on producing.
We have Ohso, which is a probiotic chocolate which is a patented method of encapsulating probiotics into chocolate, and it’s a more effective way of delivering probiotics to the gut in comparison to some dairy alternatives. It’s very much a functional regime product where you’ve got something naughty and enjoyable, but also part of your healthy daily routine, if you like, using the best chocolates, we have different types of flavours so it’s very much a functional product.
We then have We Love Purely which is plantain chips, our products to HFSS compliant, they have obviously lower salt and sugar levels to a lot of the alternatives, they give you a great long lasting energy boost in the same way that eating a banana would do obviously, or similar to a porridge. It’s extremely tasty with the spicy, garlic, salty options, and we’ve got massive progress across the board with that product.
Livia’s is an indulgent snacky treat, plant-based, set of products that taste lovely but still have the naturalness to them and all the nasties removed.
The plant-based meat-free business is Plant Punk, it has a very specific formula and set of ingredients that set it apart from its competition, whilst maintaining taste, and whilst a lot of people are trying to play in this space, and there’s obviously been some early successes with some bigger brands, we really feel well poised to expand that.
Again, the science and the way we put these products together is a really important part of it, you can do all of your wonderful social media and marketing exercises, but ultimately the products need to be excellent, taste great and have the right credentials.
Q4: I see that you have a pretty impressive management team and Board. Can you just tell us more about them?
A4: We have some really interesting people on the Board that are involved, these are longstanding business relationships, personal relationships, where there was a consensus that everyone wanted to be involved in this space in some way and that the vision was clear, the sector was right and what we were doing was a good strategy, it’s a clear strategy.
As you can see, we’ve got some significantly successful individuals in all sorts of fields that are adding immense value to the Board. It’s a privilege to be working with these people, the faith both ways is incredible in all of our combined belief in the strategy. I think ultimately if we weren’t engaged with this project, we would probably all be investing in this sector anyway, this is a sector we want to be in, we feel it’s the right time, we don’t even feel it’s a trend, it’s more of a seismic shift in human behaviour in these types of products.
So, yes, it’s a very strong Board and it’s spread across different disciplines from building entrepreneurial businesses up to billion dollar exits, from M&A, corporate finance type of work where we’ve got all of the right inputs into our Board to be very strong in all the areas that we need to be strong in.
Obviously, we’ve got lots of disciplines that we need from building brands to executing transactions, to finding transactions, negotiating, building etc. so that Board covers all bases which is really important, and when we came to select the Board, we wanted to make sure that all bases were covered.
Q5: Finally then Scott, what can investors expect from S-Ventures in 2022?
A5: We are sticking with our plan, we want to accelerate our plan and we have some exciting strategic opportunities and we expect to do all sorts of different things but staying very disciplined to our strategy.
Obviously, I can’t say too much, but we have a lot that we’re working on, I believe that this sector is probably one of the most exciting in terms of growth potential, in terms of possible valuation metrics and in terms of the upside, I think it’s almost unparalleled so I think it’s the right sector to be in.