Voss of Norway ASA, headquartered in New York, NY, was founded in Norway in 1998 by childhood friends Ole Christian Sandberg and Christopher Harlem. Today, Voss is one of the world’s leading ultra-premium brands in the $100+ billion global bottled water market. Voss’ still and sparkling products are marketed in 50 countries around the world at the finest hotels and restaurants in the on-premise channel, and at leading Food, Drug, Natural and other stores in the retail channel. Since inception, the Company has invested significantly to build the Voss brand and establish its ultra-premium image. Voss’ ultra-pure water is drawn from a pristine artesian aquifer in Iveland, Norway, and bottled on-site at the Company’s nearby production facility.
With sales exceeding $500 million, employing more than 4,000 employees in 80 countries, Kaz is today the world’s largest vaporizer/humidifier manufacturer and continues to be the most trusted name in the industry
““As we considered advisors, one firm stood out: Sawaya Partners. We recognized that Fuad Sawaya and the balance of the Sawaya Partners’ team have unparalleled beverage industry expertise and relationships which made them uniquely positioned to achieve a success for Voss and its stakeholders. The Sawaya Partners team worked very hard to arrive at a deep understanding of our business, and the Voss brand. Their ability to help us clearly and creatively articulate this highly compelling opportunity to the best potential partners in the market created strong process dynamics, which ultimately resulted in a highly successful outcome to a complex, cross-border assignment under an accelerated time frame. Sawaya Partners’ guidance and execution capabilities were instrumental at each point along the way. Our Company now has both the strategic capital and an ideal partner in Juggernaut to achieve our growth ambitions and create significant future value for our stakeholders. “
JACK BELSITO PRESIDENT & CEO, VOSS OF NORWAY ASA
Company History — Founding through 2008:
The Entrepreneurial Years
Voss founders Ole Christian Sandberg and Christopher Harlem set out in 1998 to create a revolutionary bottled water brand that would stand out in the large but homogenous and competitive landscape of the global bottled water market. In particular, the ultra-premium segment offered opportunities for a chic and sophisticated brand to distinguish itself and appeal to a broad range of consumers worldwide at an elevated price point, creating an attractive proposition for customers in multiple channels and geographies. Over the next several years, the Company developed a leading on-premise channel platform in the U.S. and in many other countries, and established its ultra-premium brand equity by partnering with some of the most prestigious hotel and restaurant accounts in the world.
For the better part of the 2000’s, Voss was focused on brand-building and growth, rather than optimizing profitability. As a result, when the global foodservice industry and hospitality markets experienced a meaningful contraction during the global recession in 2008 and 2009, Voss’ on-premise business, like many others, was impacted by the challenging macroeconomic environment, leading to a substantial sales decline in 2009. To meet this challenge, Voss’ Board of Directors concluded that the Company should adapt by establishing a more balanced business model across both on-premise and retail channels, and implement a new focus on profitable growth. As a critical first step towards these objectives, Voss conducted a search for a new CEO with significant retail expertise and a track record of success building brands in the beverage industry.
New Era of Leadership:
2010 to Current
In early 2010, Voss hired Jack Belsito, former CEO of Snapple Beverage Group at Cadbury plc. Mr. Belsito recognized the exceptional brand equity to be leveraged, but also the scope of changes necessary to achieve the Company’s objectives. From the outset, he began to implement strategic initiatives across all aspects of the Company’s operations and activities, including its product offerings, branding, sales, marketing, supply chain and distribution infrastructure, among others, to reposition the Company for profitable growth.
Capital Raise Initiative
As performance continued to improve under Mr. Belsito’s leadership and the Company developed a comprehensive long term strategic vision, Management and the Board began to consider alternatives to help accelerate this new growth trajectory and reconfigure its capital structure. They concluded that partnering with a new investor to provide a capital infusion of approximately $16 million as well as value-added strategic resources would best position the Company to take advantage of its current momentum and create a new inflection point for the Voss brand. Specifically, the transaction objectives of Company and its stakeholders were:
From the outset, Sawaya Partners worked closely with both Management and its key stakeholders to create a comprehensive plan to optimize the process objectives.
As part of the final terms of the transaction, Juggernaut and a Norwegian investment firm, Centra Group, injected $18 million of capital which translated into a minority equity stake in Voss. The preferred investment was structured with certain governance rights and downside protection, but allowed all shareholders to share in the Voss upside potential. Through Sawaya Partners’ efforts, value was optimized in line with Voss’ expectations and the transaction provided for the continued growth of the Voss franchise and legacy under the leadership of the current Management team.
For Sawaya Partners, the cross-border capital raise for Voss represents yet another example of the firm’s expertise in consumer Food & Beverage transactions. Moreover, the assignment marks an important milestone towards a new era of leadership for the firm in growth equity and luxury goods transactions, while extending its track record of success with private equity investors. The excellent results achieved along the way reflect Sawaya Partners’ commitment to realizing a successful outcome for Voss and is indicative of Sawaya Partners’ fundamental view that all client relationships are long term relationships.