Bridges backs Welsh snack business

The maker of the '9 bar' becomes the sixth deal from Bridges' new fund

UK-based Bridges Ventures has bought a controlling interest in Wholebake, a Welsh manufacturer of healthy snack bars.

Terms were not disclosed, but Wholebake, which operates primarily through the ‘9 bar’ brand, had sales of about £11 million ($18.7 million; €13.9 million) last year and employs 104 people.

Bridges, which focuses on investments that deliver a social as well as a financial return, said the deal would help the company create at least 60 new jobs in the next three to five years, all in an low-employment region of Wales. Wholebake's focus on gluten-free, healthy snacks also chimes with one of the firm's four key investment themes, health and wellbeing.

Bridges is backing the company's existing leadership team of chief executive Mark Gould and operations director Richard Shaw, who bought into the business in 2011 with backing from government-backed agency Finance Wales. Since then, sales have almost tripled, from £4 million in 20011 to £11 million last year.

However, Bridges is also supplementing the existing team with the addition of Jaclyn Kelly, former finance director of snack business Soreen, as chief financial officer, and Peter Farquhar, former chief executive of Dorset Cereals, as a non-executive director.

Bridges partner Oliver Wyncoll, who led the deal for the firm, will also join the enlarged board. In a statement today, he said Wholebake's products – which are endorsed by two-time Olympic gold medal-winning cyclist Ed Clancy – were “bang on trend with consumer demand for great-tasting, higher-protein, gluten-free snacking”.

Finance Wales will exit the business in full following today's deal.

This is the sixth investment from Bridges’ Sustainable Growth Fund III, which closed last year on £125 million.