Second Nature Brands, maker of Kar's Nuts and Sanders Chocolates, sold to CapVest Partners

Breana Noble
The Detroit News

Funds managed by a London-based private equity investor have acquired Second Nature Brands, the maker of Kar's Nuts and Sanders Chocolates, in a move the company says will accelerate the Madison Heights snack business's growth.

The acquisition by the funds overseen by CapVest Partners LLP from the current owner, a private equity fund affiliated with Palladium Equity Partners LLC, closed on Tuesday. Terms of the transaction weren't disclosed.

Second Nature CEO Vic Mehren will remain in his position and promises customers still will be able to pick up favorites from the company with a heritage stretching more than 140 years in Detroit. The new ownership is expected to help Second Nature invest in its manufacturing operations in Michigan and grow sales.

“Second Nature Brands products, carrying the Kar’s, Sanders and Second Nature brands, will continue to be proudly Made In Michigan," Mehren said in a statement. "We will continue to invest in our manufacturing facilities in Madison Heights and Clinton Township so that Michigan employees can still create the Detroit-born snacks and treats that have become so popular from coast-to-coast.”

CapVest will support Mehren's team with investment in product innovation, leadership and scaling its platform through acquisitions, Othmane Khelladi, a partner at CapVest, said in a statement.

Sanders last year introduced sea salt caramel "thins" as it focused on "permissible indulgence" options.

“Second Nature Brands," Khelladi said, "is a very exciting platform with ambitious plans to grow its presence in the highly attractive snacking and treats market.” 

The private equity investor has a track record in the consumer food sector with investments in food businesses around the world for more than 20 years. It pointed to the transformation of Valeo Foods from an Irish-only business with less than $213 million (200 million euro) in annual sales to a global food group in 106 markets with more than $1.1 billion (1.1 billion euro) in net sales.

Second Nature Brands, which last year said it had less than $200 million in annual revenue, saw its own growth with Palladium. Nick Nicolay, whose family had owned Kar's Nuts for more than 50 years, partnered in 2017 with the private equity fund focused on transforming the family- and founder-owned businesses.

"Palladium has been a steward for the business," Nicolay said in a statement, "helping to support our growth while always ensuring that the Company maintains the heritage, culture, and family traditions that have made our brands special."

Added Mehren: “The Nicolay family helped take what Sue Kar started outside Tiger Stadium and what Fred Sanders began Downtown to consumers across the country. We’ll always appreciate the impact that Nick and his dad had on the snack food business and on our company, as the legacy of their hard work over decades will continue.” 

Kar's Nuts has grown beyond its regional focus into a nationwide snacks and treats provider. It acquired Sanders in 2018 and changed its name to Second Nature Brands in February 2021 after the gluten-free, non-GMO trail mix brand it launched about a decade ago.

“As the company has grown, we always get asked if the traditional favorites that Metro Detroiters know and love will still be available," Mehren said. "So, yes, we’ll continue to make favorites like Sanders’ Bumpy Cake and Sea Salt Caramels, and Kar’s Sweet & Salty Trail Mix, as we also continue to innovate new snacks & treats that meet the tastes of an evolving marketplace.”

Twitter: @BreanaCNoble