Vega looks to take its vegan supplements global with $550 million sale

Sale to Denver’s WhiteWave Foods will give the Vancouver-based company global reach, along with a hefty payday

Vega founder Charles Chang


Charles Chang set the wheels in motion for this week’s US$550-million payday back in September. He knew he needed more financing and expertise to turn his healthy powdered shake and snack bar company Vega into a global brand. He considered going public, but the better option, he felt, lay in selling to a strategic partner with that expertise and distribution clout.

That partner turned out to be Denver-based WhiteWave Foods Company, a healthy food processor traded on the New York Stock Exchange that owns food and beverage brands including Silk, So Delicious and Land O Lakes. “It’s just a perfect fit for us,” says Chang. “We’re still a few years away from doing anything globally. We can get into a lot more households.” Both companies focus on the same fast-growing good-for-you food segment, he notes. The major difference is that while Vancouver-based Vega is in some 30,000 stores in North America, WhiteWave is strong in Europe and China too.

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That isn’t to say there weren’t other suitors. With the help of two American investment banks, Chang shopped Vega around to “several” prospective acquisitors. The valuation process was made more complicated by the fact that Vega’s sales grew 30% over the past year to US$100 million, and actually accelerated in 2015.

Since bringing on private equity firm VMG Partners as a minority shareholder five years ago, Chang knew that an exit was coming, but he says he has no plans to do other things with his life. “I’m committed beyond doing just a bare minimum” under his contract to continue running Vega, he says. “I went home after our celebration and worked for three hours. We have big plans.”

Chang, 44, emphasizes that there are no changes in operations contemplated. Vega will continue to be run out of Vancouver with the same management team. “There’s no CEO being parachuted in. There’s no whacking the whole executive team. There’s been no talk of consolidating the back office,” he says. “The word ‘synergy’ has not been used.”

About half of Vega’s 160 employees are based in Vancouver. The company’s products are manufactured in a network of 10 regional facilities close to customers.