Expansion, expertise and supply chain strength: How ex-Swisse execs hope to support Elle Macpherson's WelleCo brand
Investment firm The Foundry was established by ex-Swisse CFO Michael Da Gama Pinto and the vitamin firm’s founding shareholder Stephen Ring.
It has now taken a 25% in WelleCo, which was co-founded by Elle Macpherson and its CEO Andrea Horwood in 2014.
The brand’s plant-based dietary supplements are derived from wholefoods and sold in powdered form.
It is has a strong presence in Australia and the UK – including at Selfridges and Harrods - and recently added Barneys in Californian and New York to its US retail list.
The Foundry’s chief operating office Federica Nicolao, herself a former head of sourcing and procurement at Swisse, told us she hoped the deal would help WelleCo fulfil its undoubted potential.
“We are not about quick wins,” she said. “We are here for the long haul.”
“The key for us is to be able to work with founders that are innovative brand creators, and that’s certainly the case here.”
Despite significant export growth for Australia’s supplement industry in recent years, Nicolao said there was still considerable potential for future increases.
“WelleCo is already in a number os overseas markets, including in Asia, but we think it is really well-placed for future growth,” she said.
It is currently stocked in Lane Crawford in Hong Kong – but not yet by stores on the mainland.
“There have been sales to China through these stores, but there has not yet been a big focus on that market. There is definitely an opportunity there that we want to explore, and we are working on that, along with driving growth in the US,” added Nicolao.
She said she hoped the Foundry would also be able to help provide a “world-class operational management team.”
“I think we can bring some of the experience we gained from the Swisse business in terms of operational leadership and expansion,” she said.
“I also believe we can help with the supply, and Andrea said previously one of the attractions of working with us was to help develop great ingredient partners.”
Indeed, Nicolao remained with new Swisse owners Health & Happiness (formerly known as Biostime) to help integrate and improve supply chains after the 2015 takeover.
“WelleCo sources only plant-based, wholefoods, which are treated gently to preserve the bionutrients,. The idea is to source from where they naturally originate and, where possible, for them to be organic.”
She added that there were “really exciting new products” in the pipeline over the next six to 12 months, but declined to give further details at this stage.
Swisse was bought by Biostime for a reported $1.67bn, setting the trend for a raft of takeovers or investments by Chinese firms in the Australian industry.