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Castanea waits nearly a year to confirm investment in Yasso

  • Castanea's investment in Yasso closed in March 2017
  • Castanea Fund IV, which raised $600 mln, invested in Yasso
  • Yasso was expected to sell for $150 mln

Castanea Partners confirmed its investment in Yasso Inc, nearly a year after completing the transaction.

The middle market private equity firm has a majority stake in Yasso, said Drew Harrington, Yasso's co-founder and co-CEO. The transaction closed in March 2017. "Amanda and I retained equity," Harrington said, referring to Amanda Klane, the company's other co-founder and co-CEO.

"Amanda and I are still running the company," he said. Financial terms were not announced.

Founded in 2009, Yasso is known for its frozen Greek yogurt on a stick, which comes in flavors like chocolate chip, cinnamon bun and cookies 'n cream. Most of the bars have only 100 calories and 16 grams of carbohydrates. Yasso introduced frozen Greek yogurt sandwiches in mint and vanilla flavors last year.

Buyouts reported the sale to Castanea in May 2017. However, neither Yasso nor Castanea opted to address the deal until now. "We invested," Juan Marcos Hill, a Castanea partner, told Buyouts.

Delaying the announcement wasn't Castanea's idea, Hill said. The PE firm agreed to hold off so Yasso could unveil a new product line. Last week, the Quincy, Massachusetts company began offering frozen yogurt in pints. The pints will "roll out to stores in late February," Harrington said.

Flavors include "Caramel Pretzel-Mania" (sea salt caramel frozen yogurt with pieces of chocolate-covered pretzels and a caramel swirl), "Loco Coco Caramel" (toasted coconut-flavored frozen Greek yogurt with a caramel swirl and chocolate-flavored chips) and"Party Animal" (cake-flavored frozen Greek yogurt with rainbow sprinkles and chunks of cake). Yasso's pints have 80 to 150 calories and 5 to 6 grams of protein per serving.

Unlike its arch rival, Halo Top Creamery, which offers a best-selling pint of ice cream, Yasso doesn't use high-intensity sweeteners like erythritol, Harrington said.

Yasso isn't a yogurt company, Hill said. Instead, Yasso sells frozen Greek yogurt novelties. Companies like Chobani's or siggi's, which just got sold to a strategic, are located in the refrigerated yogurt section of groceries stores. Yasso, meanwhile, is found in frozen desserts. "There are a few other small players, but Yasso is the only one who uses Greek yogurt in its base to create a frozen dessert," Hill said.

Yasso is trying to fill a void in the dessert market. Consumers typically have to pick between super indulgent products, like Ben & Jerry's, that are tasty but lack nutritional value, executives said. On the other end are products that are low in sugar and calories but sacrifice flavor. Or they use artificial sweeteners (think Halo Top or Skinny Cow) to achieve their nutritional goals, execs said. Consumers can eat Yasso's pints with "no guilt," Hill said. Yasso is the best of both worlds, he said.

"We feel we can bring a lot of people back to the dessert category," Harrington said.

Sales process

Yasso went up for sale in late 2016, tapping Janica Lane of Piper Jaffray to advise on a sale. The auction drew interest from both strategics and private equity, Harrington said. Yasso employs 21 people. It produced $82 million in retail sales for the 52 weeks ended Dec. 3, according to SPINS, a provider of retail data.

Yasso was expected to sell for $150 million, Buyouts reported. The company raised $14.61 million in funding, according to PitchBook. Raptor Group, which invested as part of a 2014 funding round, exited with the sale, Harrington said.

Castanea used its fourth fund, which closed on $600 million in 2015, to invest in Yasso. Castanea typically invests $15 million to $150 million equity per deal in middle market companies with revenue between $25 million and $150 million. Sectors include beauty and personal care; apparel, footwear and accessories; food and beverage, and household and juvenile products.

In May, the Bruery, an Orange Country craft beer brewer, said it sold a stake to Castanea. The PE firm also invested in Tatcha, a luxury skincare brand, in 2017.

Nixon Peabody provided legal advice to Yasso. Ropes and Gray advised Castanea.

Action Item: To contact Hill email him at JMHill@castaneapartners.com

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