Unilever — the company behind everything from Ben & Jerry’s to Vaseline, and who recently spent a billion dollars to buy the Dollar Shave Club — has reportedly gone shopping for yet another high-profile independent brand. This time its Honest Co., the line of household and personal care products co-founded by actress Jessica Alba.
Honest Co. built a $1.7 billion reputation on the fact that its products are created using natural, nontoxic elements, but sources tell The Wall Street Journal, that Unilever isn’t looking to spend quite that much on the company.
Instead, the potential deal is valued at just above $1 billion, but a specific amount wasn’t yet available.
Sources say that the talks are still in the early stages, and it’s possible Honest Co. could take a different path and go for an initial public offering instead of an acquisition.
By acquiring Honest Co., Unilever would have a more unobstructed path to the increasingly popular “natural” and “green” household and personal care product sector.
The WSJ reports that while Unilever counts many well-known household, prepackaged food, and personal care brands among its portfolio, it doesn’t actually compete with Honest Co. in the U.S.
For example, Unilever sold its North American laundry detergent business in 2008. Honest Co. sells a variety of laundry and cleaning products — some of which have come under scrutiny for their ingredient lists.
Earlier this year, the WSJ commissioned tests of Honest detergent from two independent labs, and both tests confirmed the presence of sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) — an organic chemical derived from coconut oil.
While SLS is commonly found in everything from laundry detergent to toothpaste, Honest Co. pledged to avoid using the chemicals in its products.
Honest Co. denied that it used SLS. Instead, saying it used sodium coco sulfate (SCS), which it claims is less potentially irritating than SLS.
The company, which sells online and at retailers like Target and Whole Foods, also came under scrutiny last year when it faced a class-action lawsuit from customers who claimed its products were deceptively labeled and contained unnatural ingredients.
Unilever Is in Talks to Acquire Jessica Alba’s Honest Co. [The Wall Street Journal]