Unilever agreed to acquire Seventh Generation Inc., a Vermont-based company known for natural and eco-conscious cleaning products.
Seventh Generation posted sales of more than $200 million last year, with compound annual growth in the double digits over the past decade, Unilever said in a statement Monday. Terms of the deal weren't disclosed.
The transaction is part of a push by Unilever to claim more of the natural section of supermarket aisles. Millennials have increasingly sought out upstart brands that are seen as being environmentally friendly, putting pressure on some traditional wares. Unilever considers Seventh Generation a "purpose-driven brand," akin to its Ben & Jerry's and Dove products.
"This addition to Unilever's product portfolio will help us meet rising demand for high-quality products with a purpose," Nitin Paranjpe, president of Unilever's home-care division, said in the statement.
Seventh Generation — promoted by comedian Maya Rudolph in ads — sells detergents, dish cleaners and other products that are free of artificial fragrances and dyes. The lineup may help Unilever mount a bigger challenge to market leader Procter & Gamble, said Ali Dibadj, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein.
"We have for a long time been very impressed by Seventh Generation in terms of its management, its innovation and bringing to the consumer what it is they want," he said. "It puts a little more pressure on companies such as Procter & Gamble to offer what the consumer wants in terms of environmentally friendly products."
Unilever previously has expressed interest in buying Honest Co., a person familiar with the situation said last week. That company — co-founded by actress Jessica Alba — also has a natural focus, though it concentrates more on baby care and personal-hygiene products. That raises the question of whether the Seventh Generation deal will affect those deliberations, Dibadj said.
"On one hand, it does suggest they're interested in this sort of business," he said. "On the other hand, it feels like they've now already made a bet in that space."