May 2022

Drayton travel to New York for Houlihan Lokey conference...

Houlihan Lokey’s ‘Consumer, Food & Retail conference’ has been a well established feature on Drayton Partners' calendar, be it the New York or London event, since it’s inauguration.

Drayton’s Josh French recently attended a conference in New York hosted by Houlihan Lokey the leading investment bank and one of the most prominent players in the Consumer sector M&A arena. We caught up with him to understand his biggest learnings from his trip across the pond.

Houlihan Lokey’s ‘Consumer, Food & Retail conference’ has been a well established feature on Drayton Partners' calendar, be it the New York or London event, since it’s inauguration. The event is widely considered the go-to conference to assimilate trends and innovation in the sector, identify the disruptors, and, critically, network with industry peers. The conference featured talks and panels covering the full breadth of the Consumer industry, from Pet Innovation and the Great Outdoors, to Fitness and Out-of-Home Entertainment.

Josh French commented: "The conference is such a fantastic opportunity to hear direct from founders about their growth story and future ambitions. It is particularly exciting to sit and assess which of the consumer trends that are emerging in North America may well transcend to Europe. The pandemic seems to have had a positive impact on innovation in the UK and the US and, as the world opens up again, numerous trends that had been restricted to one region have now spread internationally and are making their way to other continents and cultures".

The best example of this comes from the pet industry. The US market is experiencing a rise in millennials buying pets and treating them as a ‘practice run’ for raising children – ‘pet parents’, not ‘pet owners’. Whilst the pet market in the UK has frequently been described as nearing maturity, and therefore offering fewer growth opportunities, the US is seeing new focus on healthy snacks and supplements for animals – with the prediction of reducing ailments and improving wellness. Many brand owners have taken the initiative to step-change quality, such as in categories such as Pet accessories with the introduction of stringent safety testing, often to human user standards. This is then promoted as a critical component in their product comms.

Two of the most interesting brands Josh encountered were featured in a talk focusing on ‘Innovative Disruptors in the Snacking Category’. Firstly, Mid-Day Squares: the functional chocolate bar. The business launched in 2018, after 3 years of testing and innovation, and has since sold over one million protein-packed, fibre-rich bars. Secondly, Trü Frü: ‘nature’s fruit in chocolate’. Made with clean ingredients and a unique hyper-chilled process, these snacks have taken TikTok by storm. Both brands are led by high-energy, hands-on founders. "Absolutely delicious brands, and functionally very credible - we look forward to seeing these brands develop over the coming months, and to getting our hands on them when they launch in the UK!" commented Josh.

Whilst attending many conferences can sometimes be a case of trial and error, the gold-standard offered by Houlihan Lokey in this case is definitely risk free. It also provides that opportunity to network with many unique and ambitious businesses face-to-face, especially after a period of enforced Zoom-only conversations.

We look forward to hearing what Wayne Mabbott, Drayton’s Apparel & Footwear specialist, sees as the key learnings and take-aways from Outdoor By ISPO, Europe's largest outdoor trade fair in Munich, where once again the most innovative brands from the outdoor sports industry will come together.