Source: Smart Business Dealmakers
The Peach Truck has nationwide notoriety — it's been featured in the Food Network and Oprah Magazine, among other publications. The business grew out of the back of Stephen and Jessica Rose's truck to become the largest seller of peaches across the country.
One major turning point for the company was after COVID hit, the couple pivoted to an online presale to cut out lines for their Peach Truck tours and doubled their business during the summer of 2020.
"Which was incredible," co-CEO Stephen says. "All of a sudden, we have a much larger footprint, a much larger customer base, the data from E-commerce and all these customers. But at the same time, we realized we're no longer a small business. To grow this thing sustainably moving forward, to be able to hire people needed to operate this company, we're going to need capital outside of the equity in our home. The growth of the business over the last several years, we felt like we needed not only a capital backing, but expertise and access to crop — we needed access to the product itself. And that's when we started getting some knocks on the door from private equity or family offices, and amongst those were Intl. Farming."
Knowing nothing about a process, Stephen says they started interviewing both brokers and bankers trying to find the right fit. It was important to them to find the right partner — which they found in Footprint Capital — and find the type of buyer that could understand the unique benefits and the unique problems of being in a business that's fully reliant on agriculture.
"Even right now, we had a couple of weeks that were really warm, and then we had a really, really cold front last week, and our peach crop this year is severely hit," Jessica says. "For us to be putting all of our chips in the middle of the table every year on the hopes that this crop will turn out was just the big eye opening (that) we need to go out and find capital and the right capital and the right partner."
They want scale, she says, but it's all about the money.
"And we just knew our hands are tied, at least with the way that we're doing business right now," she says. "Fresh produce is our bread and butter. And we're making plans, we're strategizing to secure the company with different legs under the stool, but that reality is just unavoidable at this moment. We really need someone to understand that there is a significant aspect of our company that's at risk that we can't shore up, at least in the next few years. So, it felt critical."
Stephen says when they connected with International Farming, they genuinely liked them and now they enjoy working with them.
"They haven't veered off from what they told us when we were getting into the deal with them," he says.
The company brought an emphasis on agriculture, but also because they're an equity firm, The Peach Truck got a great combination of both the strategic and financial side.
"Having a group that has loved the way we've done things and just wanting to put gas on that fire, versus blow up our whole business and change the way we do things, they really view us as the experts of what we do, and not that they have some better way to do the Peach Truck. And so, they've just continued to be a super supportive force in our business to not only do what we do with peaches, but looking at their whole portfolio of say apples, pears and cherries in the Northwest and how do we connect consumers with these products and looking across their whole portfolio. So, there's just a wide breadth of experience, capital and all around being decent people that are great to work with."
Jessica says before doing the deal, the two discussed their non-negotiables. Not just the number they had in mind, but what they wanted in a partner.
"There's still a huge runway for how do we, as a country, interact with our food? And how do we receive it? How do we experience it? There's so much there. And so being in those conversations with different companies, it gets exciting, and it gets confusing. And so, having that list of what mattered was really, really important to us."