Tricor Founders goes sweet with acquisition of Totally Chocolate

Family office Tricor Pacific Founders Capital has shown a sweet tooth by acquiring a majority stake in Totally Chocolate, a Blaine, Wash.-based custom chocolate manufacturer, for an undisclosed price.

Tricor Founders purchased the company from Jeff Robinson, who founded the company nearly three decades ago.

Robinson wanted a “stable and long-term partner” who understood the business, recognized its “exceptional product,” and could “help take it to a next level of growth,” Tricor Founders’ Managing Director Derek Senft told PE Hub Canada.

Totally Chocolate, which specializes in precision-engraved chocolate, makes its products from 100 percent Belgian chocolate. Customers design and order the chocolates for corporate and personal gifts, as well as promotional items.

Senft said that the company also makes edible M&A tombstones, which may find some demand in the private equity industry.

It is the second platform investment of the family office, launched two years ago by senior professionals at Tricor Pacific Capital.

Tricor Founders made the acquisition of Totally Chocolate through Ganache Gourmet, a newly created vehicle to hold the investment. It will also operate as a platform for future chocolate and confectionery-related investments. Targets may be standalone companies or companies that can be bolted onto Totally Chocolate.

Derek Senft 2
Derek Senft, Managing Director, Tricor Pacific Founders Capital

This is consistent with Tricor Founders’ strategy of buying food and other consumer packaged goods businesses with EBITDA of $2 million to $8 million in Canada and the United States. A key to the strategy is the financial and operational resources residing with the family office, Senft said.

As reported by PE Hub Canada last May, this includes Tricor Founders’ “secret weapon”: Managing Director Richard Harris, a long-time food and beverage executive. With Totally Chocolate’s acquisition, Harris became its executive chairman. He will work with existing management to support growth objectives, including an intensified go-to-market initiative, Senft said.

Harris took on the same role in Tricor Founders’ debut investment, Presteve Foods, a harvester, processor and distributor of wild freshwater fish from the Great Lakes. It was bought in mid-2015.

Presteve recently completed three add-on acquisitions. Late last year, it bought Barraco Fisheries, Batista Fisheries and Pisces Fisheries, all quota-holders and harvesters of Great Lakes fish. Senft believes the deals greatly reinforce Presteve’s leadership in the industry.

Tricor Founders will make more platform investments in the near future, Senft said. Like their predecessors, they will be “durable companies with a differentiated basis of competition in a mature category”, around which the family office can “build themes.”

Unlike other PE investors, which generally hold portfolio assets for three to five years, Tricor Founders expects to own its companies “indefinitely,” Senft said.

Senft recently transitioned from his position as a vice president at PenderWest Capital Partners to work full-time at Vancouver-based Tricor Founders. He remains a PenderWest director.

At Tricor Founders, he and Harris team up on deal execution and operations. Tricor Pacific Capital’s co-founders Rod Senft and Trevor Johnstone are the family office’s “guiding hand, engaging strategically at their highest points of value contribution,” said Derek Senft, Rod’s son.

Tricor Founders is currently in hiring mode. This year it will be joined by Director Brian Pettipas, formerly the CFO of CBV Collection Services, an accounts receivable management business. Pettipas will assist portfolio companies in overseeing and upgrading their financial systems.

Additionally, Christian Maas has come onboard as a director. Maas previously worked with Harris when the latter led Golden Boy Foods, a private label food manufacturer sold to Post Holdings in 2014. Maas will work with portfolio companies in a project capacity.

In December, Tricor Pacific Capital rebranded its fifth fund, creating a new private equity firm, Parallel49 Equity.

Photo of chocolates courtesy of Shutterstock

Photo of Derek Senft courtesy of Tricor Pacific Founders Capital