At a time when venture capitalists are scratching and clawing for cash returns, a surprising but welcome guest has come to the party: Unilever.
Two months after acquiring Dollar Shave Club for about $1 billion, Unilever is reportedly in talks to buy Jessica Alba's Honest Co. for a similar amount. Like Dollar Shave, Honest is a popular consumer brand that's taken advantage of modern internet marketing and distribution tools to compete with industry giants.
The Wall Street Journal, citing a person familiar with the matter, reported Thursday night that talks between Unilever and Honest are at an early stage and that Honest "hasn't ruled out going for an initial public offering instead."
A Unilever spokesperson declined to comment, and a representative from Honest didn't respond to a request for comment.
While not providing the level of gains that VCs generate from massive Facebook and Google acquisitions or from blockbuster IPOs, Unilever is at least offering some healthy liquidity to investors and proving venture-backed start-ups can succeed in penetrating markets outside of technology.
The dealmaking is particularly good news for investors in consumer packaged goods, where big acquirers have yet to materialize. In retail, Wal-Mart recently shelled out $3.3 billion for Jet.com and Nordstrom previously purchased HauteLook and Trunk Club, but there's been virtually no activity in the market for packaged foods, beverages and household goods.