Unilever in talks to buy consumer-products retailer Honest Co for over $1 bn

Anglo-Dutch consumer products giant Unilever Plc is in talks to buy Honest Co, the consumer-products retailer co-founded by actress Jessica Alba, in an over $1-billion deal.

A successful deal would come two months after Unilever acquired Dollar Shave Club for $1 billion. (See: Unilever to buy US toiletry delivery start-up Dollar Shave Club for a reported $1 bn)

The talks are at an early stage, and Honest has not ruled out an initial public offering, The Wall Street Journal yesterday reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

Unilever, the maker of Dove soaps and Axe body sprays, is discussing a deal valued at over $1 billion but significantly less than the $1.7 billion valuation that was placed on Honest in a fundraising round last year, the report said.

Honest, based in California, has raised more than $200 million from investors that include venture-capital firms General Catalyst Partners and Lightspeed Venture Partners as well as money managers Fidelity Management & Research Co. and Wellington Management Co.

Founded in 2011 and led by CEO Brian Lee, Honest sells consumer and beauty products like diapers, baby formula, bath and body care, sunscreens, makeup, and laundry detergent.

Around 40 per cent of its reported $300 million annual revenue comes from sales through retailers like Target Corp and Whole Foods, and the remainder comes from online sales through its own websites Honest.com and HonestBeauty.com.

A successful deal would give London-based Unilever a foothold in the fast-growing market for ''natural'' or ''green'' cleaning products, as well as the diaper business, the report added.