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Jones Natural Chews Secures Investor in Azalea Capital


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Jones Natural Chews, a Rockville, Ill., family-owned, family-run manufacturer of all-natural dog treats and chews, has found an investment partner in Greenville, Ill., private equity firm Azalea Capital and a local executive, Michelle Higdon.

Higdon will serve as executive chairman of the 85-employee company to advise on business development and growth strategy.

The pet industry “is very attractive right now for investors,” said Higdon, who most recently served as CEO of Solid Gold Pet. “It’s been proven in the last eight years that premium products are fairly recession resistant. Even in hard economic times, people are taking care of their pets. We think that we can double the business over the next five years.”

Before Solid Gold Pet, Higdon served as president and COO of Nestlé-owned Waggin’ Train, transitioning the business to Nestlé Purina PetCare.

Higdon estimated that Jones Natural Chews, Azalea’s only current pet food investment, is expected to grow 40 percent this year, followed by 25 percent next year.

“It’s one of the largest, if not the largest, U.S.-sourced, U.S.-manufactured chew companies in the country,” said Higdon. “It’s so unique in the market. Where I come in … is to plan for the growth. We have aggressive growth plans, and standards that need to be met, and that gets harder to do the bigger you get.”

Neither Azalea or Higdon disclosed the terms of the agreement or financial details of the Midwestern company but said Azalea invests between $5 million to $15 million per deal in companies with revenues between $10 million and $100 million.

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