Unilever is set to acquire Sundial Brands, the parent company behind SheaMoisture, Nubian Heritage, and Madam C.J. Walker.
The news comes after months of speculation and rumors about the future and fate of SheaMoisture and its associated product lines.
Unilever announced the acquisition on Monday. According to Reuters,
Sundial will operate as a standalone unit within Unilever and its founder, Richelieu Dennis, who hails from Liberia, will stay on to run it.
Buying Sundial accelerates Unilever’s push deeper into personal care products, which tend to grow faster and be more international than its food business.
The deal is part of a bigger buying spree by Unilever, which earlier this year rebuffed a $143 billion takeover offer from Kraft-Heinz (KHC.O), that has included Pukka Herbs and Tazo tea, Carver Korea beauty products and Mae Terra food.
As part of the agreement with Unilever, Sundial with work with its new parent company to create New Voices Fund — a $50 million investment aimed at empowering women of color entrepreneurs.
News of the acquisition was met with mixed reactions from longtime users of SheaMoisture and Nubian Heritage products. Over the past few years, Shea Moisture has caused controversy by appearing to alienate its core African-American users in favor of white consumers.
Black SheaMoisture users began to question the brand back in 2015, when the company tweeted a meme featuring a blonde child, leading them to question the brand’s intentions and plans for the future.
I hate that shea moisture went mainstream . 95% of hair products are made for non black women . Can we have something of our own ?
— Jan (@TheeJenBunny) February 23, 2015
Later that year, news that private equity firm Bain Capital LLC, a company co-founded by former Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney, had taken a minority stake in Sundial Brands LLC, sparked more speculation.
Sundial CEO and founder Richelieu Dennis dismissed the criticism and called the association with Romney “ridiculous.”
By 2017, Dennis found himself answering to yet another controversy, however. SheaMoisture released a now infamous commercial featuring a nearly all-white cast, except for one model, a black woman with lighter skin and a looser curl pattern.
Shea Moisture offered up a mea culpa, of sorts, but the damage was more than done.
News of the Unilever acquisition definitely hit longtime SheaMoisture devotees hard, and the brand’s entrepreneur fund seems conciliatory.
Who knows what the future holds for Dennis, Sundial Brands, and other emerging black beauty and haircare entrepreneurs.