Unilever in talks to buy Jessica Alba's Honest company for $1bn

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Los Angeles: Unilever is on an acquisition spree of companies such as Honest, which has a loyal customer base of younger consumers drawn to its 'natural' products

Unilever is attempting to buy Hollywood actor Jessica Alba's household goods company Honest for more than $1bn (760m), according to reports.
The London-listed Unilever, which owns Dove soap, Lynx body sprays and Ben & Jerry's ice cream, is on an acquisition spree buying up new and innovative companies that appeal to younger people to help maintain its stronghold on the global consumer goods market.

The planned-purchase of Honest, which the Golden Globe-nominated actorco-founded in 2011, comes hot on the heels of Unilever's $1bn purchase of Dollar Shave Club.

Both Unilever and Honest declined to comment on the proposed sale, which was first reported by the Wall Street Journal. Honest, which has built up a loyal customer base of young mothers who buy its diapers (nappies), household cleaners and beauty products via online subscription, is also exploring the possibility of floating on the stock market.

The speculated $1bn sale price is significantly lower than the $1.7bn Honest was reportedly valued at in its most recent fundraising drive last year.

Honest is attractive to Unilever for its "natural" and "green" household cleaning goods, which are a booming market in the US and overseas. But, Honest has been hit with class-action lawsuits by customers claiming that its products have been deceptively labeled as "organic" and "natural" when they contain non-natural ingredients.

Alba, 35, who has been acting since she was 13 and starred in Fantastic Four and Dark Angel, has dismissed the lawsuits as baseless. "If an organization wants to bring awareness to their cause, I'm an easy target and our brand is an easy target obviously, because I get a different kind of attention than other brands would, she said on the Today show last month. "We stand by our ingredients, the effectiveness of the products and we're pretty optimistic that we're going to win every case."

Paul Polman, Unilever's chief executive, said Unilever was seeking to buy up fresh ideas rather than attempting to come up with new products and business models in house. "An innovative company has to go outside as much as inside. The main incubators for our future innovation capabilities are more likely to be outside than inside," he said in an interview with Bloomberg earlier this week.

Polman, who was paid 10.4m last year, described Dollar Shave Club which has shaken up the razor market by posting grooming products to subscribers for as little as $1 a month as a "disruptor".

Alba is not the first Hollywood star to swap the silver screen for the product development and the boardroom. Paul Newman created Newmans Own in 1982, it has expanded to more than 200 products including pizza, cookies and pet food and donated more than $450m of profits to charity.

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