In 2006, MCP identified the natural/organic grocery sector as attractive due to consumer tailwinds and an underpenetrated competitive landscape and began a proactive effort to identify an investment opportunity. MCP connected with an investment advisor and was introduced to Earth Fare, an 11-store supermarket operator offering natural, organic and other specialty products in the southeastern United States. At the time of the introduction, Earth Fare, which was owned by a number of individual investors, had developed an effective store footprint but lacked the infrastructure and sophistication to realize its full potential. Monitor Clipper purchased a majority interest in the Company in an unlevered transaction designed to enable the acceleration of Earth Fare's growth.
While the Company was well-positioned in its existing markets with a differentiated offering, the business lacked sophistication around its growth strategy, new site selection process, merchandising/pricing, and overall marketing strategy. Over the course of its investment, MCP drove several key initiatives designed to enable the effective acceleration of Earth Fare's growth. These initiatives included: 1) a significant expansion and upgrading of management, including the hiring of a new CEO, COO, VP of Operations, and VP of Marketing; 2) the development of a proprietary site selection process based on local demographics, competition, and other variables, which dramatically increased the success rate of store openings; 3) the creation of a proprietary labor tool to automate store staffing and more effective analysis of departmental profitability and effectiveness; and 4) a shift from traditional marketing efforts to local, grassroots and online efforts.
These initiatives fundamentally transformed Earth Fare and its growth potential. While the Company had, on average, opened less than one new store per year in the decade prior to MCP's investment, the investment in the Company's management team and its processes facilitated a dramatic expansion of the Company, culminating in five new stores being opened in 2011. Additionally, the Company's effective merchandising and marketing strategies allowed it to achieve two-year stacked same store sales growth of over 20% in the 18 months leading up to MCP's exit.
In 2012, Earth Fare, which had grown to encompass 25 stores, was acquired by Oak Hill Capital Partners, though Monitor Clipper retained a minority interest in the Company in the transaction.