Freshpet LLC, maker of a healthy variety of cat and dog food, has selected Goldman Sachs Group Inc (GS.N) and Credit Suisse Group AG CSGN.VX to lead an initial public offering by the end of the year, two people familiar with the matter said on Wednesday.
Freshpet's plans to go public come amid a wave of IPO and mergers and acquisitions activity in the "premium pet food" sector, driven by rising pet ownership and an increase in pet food spending.
Larger rival Blue Buffalo Co, for example, which is backed by private equity firm Invus Group LLC, selected banks in March for an IPO, people familiar with the matter told Reuters at the time.
And just earlier on Wednesday, privately held Mars announced a $2.9 billion deal to acquire Procter & Gamble Co's (PG.N) pet food business, which includes brands like Iams and Eukanuba.
Founded in 2006, Freshpet makes fresh, refrigerated food for dogs and cats as an alternative to dry or canned food. Freshpet's products, available at stores including Target Corp (TGT.N) and Wal-Mart Stores Inc (WMT.N), do not have preservatives, fillers, corn or wheat.
Private equity firm MidOcean Partners made what it referred to as a "significant investment" in Freshpet in 2011, joining Tyson Foods Inc (TSN.N), which had been a strategic partner of Freshpet since 2009.
The sources asked not to be identified because Freshpet's IPO plans are confidential. MidOcean, Goldman Sachs and Credit Suisse declined to comment. Freshpet and Tyson Foods did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Freshpet's sales are expected to top $100 million this year from just $500,000 in 2006, CEO Richard Thompson was cited as saying in an interview with a local newspaper last month.
(Reporting by Olivia Oran and Greg Roumeliotis in New York; Editing by Diane Craft)