MeatEater Buys First Lite, CEO Calls It a 'Match Made in Heaven'

We spoke with Kevin Sloan, CEO of MeatEater, Inc., about the acquisition of First Lite.

Two like-minded outdoor brands will operate under one roof with the announcement that MeatEater, Inc. has purchased First Lite hunting gear.

News of the official acquisition is buzzing through the hunting and outdoor community, thanks to the popularity of the expanding MeatEater brand, backed by host and co-founder Steven Rinella.

We got to speak with Kevin Sloan, MeaEater, Inc. CEO, last week about the announcement, shortly after he spent a few days on the ground with First Lite to facilitate the acquisition and welcome the team to the newly-expanded MeatEater family.

Sloan's no stranger to this side of the business, having spent more than 20 years in the industry. His 11-year stint at Sitka Gear led to his joining MeatEater, and his influence has helped shape the core objectives of hunting, fishing, conservation and culinary content.

When we asked about what led to the acquisition, he instantly spoke to the likeminded nature of the two entities.

"We have a longstanding relationship with First Lite, going back almost a decade from Steve's standpoint, and we also have very similar ideals from a brand standpoint, and what is important to us," said Sloan. "If we wanted to expand into this space, and expand our view from a digital-first media company into more of a product brand, this was a perfect first step for us."

First Lite has been a top-tier apparel and gear source since its 2007 creation, focusing in large part on wool and wool blends to create utility-based outdoor and hunting clothes. MeatEater's conservation-minded publishing company has a show on Netflix, a burgeoning website presence, and a touring podcast, each helping to increase the fanbase that, if they've watched enough, will be more than familiar with the First Lite mark.

Like anyone else, we were curious about the immediate effects, if any, that would be perceived. Should we expect anything different for First Lite and their consumer experience?

"The First Lite followers are incredibly loyal to what they're doing," said Sloan, mentioning the "emotional connection to the brand" that's helped turn them into an influential outdoor company. With that in mind, it seemed like there wouldn't be much change at all. Sloan used the term "maintain its DNA," which should settle some concern.

First Lite co-founders Kenton Carruth and Scott Robinson will continue as First Lite co-presidents, running the division's day-to-day operations with the existing First Lite leadership team based in Ketchum, Idaho.

"Our view is, we certainly don't want to fix what's not broken," Sloan told Wide Open Spaces. "We want to leverage what MeatEater has built, and our following, to help First Lite do what they do better... In terms of major changes for the company, we view the relationship now as an accelerant to what First Lite already does. We don't see coming in and changing the company dramatically in any way shape or form. What we view this as is, 'How do we help support the growth of First Lite?'"

Over time, he did acknowledge certain things that should improve the experience, like a faster cadence of new gear releases, product introduction, and a continued growth and increase of knowledge about the gear by experts, showing how to use it to the fullest.

"In today's world, we live in such a noisy space, there's certainly no shortage of things for people to consume. We're very interested in the outdoor space because it's an extremely passionate group. It's about as passionate a group as you can find."

Overall, Sloan called the acquisition "the first major step in our goal." He said time and effort would be focused on getting it right, both for the people and brands involved. He also hinted that there will be even more things coming up from MeatEater down the road.

What those things may be is anyone's guess, but we'll be here to report on it when it happens.