Trevor Nelson, Julian Steinberg,

These three friends, all working in consumer-retail investing, reunited in 2011 to form a private equity firm focused on early-stage consumer retail brands that has quietly racked up win after win. Its most notable was an early investment in Shake Shack before the burger chain went public; ACG remains the fourth-largest shareholder (it owns 6%). But they’ve made a slew of other smart, early bets that all led to successful exits this year: Krave jerky, which became Hershey’s first ever non-candy acquisition; Suja, a cold-pressed juice brand in which Coca-Cola bought a minority stake; and Evol, a maker of healthy burritos that sold to Boulder Brand (owner of Smart Balance) for $48 million. The trio invests $5 to $25 million in young consumer brands that have $5 to $25 million in revenues. Current investments include Babyganics, a maker of safe baby products; two healthy pet-food brands; and California salad chain Tender Greens (ACG co-invested with Shake Shack founder Danny Meyer’s restaurant group). If you’re noticing a pattern, there’s a reason for it: the founders credit their success to a disciplined focus on small consumer companies (mostly food) that follow the trend toward healthy and environmentally sound. As Big Food goes small and hip, ACG wins. [+]