BevNET Magazine January/February 2021

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Contents / January – February 2021 / Volume 19 / No. 1








6 First Drop CEO Trust

38 RTD Coffee Cold Coffee’s Still Hot, Even During COVID-19 (with Brand News)

8 Publisher’s Toast What a Week that Was 36 Gerry’s Insights The Lived-In Brand

48 Best of 2020 BevNET’s Annual Awards for Rising Brands, Industry Movers


54 Trends and Flavors The Pandemic Effect

12 Bevscape/NOSHscape/Brewscape Molson Coors pushes into CBD, Chobani Goes Cold Brew, and Rampolla Buys ZICO 28 New Products New Energy, From G-Fuel to Zoa 32 Channel Check Easy Road for Hard Seltzer 82 Promo Parade BODYARMOR Goes Country

58 Mixers When the Bar’s at Home, Categories Grow (with Brand News) 64 Spirits Flexibility During the Plague Year

SPECIAL SECTION 69 Cannabis Food & Beverage Guide with services and suppliers

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The Responsibilities of Trust This probably won’t be the first time we discuss the fact that corporate leaders are more widely trusted than political leaders, nor will this be the first time you’ve read about it in the news. It’s totally reasonable, in fact, to believe that you’re sick of having this responsibility thrust upon you. Let me tell you, as a member of one of the discredited classes — journalists — it’s amazing to me that the information coming out of some of the companies I’ve reported on over the years has moved from GRAS to Gospel. I hope that the food and beverage industry feels fit to rise to the occasion. Still, there are a number of companies out there that have taken their current events classes pretty seriously and are reacting to the sight of America’s version of the Joker unleashing hordes of zealots to attack the certification of the election results. Many food and beverage corporations have even taken the step of pulling out of the constant cycle of election financing, at least for the time being. While we’re all for taking pause of the legalized purchase of political favoritism, we’d be less skeptical if it didn’t come after an election cycle. There’s plenty of time to buy support from even the most odious legislators. We’re not arguing with the impulse behind it. We’re all so far down the river of uncertainty that all we can do is read the room and react; perhaps that’s why the long-term plans and long careers of corporate leaders seem to be more reassuring than the level of opportunism and rigidity that seems to govern nearly any political issue. So let’s conduct a thought exercise. What are the responsibilities of food and beverage companies, if they’re going to be the trust leaders? What are their moral and service obligations? Who are their core constituents? We can look to other professions and iconic companies to think about what has worked for them. Certainly, the most basic standard is “Do No Harm.” That’s the first building block of the Hippocratic Oath, and with all this talk of food as medicine notwithstanding, one can look at this from either a basic (don’t actively poison people with your products) or a closely read (don’t sell products that undermine human health or destroy the environment) standpoint. 6 BEVNET MAGAZINE – JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2021 2018

But that’s just when you look at consumers as a constituent. How are you treating your workers? Your manufacturing and supply chain partners? Are you operating in a way that’s at least mutually beneficial for them? If there are things you’re working on, are you ready to be transparent? When you look at what it means to be an honest company, the notion of ethical leadership comes up repeatedly; on a basic level the idea of ethical behavior is understanding the difference between right and wrong and choosing to do the right thing. Ethics in business can be tough to work through -- consider the close reading of “Do No Harm” versus the basic one. What about thinking about business leadership through the lens of the recent poll? In other words, what are the duties of business leaders as, well, leaders, particularly as our nation turns its weary eyes toward them? I would argue that real scrutiny and transparency is a value that many haven’t yet found. Certainly, rolling back spending on campaigns for officeholders is a good start, but as a recent Boston Globe column by political commentators Michael Porter and Bruce Freed points out, a great deal of that spending goes not to the candidates themselves, but to the influential corporate and trade associations that lobby politicians and attempt to funnel legislation that further their own ends -- often by supporting many of the same candidates the companies say they will no longer support. That’s a big loophole for the companies and one they should look to close right away if they want to emerge clean. While that’s a big piece of corporate strategy to work through, trust is hard to gain. It takes more than a black square on Instagram. It takes internal scrutiny and constant care, something that both Kroger and Amazon Smile learned the hard way last month when it was revealed that one of the charities they had approved for their respective customer donation programs was the Indiana Oath Keepers, described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a domestic terrorist group -- and which is now under investigation by the FBI in the wake of the Capitol riots, according to various news reports. Come to think of it, after the past few months, maybe just figuring out all the ways to Do No Harm is enough. Photo by Samara Doole on Unsplash



A Truly Wonderful Week Last week was a terrific one indeed. On so many fronts, it was one to remember. On the personal side, my granddaughter turned two. There is nothing that gives me greater happiness and satisfaction than being with her. We were able to celebrate with Isabel, which made it even better. It was also the birthday of her mother, my daughter. She continues to give me joy and pride in her successes. She is an extraordinary young woman. We also celebrated Joe Biden’s inauguration. With the swearing in of our new president, it’ll hopefully be a return to honesty, integrity and a sense that our country is going in the right direction. I hope we’ll beat the Covid 19 virus sooner than later. On that note, my wife and I got our fi rst vaccines. It was a psychological lift to get that needle into my arm. On the beverage front, there have been so many signs that the worst is over, and everyone is forging ahead. In the last few weeks, after months and months of it dominating discussions and its impact on everyone’s business, there was nary a mention of the Coronavirus affecting








anyone’s business. Yes, the topic came up often, but not in the context of how it hurt one’s growth, but about the sadness, fear and life altering changes to our lives. We all yearn for an end to the scourge and a return to normalcy. I have seen or have been privy to so many brands about to hit the market, or a reset of brands already out there. The activity on tap since the new year will be as strong as the previous five months. Marketers are eager to introduce their latest and greatest to the marketplace. Investments are finally coming to brands after such a long wait-and-see period. One way I measure the actions is a positive one for me and BevNET. Advertisers are now coming back to the pre-pandemic levels. Budgets and plans that were delayed or cut are now back on the agenda. It’s a true, and happy, measure for me that everyone is excited to conduct business. It’s as it should be. This is a great start to a year that has an opportunity to restart the American Dream and return us to our prior way of life. I couldn’t be happier.

Barry J. Nathanson PUBLISHER Jeffrey Klineman EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Martín Caballero MANAGING EDITOR Ray Latif CONTRIBUTING EDITOR Brad Avery REPORTER Justin Kendall NEWS EDITOR, BREWBOUND Carol Ortenberg EDITOR, NOSH Erin Cabrey REPORTER








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Molson Coors Launches Its First U.S. CBD Drink in Colorado Beer giant Molson Coors is continuing its push into non-alcoholic beverage categories with the U.S. launch of Veryvell, a line of sparkling CBD-infused drinks available exclusively in Colorado. Available in three varieties, Veryvell is a zero-sugar flavored sparkling water that includes 20mg of hemp-derived CBD per 12 oz. can. Each SKU also contains adaptogenic herbs for additional functionality: Focus (grapefruit and tarragon flavor) contains ginseng and guarana; Mind & Body (strawberry and hibiscus) has ashwagandha and elderberry; and Unwind (blueberry and lavender) features ashwagandha and L-theanine. Veryvell is the first product release for Truss CBD USA, a joint venture between Molson Coors, also the majority owner, and Canadian cannabis manufacturer HEXO. Launched in April, Truss CBD USA operates as an independent company with its own board of directors, management and resources, with a remit to develop, manufacture and distribute infused products within the state of Colorado. Molson Coors formed a similar partnership with HEXO to develop cannabis drinks for the Canadian market in August 2018. Veryvell debuted in Canada last year, though the formulations for those products also contain THC. Though limited to distribution in a single state, the launch of Veryvell represents another piece in Molson Coors’ strategy to expand its beverage interests outside of beer, including through distributing products in categories like hard seltzer (Topo Chico) and ready-to-drink coffee (La Colombe). Earlier in January, the company announced it was partnering with a group led by actor Dwayne Johnson to manufacture and distribute ZOA, a natural energy drink.


“Last year, we redefined ourselves as Molson Coors Beverage Company and in doing so, laid out a clear vision of leveraging the competitive strengths of our storied foundation in beer to grow in new spaces beyond the beer aisle,” said Pete Marino, president of the emerging growth division for Molson Coors, in a press release. “Truss’ entry into the CBD market in Colorado and the launch of Veryvell, a brand we believe will resonate well with Colorado consumers, is another example of Molson Coors’ expansion into new beverage categories.” Veryvell is available now in Colorado both from the brand’s website and at select retail stores in the state, where it is offered in individual 12 oz cans (MSRP $3.99) and 4-packs ($14.99). The brand is also offering 8-packs and 12-count variety packs exclusively online. According to cannabis market research firm Brightfield Group, the U.S. CBD beverage market was worth $143.1 million in 2019. Colorado ranks 10th in the country in terms of CBD beverage consumers by state, representing 2.9% of overall U.S. users. Speaking with BevNET in January, Marino said that Colorado’s mature and regulated marketplace for infused products presented the ideal conditions for Molson Coors to make its initial foray into CBD drinks. The company also owns its distribution arm in the state, Coors Distributing Company, giving it further control over Veryvell’s route to market. Truss CBD USA will explore taking the brand into other regulated markets in other states based on its performance over the first few months of 2021, Marino said, as Molson Coors seeks to ramp up the pace of its expansion into wine and spirits, cannabis-infused beverages and non-alcoholic drinks.

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Chobani Enters RTD Coffee Category With Multi-Serve Cold Brews Just over a month after it released a slate of new innovations across several product categories, Chobani’s platform expansion continued in January as the Greek yogurt maker revealed a new line of ready-todrink cold brew coffees. Chobani Coffee entered stores nationwide in January, where it will be available in 32 oz. multi-serve Tetra Top cartons in four varieties: Cold Brew with Sweet Cream, Cold Brew with Vanilla, Cold Brew with Oatmilk and Cold Brew Pure Black. Each contains about 85mg of caffeine per serving and has a suggested retail price of $4.49. Over the past year, the Norwich, New York-based company has rolled out a steady stream of beverage innovations, including oat milk, probiotic drinks and creamers. In December 2020, the company introduced Chobani Probiotics, a line of drinkable yogurts and yogurt cups with added gut health benefits, a zero-sugar oat milk and two new creamer flavors. The launch of Chobani Coffee represents the company deeping its investment in refrigerated products that “have a relationship with coffee” and which can highlight its expertise in dairy and plant-based dairy alternatives, according to Neil Sandfort, chief innovation officer at Chobani. The line was also appealing because it can utilize two ingredients Chobani has plenty of at its Twin Falls, Idaho production facility plant in Twin Falls, Idaho: cream (a byproduct of making yogurt) and oat milk. “I can’t think of many places that have fresh cream on hand, have oat milk on hand, and in the same factory can bring this all together with coffee,” he said. “We can really crank up the quality because we’re holding all of these parts (versus co-packing). Of course there’s efficiency in that, so we can make this really high quality product accessible.” The coffee itself is made from single origin 100% Arabica beans and is described in press materials as a “cold-press brew.” Coffee roaster and retailer La Colombe, of which Chobani owner/founder/CEO Hamdi Ulukaya is the majority owner, uses similar language on its RTD products. Chobani, however, did not disclose the source of its coffee. According to Nielsen data, dollar sales in the refrigerated RTD coffee category have grown 30% over the 52-week period ended on October 26, 2020. PepsiCo’s North American Coffee Partnership with Starbucks led the way with 47.1% sales growth ($141.8 million), followed by Danone (+46.3% to $106.2 million). Relative to its competitors in coffee, Sandfort said Chobani’s proposition will be about “simplicity and quality.” “Like most spaces in the supermarket, it’s a category that is condensed down and is oligopolistic and there’s typically two or three major players that have been there for a while with the lion’s share of the market,” he said. “That’s a familiar model, and typically what that means is there’s an opportunity for brands like us to come in and reconcile some of the disconnect between what they are offering and what the consumer thinks they are buying.” 13



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Zico Returns As Founder Rampolla, PowerPlant Ventures Buys Brand After Mark Rampolla sold his coconut water brand Zico to The Coca-Cola Company in 2013, he wrote a book, “High Hanging Fruit,” which chronicled his journey from bootstrapping the brand and building the category up to its eventual sale to the country’s largest beverage company. But the story is not done yet: over a decade later, Rampolla finds himself writing the next chapter in Zico’s history, having reacquired the brand from Coca-Cola in January via investment fund PowerPlant Ventures, of which he is a partner and co-founder. “It’s surreal,” Rampolla told BevNET in January. “Very few times in one’s life do you get a chance to do something again like this, so I’m viewing it as something I’m doing both for the brand and for my family. One of the things I might have missed out on, I now get to do again.” At the time of Zico’s initial sale to Coke, the soda giant looked set to turn coconut water from a small but expanding category into an explosive growth driver that would help pivot the company into other natural, better-for-you refreshment drinks. To a certain extent, the partnership was a success, bringing Zico into new formats, flavors and retail channels as one of the leading brands in the coconut water category. But, amidst declining sales and the desire to trim a bloated portfolio of underperforming products, Zico was one of 200 global brands that were discontinued — along with Odwalla, Tab and others — as part of a mass culling at Coke in October. Though Rampolla, who launched Zico in 2004, admits to thinking there was always the “crazy possibility” that he might one day reacquire the brand, he only began exploring the opportunity of buying the brand once Coke’s decision was made. Upon agreeing with partner Dan Gluck that it was worth considering, Rampolla said the fund completed the same rigorous underwriting and vetting process that it would any other potential investment. At the same time, Coca-Cola was running its own due diligence and considering offers from other suitors as well. When it came time to make a decision, Rampolla excused himself from the final vote to ensure the choice was driven by the business opportunity rather than emotion. “Having gone through that whole process, what we concluded was that coconut water is still a large category,” he said. “Growth had been a little challenged recently, predominantly because Coke and Pepsi were not giving it the attention it needed. We felt like that could be corrected, and we found that consumers are still interested in coconut water.” Reflecting on what might have arrested Zico’s expected growth under Coke, Rampolla noted that it struggled to stand out when compared to other high-revenue brands. In the years since acquiring Zico, the soda giant has also revamped its Venturing and Emerging Brands (VEB) division to focus on investing in larger, more mature companies rather than earlystage startups. According to market research group SPINS, total U.S. coconut water dollar sales in MULO plus convenience and natural and enhanced channels was down 4.4% year-over-year through June. 14 BEVNET MAGAZINE – JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2021

“As best as we can tell, Coke did a good job of keeping the product integrity and the quality,” he said. “I think they struggled with execution. It’s hard in a system that big to get much attention when a brand is anything less than $500 million in revenue.” Despite using a new name, Zico Rising, the product will essentially be the same one that consumers have grown familiar with during its time in the Coke portfolio. Having done a deal for only the brand assets and not the business itself, Rampolla said the company is working, with support from Coke, to reestablish its supply chain and re-engage with retailers and consumers ahead of hitting store shelves at some point in Q1, with production expected to begin “within days or weeks.” “It will be exactly the same product, exactly the same brand, the same look and feel,” he said. “Everything will be the same.” From that starting point, however, Zico Rising is set to take a different approach to product development from its time at Coke. Rampolla said the brand will be put through a “pretty brutal” SKU rationalization that will bring the focus back on the pure coconut water product, before rebuilding an innovation pipeline that “brings some energy, excitement and relevance” back to the category. To that end, he noted that 2021 will be a “learning year” for the company as it engages with consumers, retailers and commercial partners to frame how coconut water fits into the ever-expanding range of plantbased waters and natural hydration beverages, a space it helped pioneer over a decade ago. Even though Zico is back with its original founder, Rampolla emphasized that the company will be treated the same as any other brand in PowerPlant’s portfolio, with former Naked Juice CEO Tom Hicks running the company and building out the team. Rampolla will serve as the chairman of the company’s board of directors; he is also on the board of seven other PowerPlant portfolio ventures. Having done so once already, though, Rampolla didn’t dismiss the idea of Zico potentially making a second exit to a large strategic, or other interested buyer, at some point in the future. “It’s certainly possible that it ends up back in a strategic’s portfolio, but it’s also possible that it’s a standalone brand, or as part of a portfolio of a public company,” he said. “Our goal is to build an amazing brand and company and culture that can live forever; if we can do that, the rest will take care of itself. And I really mean that — there’s no specific objective here other than to have some fun, build something great and create some value for everyone that is associated with it.” Despite the brand’s decline under Coke management, in hindsight, Rampolla said the decision to sell Zico in the first place was still the right choice at the time. “My wife has a background in public health, and she always said she could never imagine a bigger public health coup than helping Coca-Cola sell something healthy around the world,” he said. “That was our vision, we stuck to it and we feel very fortunate to have made that happen.”



Flow Water Set to Go Public

Flow Alkaline Spring Water will go public this spring on the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX) as the Toronto-based beverage company plans a reverse merger with an initial public offering (IPO) that aims to raise $50 million. The announcement comes as the six-year-old brand seeks to double its U.S. footprint over the next 18 months. According to Flow founder and CEO Nicholas Reichenbach, the company expects to begin trading in April or May and is planning a secondary offering on NASDAQ within the next 12 months. Reichenbach said the company was inspired to take the public route after Beyond Meat’s 2019 IPO showed an avenue for better-for-you food and beverage companies on the stock market. He noted that Flow’s focus on environmental sustainability (the drinks are packaged in TetraPak containers) positions it as a high-growth, better-foryou brand. “[Beyond Meat was] when you started to see healthy institutional capital come into the market with a 10 to 15 year hold,” Reichenbach said. “And what that does is it gives a really good platform for companies like Flow to really access institutional growth capital that has a mid to long term view on the company’s growth, which really gives the runway for us to take a incredible leap forward as a company.”


By going public, Reichenbach said Flow could potentially achieve a 5-to-7.5x investment multiple, versus a 1.5-3.5x multiple through a more common private equity-to-exit strategy. The move will also allow him to stay on as CEO for the foreseeable future, he added. “I intend to stay till the very end,” he said. “I think we can take this all the way. It’s a very rare thing in this industry — it’s a unicorn for sure — where you can take a company and have a long term 10-20 year vision on it. And that’s what going public is to me as an entrepreneur.” Flow is currently available in over 30,000 doors in the U.S. and Canada, with much of its sales coming in the natural and specialty channels. Points of distribution have increased roughly 75% over the last three months. In January, Flow chief revenue officer Tim Dwyer told BevNET that the company aims to have 65% ACV in the grocery channel by next year. The company grew sales 44% last year to over $25 million and ecommerce sales increased over 200% to represent over 20% of Flow’s total sales. According to Reichebach, Flow owns over $100 million in assets, including two artesian springs — one in Canada and another in Virginia. Through those facilities, the company also operates its subsidiary Planet A Co-Packing Solutions which produces products for companies including Vita Coco and Orro among others. Reichenbach said that Flow expects to produce over 100 million units this year. Last year, Flow raised $45 million in a Series D funding round that included backing from celebrity investors including rapper Post Malone, Shawn Mendes and MLB champion Chase Utley. Reichenbach noted that Flow’s influencer roster has helped grow its consumer base to over 17 million and the company expects to double that this year. “We can take this company to a multi-billiondollar revenue stream,” Reichenbach said. “When you look within the premium enhanced water category globally, it’s growing at double digits every year. So from a category perspective, we could sit in this path for years as we capture market share and grow to be the number one premium enhanced mineral water in North America.”

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Molson Coors Partners with Dwayne Johnson to Launch ZOA Energy Drink As it continues to develop new non-alcoholic brands in a myriad of categories, the Molson Coors Beverage Company announced in January that it will enter the energy space with ZOA, a new better-for-you energy drink co-founded by actor Dwayne Johnson. Set to launch in March, ZOA was founded by a team including Johnson, The Garcia Companies and TGC Management CEO Dany Garcia, fitness coach Dave Rienzi and Juggernaut Capital Partners managing partner John Shulman. This is the first founding venture into CPG for Garcia, who is a regular business partner of Johnson — with whom she co-owns the XFL football league — as well as for her husband Rienzi, who owns Rienzi Strength & Conditioning. Each 16 oz. can of ZOA contains 160 mg of caffeine sourced from green tea and unroasted coffee, added electrolytes and amino acids, superfood ingredients such as turmeric, camu camu and acerola and vitamins B, C and D. According to Shulman, the founding team came together following Johnson and Garcia’s own investments in VOSS Water, in which Juggernaut Capital is a partial owner. Shulman said the group wanted to launch a new product together and, encouraged by internal data, felt there was a “void” in the

energy space for a health-focused brand. The past several years have seen spikes in energy drink growth, driven by a cohort of fitness energy beverages such as Bang, CELSIUS and C4. The category was up 7.8% to $14.1 billion for the 52-week period ending December 26, according to Nielsen. Shulman said that in addition to riding momentum in the energy category, ZOA will also play towards the growing trend for immunity beverages. In September, Johnson publicly announced that he and his family had been diagnosed with COVID-19 and had begun taking a number of immunityboosting supplements. This development inspired the brand to reformulate the product with some of these ingredients and integrate immunity into the messaging, Shulman said. While Johnson himself — recently dubbed by website The Profile as the ‘Most Likeable Person in the World’ — and his public platform (211 million followers on Instagram) will play a key role in early marketing for ZOA, Shulman said the company does not want the brand to appear as just another celebrity beverage play. Much of the messaging will be tailored towards health and wellness, particularly the drink’s vitamin content. ZOA was introduced to Molson Coors through its partner company L.A. Libations

and has taken an equity stake in the brand, in addition to acting as its exclusive distribution partner. According to Pete Marino, president of emerging growth at Molson Coors who serves as the head of non-alcoholic beverage, the conglomerate wanted a player in the energy category in part due to existing synergies with its beer business. He noted that the company’s DSD distributors have past experience servicing energy brands while the category largely thrives in the convenience channel — a space it is familiar with. “We think a healthier energy or performance beverage has a lot of potential and I think that potential has strengthened coming out of the coronavirus, where consumers are continuing to look for better-foryou products,” Marino said. “So the fact that this is a more positive, healthier energy and performance beverage, is something that makes it really, really exciting and appealing to us.” ZOA will first be available online, but Molson Coors and L.A. Libations are currently meeting with top U.S. retail chains in preparation for a nationwide launch in March, Marino said. The brand will take an omnichannel strategy and although convenience, grocery and drug will be key focuses Marino said he sees opportunity for ZOA to enter the natural and specialty channel as well.




SPAC Meets Snacks: Stryve Goes Public, Seeks to Build Snacking Platform Biltong brand Stryve Foods announced plans to go public on the NASDAQ through a business combination with Andina Acquisition Corp III, a publicly-traded special purpose acquisition company (SPAC). The new company is valued at $170 million, and will be listed on the NASDAQ under the ticker symbol SNAX. Stryve’s goal, the company said, is to become a snacking platform that can exist across categories. The deal is expected to close by the second quarter of this year. Stryve’s expected net revenue for 2021 is projected to be $46 million, the company said, and claims that profitability is “in reach” by mid2021. The company expects its 2022 net revenue will hit $92 million. Strvye had previously raised $26.5 million over two rounds of capital from investors including Meaningful Partners, Pendyne Capital and Murano Group. The company was trying to raise its next round when the Covid-19 pandemic hit, according to Co-CEO and CMO Jaxie Alt. An investor introduced Stryve to Andina, which has had two other SPACs: one with LazyDays R.V. Center in 2017 and another with Colombian glass and window producer Tecnoglass, Inc. in 2013. “It became very clear to us that a SPAC IPO was really the perfect way for us to get access to the capital we needed in order to really fund our exponential growth plan,” Alt said. “And do it a lot faster than a traditional IPO or acquisition or large investment from private equity.” Founded in 2013, Stryve produces sliced biltong, a low sugar, high protein alternative to traditional jerky, along with whole biltong slabs and meat sticks under its flagship brand. Stryve is available in 17,000 retailers across the U.S. and Canada. The company has invested not only in building out its brand and product line, but also in its manufacturing capabilities. The company previously acquired the only two USDA certified plants able to produce biltong, and then subsequently shuttered both, retaining some of the plants’ staff and the intellectual property. In 2019, Stryve opened a new 52,000 square foot plant in

Madill, Oklahoma, which the company claims is the largest USDA approved facility. With manufacturing shored up, the goal is to create a platform of air-dried beef options, a subsegment of the jerky category that Alt feels will eventually become the dominant form factor for meat snacks, comparing it to how Chobani has helped Greek yogurt surpass traditional style yogurts. Stryve has already begun to execute toward this goal, acquiring and launching new air dried beef brands. Acquisitions include the 2018 acquisition of Braaitime, which is sold online only, as well as the December 2020 acquisition of Kalahari Snacks, a brand it previously co-packed for and that has strong traction in the natural channel, Alt said. The brand had 2020 gross revenue of $3.6 million. Finally, Stryve has also recently launched Vacadillos, a new brand that Alt said is targeting the Hispanic consumer with a Latin American version of biltong called Carne Seca. She noted that there are 60 million Hispanic consumers in the United States, and yet the demographic under indexes for jerky because, she said, “There’s no brand really fulfilling their needs.” Marketing Stryve to Hispanic shoppers, she said, would be ill advised because the name was too unusual and the term biltong simply didn’t resonate. Vacadillos, she added, uses more Latin and Central American flavors such as chili lime.

Kite Hill Launches New Line, Looks to a Future Focused on “Consistency” Technology has begun to catch up to plant-based dairy. As alternatives to traditional yogurt, ice cream, and cheese have entered the market en masse, variety has been restricted by manufacturing advances. But plant-based category leader Kite Hill is betting that process improvements will allow it to fully realize the benefits of a slate of new products for 2021. In December Kite Hill announced new plant-based queso dip, spreadable cheeses and high protein yogurt. Other changes have been made to its Greek yogurt and traditional yogurt offerings. The new products join a robust portfolio of plant-based butters, Greek yogurt, yogurt tubes, ricotta cheese, filled pastas, cream cheese, dips, sour cream, and indulgent dessert-inspired yogurts that are sold in roughly 12,000 stores. It’s a broad product portfolio, but CEO Rob Leibowitz said the company has the power and ability to stretch. “When I first started [I had] broad aspirations for just a phenomenal business [that had] a broad set of shoulders that had the right to expand into multiple categories,” Leibowitz said. “[But] making great tasting plant-based foods is exponentially harder than making great tasting foods from dairy… I didn’t see that coming 18 BEVNET MAGAZINE – JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2021

until I got here. And thank goodness we attracted the right talent who can get it done.” The past three years have been spent focusing on talent and production, Leibowitz said. The brand has raised $75 million to date, investing more than $25 million of that money in facilities and processes, including acquiring its copacker in 2018. Though these efforts were “three times harder than expected,” Leibowitz said, they’ve paid off, giving the brand the ability to quickly jump on white space it finds in the marketplace. Though the company already has four other yogurt products, Leibowitz emphasized that the new higher protein launch will add incremental sales. The goal is to create clearly differentiated use cases for each style. Moving forward, aside from a possible launch of a yogurt package with toppings on the side, the company plans to focus largely on distribution, velocities and repeat consumer purchases for 2021. Despite the fact that competition is rising in dairy alternatives, Kite Hill will remain focused on giving consumers what they want, which Leibowitz says is simply as close to “a dairy-like taste, texture and color” as possible.

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Hippeas Sees Change in Investors and Owners, Leadership Team

Legume-based snacking brand Hippeas is shaking things up with a new financial backer, the exit of early investors, and the departure of its CEO. The company announced that it had raised $50 million from investment firm The Craftory, a move that will make the group the largest shareholder in Hippeas. As part of the deal, early investors were able to exit the business, with shareholders such as CAVU and barkTHINS founder Scott Semel selling their shares as part of the transaction. Exact terms of the deal, which closed in late December, including how much of the funding will go into the business as opposed to giving early investors liquidity, was not disclosed. Hippeas had previously shared that it had raised $22 million in funding. Company founder and now CEO once again, Livio Bisterzo, said that he was excited to partner with The Craftory after knowing the firm’s co-founder, Elio Leoni Sceti, for several years. That growth will look a little different, though, from the past several years, Bisterzo said. In its early years Hippeas needed to focus mainly on gaining distribution -- the brand is now sold in over 50,000 locations -- in order to have first mover advantage, he said. The company also had to invest heavily in marketing in order to educate the consumer about bean-based snacks. Now, with more brands in the market, there’s a larger pool of brands to help with that education and retail gains can be more focused, he added. “A much more disciplined approach to growth is what’s going to be needed and what we have. Some transformational work we’ve already accomplished in the supply chain to allow us to grow the business sustainably,” Bisterzo said. “It’s [about] less growth at all costs… Now our challenge over the next five years is to grow a business sustainably, profitably with the intent to keep growth but growing with a different mindset.” Still, growth remains a focus. The brand only has store penetration of about 20 percent, Bisterzo said, so there’s a lot of untapped potential. Of course, 2020 and the Covid-19 pandemic made that growth harder to achieve, he added, a sentiment echoed across the industry. However, he added, the brand weathered the Covid-19 pandemic well, “growing 30% again.” Bisterzo declined to disclose if Hippeas was profitable in 2019 or 2020, as he had previously predicted it would be. The pandemic also gave the company more time to have a structured rollout for its tortilla chips line, which launched in

late 2019. In part due to the delay of resets, the chips line has remained solely at Whole Foods Market for the last year. But the company used this time to reformulate the product, improving taste and texture. For the next 18 to 24 months, Bisterzo said, the focus will be on building distribution for the chips and reinforcing its puffs business. Innovation will come not in the form of new formats but rather continued product improvements and new flavors for both lines. Amidst recent changes in Hippeas’ executive team, Bisterzo will be playing a larger role in charting that path forward. Most notably, snacking veteran Joe Serventi departed the brand as Global CEO as of the end of 2020. Serventi, who joined the puff and chip maker in 2017 as general manager, was promoted to the role of global CEO in summer of 2018. When Serventi assumed the role of CEO two years ago, Bisterzo moved to the role of executive chairman, telling NOSH then that an “approach of divide and conquer is just best for the brand.” At the time, parent company Green Park Brands was also incubating a number of other brands and had a joint venture partnership with Ugly Drinks. However, things have calmed a bit for Green Park, with several sub-brands ceasing operations: Co Chocolates has been put on hold, never fully entering the market, Buddy Nutrition has been paused and Maverick Snacks is taking a more measured approach to growth.



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Snacking Giant Mondelēz Acquires Hu Kitchen Snacking and confection powerhouse Mondelez International recently acquired Hu Master Holdings, the parent company of Hu Products. Terms of the deal were not disclosed but other media outlets have reported the deal valued Hu at roughly $340 million. Hu senior leadership will also receive a payout based on future performance of the company. In 2019 Mondelez took a minority stake in the company, which included a right of first refusal to acquire the company in an eventual sale. Hu will operate as a separate business, continuing to produce all products at current manufacturing facilities. Hu was founded in 2012 as a quick service restaurant and cafe by investment manager Jason Karp and his wife, Jessica Karp, and her brother, Jordan Brown. The

New York-based company expanded into CPG products in 2017, launching chocolate bars, chocolate covered fruit and nuts and coffee beans. The line of low-sugar, clean-label products attracted industry interest with the company announcing in 2018 a funding round from 43 investors including Sonoma Brands, the venture fund helmed by CPG veteran Jon Sebastiani, as well as Dr. Mark Hyman, author Tim Ferriss and billionaire Nelson Peltz. Mondelez initial investment was unique because the company invested in both Hu’s line of packaged products as well as the restaurant concept (which has since shuttered, in part, due to the Covid-19 pandemic). At the time of Mondeléz’s initial investment, Karp told NOSH that Hu would benefit from the company’s understanding of its two core lines of busi-

High Road Acquires Three Twins Brand, Will Relaunch as More Premium Offering Could there be a second life for Three Twins? In January, High Road ice cream founder Keith Schroeder said his company had acquired the organic ice cream brand’s name and other assets; the brand deal follows a November purchase of the company’s Wisconsin manufacturing plant. “Sometimes in life opportunities just fall in your lap,” Schoeder said. The sale price was not disclosed but. Schroeder said it was at a price that didn’t require his team or board to “overthink it.” As part of the deal, High Road has also gained the rights to sub-brands Maxines and Slim Twin, recipes for all flavors and the rights to the name and branding. Although he was initially reticent about acquiring the formerly founder-led brand, Schroeder said he ultimately felt that High Road’s shared values and company culture would allow it to be a good steward of the brand. Schroeder is particularly interested in the former Maxine’s offering, a premium large-format brick that could be relaunched under the Three Twins brand to avoid fragmentation. “Three Twins had an avenue to compete against private label organic and the products out of Oregon Ice Cream. And I think it would have been good for both Alden’s and Three Twins to co-exist with different creative approaches to the category,” Schroeder said. “It would have helped the organic set lever up a


ness. Mondelez also owns one of the largest organic chocolate brands with Green & Black as well as several of the leading cracker brands in Ritz, Triscuit and Wheat Thins. The deal will also help Mondelez expand further into better-for-you and clean label items -- the company has previously acquired Enjoy Life, Tate’s Bake Shop, and Perfect Snacks. The goal, executives have said, is to build out a portfolio of brands that can exist across channels and help the company expand deeper into digital.

bit against the Turkey Hill and Breyer’s of the world.” The deal represents a long time career goal for Schroeder, who originally wanted to launch High Road as an organic ice cream brand. However, like Three Twins CEO and founder Neal Gottlieb also recognized, achieving accessible pricing for small organic brands can be difficult. So High Road pressed forward focused on quality, but not organic specifically. Though he has considered launching an organic product line under the High Road brand, Schroeder felt that the organic shopper wanted a dedicated organic brand. Schroeder’s thought is to relaunch Three Twins with higher butterfat content than the original product, but charge more than its previous price. He also will focus on launching more unique flavors, rather than analogues to conventional options, and emphasize the benefits to purchasing organic. “What is available in organic and ice cream seems a lot like what’s available in conventional large format and I think that’s a big mistake,” Schroeder said. Schroeder and Gottlieb made contact after the deal, speaking about the path forward for the brand. While both told NOSH they are interested in finding ways for Gottlieb to be involved, Gottlieb has since taken on the role of co-founder and CEO of direct-to-consumer paint company Alora Paints and would not be involved on a day-to-day basis.



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After Raising $85M, NotCo launches Milk Alternative Before Turning to Food

The plant-based dairy and meat categories are extremely competitive with new entrants and products every month. Yet Latin American company NotCo, which earlier this fall raised $85 million, thinks there’s room for one more, announcing late last year that it was launching a new non-dairy milk in Whole Foods nationwide. NotMilk debuted in Whole and 2% Reduced Fat varieties, at $4.99 for a 64 oz. carton. Like NotCo’s other products, the milk was developed by matching the animal proteins found in traditional milk to their “ideal replacement” among “thousands” of plant-based ingredients. The result is a product that is not made from more traditional alt-milk ingredients such as oat or almond, but rather chicory, coconut, peas, cabbage and pineapple. To support the launch, NotCo has brought on Lucho Lopez May to serve as the company’s North American CEO. LopezMay most recently was the CEO of Garland Food; before that he spent 15 years at Group Danone, ultimately serving as the company’s President of Strategic Growth Channels. Muchnick said the company ultimately decided that it needed a leader in the U.S. in order to handle the “large and complex” organization they expected to need to build. Founded in Chile in 2017, NotCo had been largely focused on South America to-date -- with a plant-based milk, ice cream, mayonnaise and burger alternative sold in Chile, Argentina and Brazil. In these countries, the portfolio appeals to flexitarian shoppers, Muchnick said, with its ground beef product used by both Papa John’s Pizza and Burger King. Along with the U.S., NotCo also plans to launch into Columbia and Mexico this year. “[Our plan for 2021 is to] consolidate our number one position in Latin america and one, amplify our portfolio of 22 BEVNET MAGAZINE – JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2021

products into eventually cheese and other meat replacement and two, expanding to new countries,” Muchnick said. The company previously raised $3 million in December 2017, followed by a second $30 million round of funding in 2019, which included investment by Bezos Expeditions, the investment firm for founder Jeff Bezos’ personal venture capital investments. In September of this year, NotCo closed $85 million in funding, co-led by Future Positive, the investment vehicle of Fred Blackford and Biz Stone, and private equity firm L Catterton. “The goal all along had been to pick one hero product line as an entrance to the U.S. before bringing in other SKUs,” Muchnick said. This allows NotCo to establish brand loyalty, he added, and then parlay that into other categories. Muchnick believes the broad animal product replacement strategy at NotCo will be key to its success. Generally speaking, he said, the average NotCo consumer spends $25 to $30 per order on NotCo products. Meanwhile, because they are more narrowly focused, other producers only tend to see a ring of $5 to $10 per trip. By creating “synergy” between products, NoCo is able to create a portfolio with solid gross margins overall, balancing lower margin items with higher margin items. Meanwhile, the company’s product mix strategy is supported by focusing on developing global partnerships with suppliers, and (unlike some other brands) eschewing self manufacturing. While NotCo’s AI-based technology platform is also unique, the company has not invested in developing new and novel ingredients, instead focusing on new ways to utilize existing plant-based ingredients. “Major problems can come from the scaling up process,” Muchnick said. “As we, NotCo, have solved that problem by joining upstream with copacker and downstream with suppliers of ingredients.” Still, despite these business strategies, the US will remain a key part of the company’s march towards profitability. By 2021, Muchnick said, the company is projected to have $100 million in revenues, following a “consistent” pattern of growing four to five times in sales every year and by 2023, the goal is to have revenues of $320 million, with 70% of those sales coming from the US market.



Denver’s Great Divide to Sell RiNo Taproom and Packaging Hall Great Divide Brewing Company plans to sell its nearly six-yearold Barrel Bar and packaging hall in Denver’s River North Art District. The 27-year-old craft brewery will consolidate its operations at its Ballpark District brewery and taproom at 2201 Arapahoe Street, where the company has maintained its beer production. Great Divide will continue to operate the packaging hall and taproom until it sells, so the company will likely exit the facility in mid-2022, the company said in a press release. “Right now, we have two facilities that are not being maximized,” Great Divide founder Brian Dunn said in a statement. “We had three options on the table: move all operations to RiNo; move everything to a new location outside of Denver; or relocate to our original location. In the end, returning to our roots made the most business sense. This will allow us to reinvest in our facility and our people, our two most important assets.” The sale of the property will not lead to any layoffs, the Post reported. According to the Denver Property Taxation and Assessment System, the property at 1812 35th Street has a 2020 assessed value of $3,272,100 and an actual value of $11,283,100. Great Divide’s barrel bar opened to the public on July 31, 2015, two years after the company acquired a five acre plot in Denver’s popular RiNo neighborhood. The company moved into a 65,000 sq. ft building, with taproom space for up to 40 people, a patio that stretched capacity to 100 people, a packaging hall with a “state-of-the-art KHS canning line, warehouse space, and

room to store 1,500 barrels between the barrel-aging room and a negatively pressurized sour room.” The same year that Great Divide opened the facility in 2015, the company’s production peaked at 43,806 barrels, according to data published in the Brewers Association’s New Brewer magazine. The next year, production dipped 19%, to 35,318 barrels, but rebounded to 40,340 in 2017 before declining -22%, to 31,576 barrels, and -8%, to 29,182 barrels, in 2018 and 2019, respectively. Production declined again in 2020, to 24,500 barrels, according to the Denver Post. Great Divide’s plans to sell the 65,000 sq. ft. facility comes 16 months after the company sold 2.4 acres of land to a Denver developer and scrapped plans to build a new production brewery on the site.

Pabst Ceases Production of Olympia Beer Brand Citing a “growing decline in” demand and sales, Pabst Brewing Company said it is “temporarily pausing production” of the 125-year-old Olympia Beer brand. In a post to the Olympia Instagram page in late January, the company wrote that it had “spent several years trying to bring Olympia Beer back home to be brewed locally” but sales of the brand had continued to slide. “Sadly, we have not been able to find a solution to the challenges posed by reduced beer sales and have had to make the difficult decision of temporarily pausing production of Olympia Beer,” the company wrote. “We remain committed to finding the best solution to keep brewing Olympia Beer in the future.” Although the legacy lager brand is going into hibernation for an undetermined amount of time, Pabst wrote that “Olympia’s story will continue in Tumwater at the Olympia Distilling Co.,” which was started in 2020 with the Olympia Artesian Vodka brand. “[W]e remain hopeful that we can bring our beloved beer home someday,” the company wrote. “We are dedicated to carrying on Leopold Schmidt’s legacy and ensuring that Olympia’s story lives on for many years to come.” 24 BEVNET MAGAZINE – JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2021

The Instagram post confirms rumors of the Olympia beer brand’s demise, which began circulating last week as retailers told The Olympian that the brand was ceasing production and they were buying up remaining stock of the beer. The Olympia beer brand had been brewed since 1896, although production of the beer had left Washington state about two decades ago.

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SweetWater to Expand Distribution to Colorado in February Nearly two months after the close of its sale to Canadian cannabis company Aphria, Atlanta-headquartered SweetWater Brewing said it will expand distribution to Colorado in February, the fi rst state to legalize cannabis for recreational use. “Colorado has always held a special place in my heart,” SweetWater founder and CEO Freddy Bensch said in a press release. “It’s where I fi rst learned to brew beer and where I now live half of the year in Telluride. Because of my connection with the state, SweetWater has always had a Colorado vibe, from our West Coast-style beers to our 420-friendly lifestyle and passion for the great outdoors.” SweetWater products will roll out on February 1 through partnerships with Eagle Rock Distributing Company of Colorado, Central Distributing Company, Quality Brands of the Rockies and B&K Distributing. Eagle Rock, which was a wholly owned Anheuser-Busch InBev distributor that A-B sold to Norcross, Georgia-headquartered Eagle Rock, will sell the bulk of SweetWater’s volume in Colorado, as its branches reach 75% of the state. SweetWater’s Colorado launch will include flagship 420 Extra Pale Ale; High Light Lo-Cal Easy IPA; G13 IPA, brewed to mimic the aromas of the G13 cannabis strain; and a new yearround offering, H.A.Z.Y. IPA, a double dry hopped hazy IPA. Colorado marks SweetWater’s 27th state and its westernmost market. The brewery introduced itself to Colorado drinkers four years ago when it began an ongoing sponsorship of Telluride Ski Resort. In November 2020, SweetWater, which was the 14th largest craft brewer by volume in the U.S. in 2019, announced it would be acquired by Aphria, the Canadian maker of adultuse cannabis brands Solei, Riff, Good Supply and Broken Coast, for $300 million in cash and stock.




Rhinegeist to Launch in Chicago with Reyes’ Windy City Distributing Cincinnati-headquartered Rhinegeist Brewery will be launching its offerings in Chicago in March. “It’s the biggest city we’ve launched in a long time, arguably the biggest city we may ever launch,” vice president of sales Matt Steinke said. “We’re poised to grow it for a long time; we want to be in the city for a long time. “We want to test our brand versus the best in the country,” he continued. “It’s certainly the melting pot of great craft breweries.” Rhinegeist has signed with Reyes Beer Division subsidiary Windy City Distributing, which will sell its portfolio to the 5,500 retailers it serves. This marks Rhinegeist’s first distribution deal with Reyes, the largest beer wholesaler in the U.S. “As a craft-only house, they really have their finger on the pulse of Chicago craft beer and what’s working and how to manage a brand,” Steinke said. Plans to enter Chicago were put in motion before the COVID-19 pandemic upended the beer industry, Steinke said. However, the shutdown of bars and restaurants has forced Rhinegeist to abandon its usual new market playbook, which typically entails up to three months of draft-only sales to build consumer demand. “As we’re approaching March, it doesn’t seem feasible to bring the zany Rhinegeist personality to Chicago and do the typical stuff — tap takeovers, on-premise launches,” Steinke said. “So, we’ll be launching a very soft launch with draft. Really disciplined. Keep it scarce for

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a while, and then launch it in package with some support from local chains starting in early to mid-March, and then we’ll just kind of wait for the world to open back up before we hit the gas on draft.” Rhinegeist will focus on traditional off-premise retail sales as it gains traction in Chicago with three offerings to start — Truth IPA, Bubbles Rosé Ale and Cloud Harvest IPA — with potentially more brands to follow. “We want to win with the big retailers and the neighborhood retailers,” Steinke said. “Our approach doesn’t change relative to COVID — we are not short-term thinking.” By the end of 2021, Rhinegeist plans to fill out Illinois, which will be its only expansion for the year. “We made a decision a few years ago that we would open up one or two markets a year, no more and by markets, I literally mean markets, not states,” Steinke said. Rhinegeist’s footprint includes statewide distribution in Ohio, where it self-distributes in Cincinnati and Columbus, and Kentucky; eastern Tennessee; western Pennsylvania; and Madison and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Rhinegeist also has statewide distribution in Massachusetts, where it mostly sells its Cidergeist cider line.

Bell’s Brewery Promotes Carrie Yunker to EVP as Part of Succession Plan Bell’s Brewery has appointed Carrie K. Yunker to the newlycreated role of executive vice president. Yunker, who has worked at Bell’s for nearly two decades and most recently served as VP of human resources, will work with Bell’s founder and president Larry Bell to oversee all aspects of managing the company, as well as leading Bell’s senior leadership team and acting as a go-between to the Michigan craft brewery’s board of directors. “What the board was looking for was somebody that they could rely on in case something happens to me,” Larry Bell told Brewbound. “That’s part of it, that we need some sort of succession planning for Bell’s.” The role is designed to grow with Yunker’s career. “Right now, I would say we don’t have a super well-defi ned, clearly laid out job description there,” Bell said. “It’s more something that will be worked into, and really assists me in my management duties and is there to help advise the board as well.” In a press release, Bell’s credited Yunker with developing the brewery’s “highly regarded and sought-after culture.” 26 BEVNET MAGAZINE – JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2021

The company also called her “an industry leader in engagement, talent management and strategic planning.” Yunker started at the Comstock, Michigan-headquartered brewery as a part-time receptionist while attending Western Michigan University, and she has moved up the ranks throughout the years. Yunker is also a member of the executive committee for the National Craft Beer Human Resource Group. “She has leadership in the industry,” Bell said, pointing to Yunker’s role with the National Craft Beer Human Resource Group. “She’s pretty well aware of the industry and what’s going on.”



Dairy/Alt Dairy


Organic non-dairy milk brand Mooala has introduced Keto Mylk, the fi rst dairy or dairy-alternative milk to be specifi cally designed for the keto consumer. The company, best known for its plant-based Bananamilk, expands its organic beverage portfolio to include the new, keto-certified and carb-conscious option in 33.8oz cartons in three fl avors: Cinnamon Roll, Chocolaty Chip, Vanilla Crème and Original, all made with a base of organic coconut cream. Each features less than 1g of net carbs, 0 grams of sugar and 5 grams MCTs per serving. For more information, please contact info@

Mountain Dew has released its fi rst permanent flavor offering in more than a decade: Major Melon and Major Melon Zero Sugar, featuring the great taste of watermelon with a DEW twist. Both are available nationwide at retailers and online in 20 oz. bottles, 2 liter bottles, 12-packs of 12 oz. cans and a variety of other single and multipack sizes. For more information, please contact 1-800-433-2652.

Energy G FUEL latest fl avors, Scorpion Sting and Ice Shatter, are inspired by the hit video game Mortal Kombat 11. Developed in partnership with Warner Bros. Consumer Products, the Scorpion Sting and Ice Shatter fl avors are based on iconic Mortal Kombat characters, Scorpion and Sub-Zero, and each fi ghter’s powerful special moves. Both fl avors will be available to buy for U.S. customers in 16 oz cans -- each containing zero calories and 300 mg of caffeine -- on G FUEL’s website on February 10 and in select stores throughout the country in mid-February. For more information, please contact G FUEL at (877) 426-6262. Co-founded by actor Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, ZOA is a new better-for-you energy drink set to launch in March and which will be distributed by the Molson Coors Beverage Company. Each 16 oz. can -- available in Original and Wild Orange (both sugar free) and Lemon Lime -- contains 160 mg of caffeine sourced from green tea and unroasted coffee, added electrolytes and amino acids, superfood ingredients such as turmeric, camu camu and acerola and vitamins B, C and D. ZOA is currently in production and will launch online in March ahead of a strong retail push in Q2. For more information, please visit


Water Boxed Water is Better has announced a flavored line in four varieties -- Lemon, Blackberry, Cucumber and Grapefruit – hitting markets in Q1 2021. The new flavors offer palate-pleasing hydration options to take you throughout the day while addressing the urgent and increasing need for sustainable, single use options. Lemon, Blackberry, Cucumber and Grapefruit will come in the standard 500mL size and be available online and at select retailers alongside the brand’s current products, sold in 250 mL, 330 mL, 500 mL and 1L sizes. For more information, please contact

Kombucha For its latest limited edition flavor, Brew Dr. has released the bright and tropical Pineapple Guava, featuring a recipe of ripe pineapple, sweet guava, tart passionfruit, and subtle green tea. On the package, the brand has partnered with artist Emily CarpenterMunroe, founder of SaintJawn, an agency in Portland, Oregon focused on creating space for black art and design. Pineapple Guava kombucha is available in 14 oz. bottles nationwide. For more information, please contact Brew Dr. at (503) 235-3656.

Plant-Based Harmless Harvest has added Coconut Smoothie to its family of organic coconutbased food and beverages. The smoothie is made from hand-scooped coconut meat,

NEW PRODUCTS coconut water and MCTs, and contains 140 calories and 1 gram of protein per 10 oz. bottle. For more information, please visit

Coffee Chobani is taking another step further out of the yogurt section with the launch of a new line of refrigerated cold brew coffees. Chobani Coffee, made from single origin 100% Arabica beans, is now available nationwide in 32 oz. multi-serve Tetra Top cartons in four varieties: Cold Brew with Sweet Cream, Cold Brew with Vanilla, Cold Brew with Oatmilk and Cold Brew Pure Black. Each contains about 85mg of caffeine per serving and has a suggested retail price of $4.49. For more information, please contact (212) 364-6490. RISE Brewing Co. has introduced Vanilla to its lineup of organic nitrogen-infused Oat Milk Lattes. Sold in single serve ($2.99) cans and 12-pack ($29.99) cases, the new fl avor features organic and Fair Trade certified vanilla extract from Madagascar blended with dairy free oat milk and cold brew coffee, and is non-GMO and peanut free. For more information, please contact RISE Brewing Co. at

Creamers International Delight is bringing the town of Bedrock to the breakfast table with the limited release of two Flintstones-themed favorites: Fruity Pebbles and Cocoa Pebbles. Both are available for a limited time in 32 oz bottles for a suggested retail price of $3.29 each. For more information, please contact (212) 656-9163. Shamrock Farms has recently launched Vanilla Cream Half & Half -- a blend of vanilla, rich cream and pure, great-tasting milk from the company’s family of local farms. This is the fi rst flavored half and half to join Shamrock’s portfolio of products, and is available in dairy cases at Redner’s, Safeway Albertsons, Weis and more retailers across the Southwest and mid-Atlantic. For more information, please contact Shamrock at 1-800-388-3247.


Spirits Thomas Rhett, the reigning Academy of Country Music Awards “Entertainer of the Year,” and his cousin, pecan magnate Jeff Worn, have collaborated on a new ultrapremium tequila brand called Dos Primos. Spanish for “Two Cousins,” Dos Primos is a blanco tequila made from hand-harvested 100% blue agave sourced from estates in Los Altos and the valley area of Jalisco, Mexico. The fi nished product is crystal-clear with earthy herbal notes on the front palate, followed by smooth floral and citrus hints. The brand is currently available in a 750 ml bottle in select U.S. markets. For more information, please visit

Non-Alcoholic Spirits Optimist Botanicals is a collection of distilled botanical spirits made without alcohol, sugar, additives or artificial preservatives. Optimist comes in three elegant blends, BRIGHT, FRESH, and SMOKEY, each formulated to take consumers on a sensory journey to saltsprayed coastlines (BRIGHT), verdant canyons (FRESH) and arid desert (SMOKEY), inspired by the diverse cultures, landscapes and mindsets of LA. A 500ML (16.9 oz) bottle of Optimist is available for pre-order at for a suggested retail of $35. For more information, please contact Fluère (pronounced “flew-air”) Spirits, a premium non-alcoholic spirits brand from The Netherlands, has launched in the U.S. launch. The company replicates the distilling techniques used for alcoholic spirits such as gin, whisky, rum, tequila and mezcal to create non-alcoholic expressions -- three of which (Original, Raspberry, Spiced Cane) are currently sold on Amazon and will soon be available at select brick and mortar locations in California, Illinois and Massachusetts at a suggested retail price of $29.99 per 750 ml bottle. For more information, please contact


SPOTLIGHT CATEGORIES FLAVORED MALT BEVERAGES It’s really hard to overstate the impact White Claw is having on both in this category and on the beer business overall. At close to $2 billion, the hard seltzer is already more than a quarter the size of the Budweiser brand family — something that’s taken place centuries more quickly. Roll in Truly and there’s been a huge change at the top for a category that was previously the sleepy domain of sprits company licensees. With the big beer brands getting into the act, the whole category is reminiscent of the moves around energy drinks.




White Claw Hard Seltzer











22.0% 13.5%

Mikes Harder


Bud Light Seltzer



Mikes Hard



Seagrams Escapes






Bud Light Lime Rita



Corona Hard Seltzer



Four Loko






Steel Reserve Fmb



Smirnoff Seltzer



Vizzy Hard Seltzer



Cayman Jack



Natural Light Seltzer



Johny Bootlegger



Bon & Viv Spiked Seltzer






Energy Drinks



Bottled Juices






Bottled Water



Liquid Drink Enhancers



SOURCE: IRI, a Chicago-based market research firm-@iriworldwide% 52 Weeks through 12/27/20








Blue Moon



Private Label




Sierra Nevada



Sparkling Ice



New Belgium



La Croix


24.0% 38.2%

Samuel Adams




















Topo Chico



Leinenkugel Specialty



San Pellegrino


























Private Label















Miller Lite



Glaceau Smart Water






Nestle Pure Life






Poland Spring



Bud Specialty



Glaceau Vitamin Water









Miller High Life



Deer Park



Blue Moon






SOURCE: IRI, a Chicago-based market research firm-@iriworldwide% 52 Weeks through 12/27/20




Red Bull



Monster Energy



VPX Bang



Red Bull Sugar Free



Monster Energy Zero Ultra







Red Bull The Summer Edition






Red Bull The Yellow Edition



Red Bull The Blue Edition











Stacker 2 Xtra



VPX Bang



Stacker 2



Private Label






VPX Redline Xtreme



Stacker 2 Extreme Energy



Stacker 2 Extreme






Gatorade Perform






G Zero



Gatorade Frost



Bodyarmor Superdrink






Gatorade Fierce



Powerade Ion4



Powerade Zero



Gatorade G2






Lipton Pure Leaf






Gold Peak






Lipton Brisk






Monster Rehab



Diet Snapple



Lipton Diet



Arizona Arnold Palmer



SOURCE: IRI, a Chicago-based market research firm-@iriworldwide% 52 Weeks through 12/27/20



The Glory of the Lived-In Brand Building new beverage brands is hard. It’s almost always a long, hard slog, with unanticipated detours and hair-raising moments of truth. If you’re reading this magazine or have attended a BevNET Live conference, you know that perceptions of overnight success surrounding mega-exits like Vitaminwater or Bai or Rockstar Energy are almost always misinformed. So it stands to reason that resuscitating established, but abused or neglected, brands holds appeal as a way of shortcircuiting the arduous brand-building process if the damage hasn’t been too severe. One such experiment is just getting under way now that Zico Coconut Water founder Mark Rampolla and his partner at PowerPlant Ventures, Dan Gluck, have bought back the brand back from CocaCola just as the soda giant was sunsetting it as no longer central to its portfolio. The move promises to inject some excitement into a category that has been carried at the premium end almost entirely by Vita Coco after Pepsi fumbled its ONE acquisition and Coke fumbled Zico. Credit Coca-Cola and its CEO James Quincey with finally recognizing that they weren’t doing the brand or category any good. So what fireworks are Rampolla and the CEO he’s brought in for Zico, Tom Hicks, planning this year? The answer is none. It seems they’re just planning to settle on the SKUs worth emphasizing and assuring retailers they’re in it for the long haul. That may be all that they need to do: experience shows that it’s remarkable what simple focus and commitment can do for a brand that’s simply gotten lost in the shuffle of a larger company. That became clear to me observing one of the classic beverage brand resuscitation projects, the turnaround of Snapple in the 1990s under CEO Mike Weinstein. You may recall that Quaker Oats had acquired the brand for $1.8 billion but fumbled it so severely that it ultimately dumped it on corporate activist Nelson Peltz for a mere $300 million. The corporate debacle was so extreme that it ultimately cost the independence of Quaker and its coveted Gatorade brand, which were acquired by PepsiCo. Yet Weinstein and his doughty 36 BEVNET MAGAZINE – JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2021

crew succeeded in reversing that brand damage in a few years through such straightforward actions as bringing back Howard Stern as an endorser, reprising Wendy the Snapple lady as face of the brand, upping the pace of innovation and restoring the faith of DSD partners who’d been consistently undermined by Quaker. Though the team displayed plenty of ingenuity, from what I could tell, much of their success stemmed simply from making noise in the market: letting the trade know that they were restoring energy and focus to the mishandled brand. That suggests there’s plenty of opportunity to bring other neglected brands back to life. One such rescue project I’ve found exciting to watch has been Suntory’s rescue effort for its Orangina brand, which had languished within the massive portfolio of Dr Pepper Snapple Group despite having a flock of attributes that should have made it very appealing to contemporary consumers: actual orange pulp, a moderate sweetness profi le, an iconic glass bottle. In the hands of Suntory’s Pepsi Bottling Ventures unit, the brand has been re-energized, restoring the classic glass bottle as a focus even as it offers needed PET packs and cans for some partners and occasions. The recovery of the Uncle Matt’s Organic juice brand by its founder, Matt McLean, from the debris of the Dean Foods liquidation would seem to fall into this category, too, though aside from letting innovation languish, Dean’s stewardship doesn’t seem to have been disastrous. Several years after its disastrous acquisition by Nestle Waters North America, efforts continue on resuscitating the Sweet Leaf Tea brand, so far without conspicuous success. One can point to lots of other underused assets lost in big systems that might fare well independently. Indeed, it has been something of a mystery to me why big corporations don’t more readily let these underemployed brands go, particularly after a new ownership or management team has come in that can blame the missteps – and associated writeoffs – on those who preceded them.

Beyond Orangina, Keurig Dr Pepper would seem to have a trove of such brands that might benefit from a new corporate master: Nantucket Nectars, Mistic, Yoohoo. KDP’s predecessor Dr Pepper Snapple Group essentially acknowledged the degree of its neglect of Yoohoo early last decade when it hived off marketing duties to a pair of grad students at the University of Texas’ McCombs business school. If anything ever emerged from that effort, I never heard about it, and it certainly didn’t change the brand’s trajectory. So why not just let it go? Over at Coke, the other sunsetted brands includes the Hubert’s Lemonade line it acquired from Monster Beverage, with a smiley-lemon icon and rich flavors that once seemed to strike a chord among younger consumers. But Coke bottlers pretty much don’t want to bother with glass-bottle brands, so Hubert’s has been scrapped as an RTD and continues to exist in a sort of nether world as a fountain-only brand. Why not let it go to an energetic new owner with a deal that allows KO to share in any upside? That’s not to say all struggling brands warrant a redo. Some may be so damaged, or playing in categories with such severe headwinds, that their prospects shouldn’t be clouded by any haze of nostalgia. That may be true of another discontinued Coke brand, Odwalla, which was quietly shopped last year and apparently drew a pass from such logical potential buyers as Califia Farms and Bolthouse Farms. Of course, Bolthouse itself represents an attempt to reinvigorate a brand that was much abused by its acquirer, Campbell Soup, and so far the activities of the restored management team under CEO Jeff Dunn have been impressive. Seven years of erosion under Campbell (which wiped out $1 billion in value) may be easier to reverse than Odwalla’s 19 years of increasing drift under Coke. Still, I kind of hope someone eventually comes along to make another try with that storied trademark. Longtime beverage-watcher Gerry Khermouch is executive editor of Beverage Business Insights, a twice-weekly e-newsletter covering the nonalcoholic beverage sector.

Drawing from experience, Neel Premkumar charts the future of FORTO By Martín Caballero


ince launching the brand in 2015, FORTO founder and CEO Neel Premkumar has worked tirelessly to prove that there was a viable market for a premium, organic coffee-based energy shot. He’s been largely successful: during that time the brand has grown into one of the best-selling organic coffee products in the U.S., attracting both big-name investors (coffee multinational JAB, Keurig Dr Pepper and NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal, to name a few) and national retailers like Target, Walmart, CVS, Walgreens and Dollar General. But as FORTO enters 2021, the real work is only now just starting. While the growth momentum that has pushed the brand -- named a Rising Star at BevNET’s Best of 2018 Awards -- to this point is still strong, the new year brings new challenges. Keurig Dr Pepper remains an investor in the parent company Dyla Brands, but the conglomerate is no longer distributing FORTO shots. Those are now moving through wholesale consolidators and will be the brand’s central focus after its 11 oz. energy coffee line was discontinued at the end of 2020. Dyla also sells Stur, a liquid drink enhancer, and has responsibility


for the powdered drinks portfolio at KDP; according to Premkumar, those parts of the business are increasingly important. In a revealing conversation with BevNET managing editor Martin Caballero, Premkumar shared his thoughts on a wide range of topics, from guiding the brand through its transition out of DSD distribution to the current market dynamics for center-aisle coffee drinks to how FORTO is refi ning its position as a product that plays simultaneously within the organic coffee space and the energy shot category. What is the top priority for FORTO this year? We just took the brand back into wholesale distribution, which is the same route to market that 5-Hour Energy and most of the other shelf-stable shots are. So [the priority is] really ensuring that all the accounts complete the transition over from DSD — the majority of which has happened — and make sure the in-stock rates are everything we wanted them to be. And then we’ll be driving a lot more advertising once we have it back on Amazon, including content with Shaquille O’Neal, that will probably come out by the end of Q1.

How can going to that wholesale model help address some of the issues and challenges that you guys faced with DSD? DSD I think is very powerful for certain categories and products, typically larger RTD products like cans of soda or sports drinks or energy drinks. I’m not sure that there’s ever been a brand that has scaled without it. Energy shots is a category that is not ever typically seen in DSD — it’s a general merchandise buyer, typically sold at the checkout next to Bic lighters and batteries and tobacco and candy. So it’s a different buyer than the typical DSD beverage buyer. It’s a different route to market, usually through wholesale consolidators in the convenience channel or direct to the account in the rest of the market. So we had some challenges, not from lack of trying on both sides, with just getting the product in stock and ensuring that the supply was as consistent as some of the competitors on the shelf. What have you guys learned about effective merchandising in stores for the shots? Is being near point-of-sale next to general merchandise items where you want the brand to be? I’ve found that it varies quite a bit by channel, and sometimes by region. 5-Hour did a really nice job building their business with displays that went on the shelf and on the counter when they launched around 2004, just after the FDA had taken tobacco behind the counter. So the counters were empty and they had a lot of success building these kinds of fixtures and racks. So four years ago when we launched, there was already by then an established category section which typically were like shelving units under the bottom of the counter or in an end-cap aisle in convenience stores. So it’s harder there to really stand out, because those tend to be more random, one-off purchases. The places I think we’ve seen the most success, and I think that’s been true of a lot of the smaller energy shot players, is when we have some kind of secondary merchandising unit that really stood out. So we’ve tested things like a coffee cup merchandising unit on the top of the counter. In CVS stores and in some convenience store chains, we have a cooler door rack that goes on the inside of the door for the RTD coffee set, and that’s made a big difference. It really varies by account. We are in a test right now with Walmart in the Southeast at the checkout, where we are outselling 5-Hour Energy per point-of-sale. We have secondary displays that we put up in those stores. I think merchandising is really critical. Unfortunately, there’s no one size fits all. What worked for 5-Hour 15 years ago won’t work for other folks now. With taste and organic ingredients being two major callouts for FORTO, are you seeing a big difference in terms of the way the product is perceived when placed inside versus outside the cooler? So our product is really unique — we are really the only coffee shot. We are the only company in North America that invested in a fairly unusual production system that allows us to do a shelf-stable product with milk. Nobody else in North America can make something below 4 oz. with milk that is shelf-stable. The other thing is that we have a really rare IP: we control the shape of a coffee cup, in small form, in perpetuity. The actual

Full of Beans

The Pandemic Took a Toll, But Coffee’s Still Hot By Jeff Klineman The COVID-19 pandemic might have cut into plans, but in the ever-rising tide that is the RTD coffee category, brand strategies are still focused on growth. That’s not to say that things have been easy. But with RTD coffee sales on a tear in recent years, the pandemic period has been defined by shifting sales tactics and temporarily tempered expectations, but also a sense that, somehow, the boom will continue. Brands are acknowledging the hurt, and there’s a sense that the overall economic slowdown could accelerate the demise of some companies. But the category’s growth overall has proven to be a comfort. “There are going to be brands that don’t make it through this,” notes Grant Gyesky, the co-founder of Rise Brewing. “But that’s white space on the shelf, distribution space on the trucks, that’s going to help to contribute to our growth for the next three to four years. I think we’re well positioned.” Indeed, RTD coffee sales are on the rise, with the category totalling about $3.7 billion according to aggregated subcategory totals from data provider IRI. That’s up from about $3.3 billion the year before. With just cold brew expected to grow to more than $1.6 billion by 2025, according to Grandview Research, founders believe there’s running room for a variety of formats, and lots of placement options in-store. Innovation in both product and package continues to draw in consumers, while the baseline energy derived from coffee remains a huge draw. One encouragement taken from the past year? Whether working from the office or from home, people still need the buzz. But plans for getting it to them have shifted. “One thing I’ll say about COVID is we doubled our sales in 2020. But we fell 30 percent short of our budget,” says Kitu founder CEO Jim DeCicco. “We had ambitious aspirations, we would have hit them -- the first three months of the year were really fast, but COVID set us back a full 12 months. The growth is still there, the growth is good, we’ll double our business this year, but that 3x, 4x growth… is now 100 percent. We still have to win in grocery stores, find customers online, because people need energy, people need healthy.” But it’s hard going, notes Todd Carmichael, CEO of La Colombe. “Selling coffee during COVID is like when you’re running, you’re wearing shoes that are too big,” he said. 39

outline of the coffee cup is a trade dress protection, similar to the Coke bottle contour. We kind of have this market to ourselves, now the question is how to get the right consumers to try it. The repeat rates are really high, but we’ve got to get the right consumers. The RTD shelf in the coffee aisle and the RTD coffee consumer is where we want to be. But it’s hard to be on the shelf next to Starbucks Frappuccino because we’ve got a 2 oz. shot. When you think about it, if we are going after RTD coffee consumption, coffee is either consumed hot or cold, not room temperature. So that’s probably the biggest hurdle for putting it on the shelf next to 5-Hour, versus getting a secondary merchandising unit where it’s in a cooler. Talk to me about why the full-size RTD line was discontinued at the end of 2020. Was this something that was more driven by market conditions or more linked to the product or brand itself? It’s a good question. We launched this two years ago. Walmart was the one that approached us; we were selling the shots and they were happy with it and they kept saying the concept of an organic RTD coffee could really work. So we developed it in partnership with them, and they were our exclusive partner for the fi rst year. We had just gotten in the KDP distribution network, so we asked them if we could work with them, and KDP said they could accommodate us. So that’s how the product emerged. And the fi rst year it did about $10 million in sales just at Walmart. I think we developed a really good product. It’s a delicious tasting product. The secret to some of the taste behind FORTO is that we use organic whole milk. In a 2 oz. bottle, it’s pretty small, you aren’t getting many calories or much sugar. But the taste is incomparable — we had head-to-head sensory with a number of other products in the category and we were beating them soundly. We were on the shelf at Walmart and were probably the number four brand in terms of RTD coffee, behind Starbucks, Dunkin’ and Java. We had a really good package and good product — the challenge is just the cogs and the margin. The item had such a unique bottle shape, which resonated because it looks like a cup of coffee from a cafe. But it is also a lot more expensive than cans. The ingredients were more expensive than almost any other coffee. Our initial thinking was that on a certain scale it could make sense fi nancially for us. But I think what emerged over time as we started going beyond Walmart, we realized that to get to that scale we’d have to spend millions of dollars, and we’d basically have to take money away from the rest of the company which was doing really well on the drink mix side. Does it make sense to spend this many millions of dollars and never be profitable with the hope that one day, three to five years from now, we could make this work. Or it might be longer even. The board and I and KDP just felt it wasn’t a great gamble. In today’s environment, ensuring that you profitability already or a path towards it makes more sense. Broader challenges of being successful in center aisle? I’ve done a lot of self-reflection and talking through with the organization and the board, even before we made the decision, as to how and why it could have worked differently. 40 BEVNET MAGAZINE – JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2021

“You’re chafing, you’re wearing a lot of weight, and everything doesn’t fit. It’s just more uncomfortable.” Gyesky notes his own optimism about Rise comes because the brand’s momentum stood out even through the setbacks associated with the plague year. The brand managed to surge in its retail and online accounts even as its office business -- 20% of its expected revenue last year -- fell 90% shy of projections. “There were areas of the world that stayed similar or grew -- and those were grocery and e-comm,” he said. In grocery retail, “We were fortunate because we’d grown our distribution about 400% in terms of retail doors between 2019 and 2020. Thankfully, the DSD really stepped up -they had people in stores even when people weren’t sure it was safe to be in stores. Where we go to market with broadliners we saw a lag for a short period of time, but the broadliners recovered and it’s been good.” Online flourished, he added, but it required a shift in strategy: as offices closed, the company’s merchandising team had to move quickly to find its existing customers. “We were already in [direct to consumer] but we almost turned our DTC into a closer resemblance to our retail business with regard to how we were approaching it in sales and marketing,” he said. “We were literally reaching out on LinkedIn, cold calling people with discount codes about getting product to office staff.” Rise wasn’t the only brand that shifted its sales approach; Kitu had launch plans for huge accounts like Walmart and Costco in 2020, but those had to be put off for a year due to the pandemic. For a brand with 80% of its resources devoted to attacking retail, online is important, but not where it expects to ultimately take over category leadership. “My brothers and I, what we’ve been focused on, is how do we build a brand more for Wal-Mart, than for Whole Foods,” DeCicco said. “It’s a tricky balance.” Online, he said, “it’s really cool how much we can see, but even that environment is really volatile.We’re selling a 12-pack for $33, it’s heavy to ship, shipping is expensive, we’re spending $25 to acquire you and if you don’t come back two, three, [or] four times we lose money on you. The nice thing about e-commerce now, though, is it’s truly omnichannel. Our ads online, they’ll influence your behavior in stores.” As a company, Kitu prides itself on hustle and execution, and over the last year its teams were encouraged to offer retailers whatever help they could provide. Still, in-store brand building was tougher. “One fundamental change in stores is the inability to pour samples,” DeCicco said. “We have a really high retention rate for the people who try our products, but we haven’t been able to do it the traditional way.” Kitu was strongly positioned for the new year -- last summer it raised $25 million, including money from and an alliance with Anheuser Busch as a national distributor to join its existing work with Big Geyser in New York and Polar in New England. With the shift in partnership to A-B, DeCicco said, he recognizes that his team will have to work hard to earn the trust of the distributors who will be on the front lines for

It was not from lack of trying, and I think we had a really good partner in KDP. I think there are a few things that really came out. The fi rst is that RTD coffee, the unit velocities on average in the set, including amongst the top ten SKUs which are all Frappuccinos, are much, much, much lower than the comparable unit velocities of the average SKU in energy drinks or water or certainly CSDs. The top ten energy drink SKUs are volumes faster turning than the top ten RTD coffee SKUs. And I think over the last five to 10 years, most companies, big or small, have jumped into RTD coffee with the expectation that, because 80% of the U.S. population drinks coffee, they will eventually migrate to the format, and once they do the velocities are really going to pick up. And that was the general bet that most players that jumped in this market took, and the same bet that we made two-plus years ago. Unfortunately the velocities are just not close to that. We had built a model based

on the category continuing to grow and grow and that cold brew was going to take over what energy drinks were for the millennial generation. We didn’t see those numbers across the industry. Second, a lot of other startups and big companies are enamored with RTD coffee. So there are a ton of entrants, which really affects the cost to do a model like this. Every single year for every single account that we ever talked to, the slotting fees kept jumping. In some accounts it might be $10,000 the fi rst year, then $15,000 to $20,000 the second year and $25,000-plus the third year. Yet the unit velocity didn’t really change much from a category perspective. So there’s so many entrants, with not a bigger pie for everybody, and the velocity not justifying what we were expecting it would eventually get to and we didn’t know when it would. Those things combined, led us to think that you can spend money — and some companies 42 BEVNET MAGAZINE – JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2021

the brand -- and who have already been burned repeatedly by Non-Alc brands like Monster and Bang. Having investment on board from A-B will help show the distributors there’s corporate interest behind the brand, DeCicco said, and he’s excited to prove it can work on A-B trucks. “It’s the same attention issue no matter where you go,” he said. “Your retailer isn’t going to build your brand for you; you have to be there with them to get the buy-in. But the blocking and tackling is the same. A-B has the same kind of network at Coke and Pepsi, but it’s a different aisle. We’re trying to stay in front of them to try to prove they can win in non-alcoholic [drinks]. You have to have a plan, and my brothers and I are working pretty closely with A-B leadership to help them develop that plan.” Another fast growing premium brand, La Colombe, is in a similar position, preparing to ramp up a national DSD strategy with a partner long in the beer business, Molson Coors. The RTD business for the company grew last year, but it was a tough one nevertheless. For La Colombe, a brand that had long relied on sales through its cafes and to high-end restaurants and hotels, there was another challenge: when COVID-19 hit, the company’s on-premise branches shut down nearly overnight, part of CEO and co-founder Todd Carmichael’s plan to keep workers safe. “The channels feed each other,” Carmichael said. “This is the advantage I have, in terms of awareness. It supports and drives awareness of the RTD. We weren’t able to take advantage of that in the last period.” “There’s always a step forward and a step back if you’re talking about channel awareness during COVID,” he added. People who are “addicted to the product” are happy to find it in stores, but the reverse is “you’re probably not drawing in as many potential consumers to that set at the retailer, because they aren’t being switched on at the cafe level.” Carmichael said his brand hit its 60 percent growth target last year, after several years of doubling in size, and that he’s ready to go for 2021, with convenience and drug channels -the ones where Molson Coors is expected to be a large part of the equation -- what he calls “the playoffs.” “The only true way you’re going to find big success in convenience and drug is through DSD,” he said. “You go natural first, you do specialty, you go down your channels. The regular season is natural, specialty, mass. If you’ve done really well in your regular season, once you’ve done that, you’ve got the opportunity to run into the choice DSD of your dreams and say, ‘we’re here.’” Of course, the centralized DSD play hasn’t turned out perfectly for all those who have tried it. Two erstwhile highflying brands that anticipated strong support from Keurig Dr Pepper -- yes, the company that was built from the combination of a soft drink company and a coffee conglomerate -- recently dropped out of that group’s distribution operation, preferring to shift to stitching together DSD or broadline networks of their own. High Brew, a La Colombe competitor whose momentum began to ebb as it moved largely into the KDP system, revealed in December that it had gone back to its roots,

have done a good job of spending money and trying to grab market share — but they will have a hard time getting to real profitability. And honestly, in the beverage industry there are a bunch of companies that have done this and never become profitable. They’ve gotten great market share and they have great products and eventually they get taken out. I think that’s a strategy that obviously works for a lot of people, but if we didn’t have another 90% of our business doing really well and profitable and growing, I would have said let’s try it. But we do. I had a benchmark comparison. How is that experience informing how you guys think about innovation? Is energy coffee still the identity and guiding principle for the brand? We have this amazing package on the RTD coffee side, so we are looking at potentially selling it off or allowing other people to produce using that format. I think if another company is willing to invest behind it, they could easily replicate the kind of sales success that we had at just one account. In shots, the margins are better and with the right route to market, with the right distribution and no holes on the shelf, it can be a really good scalable business if you have something different and unique, which we do. I think our number one challenge is getting it in the right system, and then fi gure out how to invest behind this to continuously scale. Our repeat rate is 43% on the shots, about 10-15 points higher than most products. I think we’ve got something that consumers are buying, we just need to give them the right merchandising option in the store and then target them on Amazon and D2C. On the innovation side, it’s interesting because not that many SKUs do the majority of the volume in RTD coffee. There’s a bit more variety with at-home and brewed coffee. I think our plan would be to start launching different fl avors and trying different things with certain account partners. Are you looking for an eventual exit? We passed $100 million in revenue, which is really exciting, and we are profitable and still growing. Even on the drink mixes, the ACV is probably 40%. So I think there’s a pretty strong upside. I’d like to get the business up to $200 to $250 million in the next couple of years. That’s our fi xation. If there’s a partner that comes along, great. If not, that’s OK too.

assembling a DSD network of independent wholesalers including AB-InBev, Molson Coors, and KDP-affiliates. Meanwhile, Forto’s shot line is now outside of the KDP network as well, while its larger RTD coffee line has been discontinued. Even KDP’s own Peet’s brand has failed to catch fire in the way that alliances with Starbucks and Dunkin’ have paid off for Pepsi and Coke, respectively. It’s those big brands -- Starbucks, Dunkin’, and the energy drink plays like Java Monster -- that are going to be tough for just about any competitor to overcome on-shelf, although the extra DSD muscle might help establish enough velocity to make an impact. For any of these brands to truly take a run at category dominance, entrepreneurs acknowledge, it’s going to have to come through innovation, both as a way to continue to move products into stores, and to take advantage of different channel opportunities. Much of the action on that front is going to be in-store: some brands are seeking to establish themselves in the dairy aisle via multi-serve packages -- a place where dairy and alt-dairy brands like Califia and even yogurt brand Chobani are rolling out cold brews -- while others are relying on edgy formulations to try to garner more brand recognition. “There’s a lot of Dairy Milk space in these retailers that’s going to change in the next 15 years,” says Rise’s Gyesky, who has found entry into that space initially as the company began to make its own oat milk as an independent SKU, then started to use it in its coffee drinks, initially in single serve varieties and now in chilled multi-serve formats. “We’re in the first inning. Dairy milk is a $11 billion space; alternatives are less than $1 billion. We see the opportunity there that we think is going to power us for the future.” While acknowledging the importance of multi serve and the dairy case, Carmichael said, “Dairy is a great entry point, but it’s not going to be sustainable; it’s not going to carry the load as it grows. Ultimately, you’re in multiple locations if you’re doing well. If you want to earn the hearts and minds of the consumer, you have to be serious about both RTD and about the multiserve.” READY-TO-DRINK COFFEE BRAND








International Delight



Starbucks Iced Espresso Classics



Califia Farms



Coca Cola Dunkin Donuts



Bolthouse Farms Perfectly Protein



Private Label



Chameleon Cold Brew



Stumptown Coffee Roasters



SOURCE: IRI, a Chicago-based market research firm-@iriworldwide% 52 Weeks through 12/27/20




In partnership with Heat Genie, High Brew Coffee has released a limited edition selfheating brew can perfect for winter adventures on-the-go. The can is available in 4-packs ($20) and 6-packs ($30 with free shipping) from Building upon their existing product offering, RISE Brewing Co. has introduced a Vanilla Oat Milk Latte to their roster. An organic expansion of their existing product line, RISE Brewing Co,’s new Vanilla Oat Milk Latte is organic, dairy free, non-GMO and peanut free. The new flavor enhances their signature organic coffee with a dash of dairy free oat milk and organic vanilla extract from Madagascar. It’s creamy, slightly sweet and refreshingly smooth. Vanilla Oat Milk Latte is sold as single serve ($2.99) and 12-pack ($29.99) cases. Having launched just nine months ago, Jot Coffee recently celebrated serving its one millionth cup of Ultra Coffee. Twenty times more concentrated than traditional coffee, Jot is sold exclusively online in 6.8 oz. bottles (makes 14 cups). This February, Civilized Coffee is launching its Instant Cold Brew Coffee made with 100% Arabica premium coffee beans that have been cold brew extracted and spray dried into easyto-dissolve granulated that deliver a smooth and full body with a complex taste profile of rich dark chocolate and sweet caramel while still maintaining the low acidity cold brew is known for. The product will be available in both 6 oz and 12 oz containers on the brand’s website and on Amazon. Organic cold brew concentrate brand Bizzy Coffee has updated its packaging to include an “18-hour brew” call-out on the front label and a scannable QR code on the side panel. The brand will be launching its products in three Kroger divisions -- Ralphs, QFC and Fred Meyer -- beginning in March. After the successful launch of its first Instant Craft Coffee line in 2019, Verve Coffee Roasters added to the family of products earlier this year with new single origin, blend and decaf options, and in November launched its first Holiday Instant Coffee. All of Verve’s coffees are Direct Trade and small-batch roasted daily out of the company’s hometown of Santa Cruz, California. 46 BEVNET MAGAZINE – JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2021

SoCal-based Humblemaker Coffee Co. recently released a new vitamin-infused cold brew shot: Ojai Valley (Immunity). These new shots are loaded with Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Zinc, and Echinacea to support healthy immune system function. They’re brewed with real citrus peel and nutmeg and come in a 2 oz. readyto-drink bottle, which can be consumed full strength as is or blended into your morning beverage. In April, Califia Farms will introduce Mushroom Coffee with Cordyceps and Lion’s Mane Mushrooms to help you focus on your day. Brewed low and slow, this cold brew coffee is made from 100% arabica beans. The Cordyceps and Lion’s Mane Mushrooms add a subtle earthiness to this smooth, balanced cup of coffee with zero sugar, making it as delicious as it is beneficial. Mushroom Coffee will launch in Sprouts with a subsequent ecommerce rollout via Amazon, Thrive Market, Fresh Direct, and Vitacost. Riff Cold Brewed Coffee is now offering its organic Off The Cuff cold brew -- the brand’s number one seller with natural tasting notes of dark chocolate and toffee -- in three different formats: a 10.5 oz. bottle, 1.5L bag-in-a-box (MSRP $13.99) and 96 oz. bag-in-a-box. The objective of releasing 3 different sizes was to meet the customer where they’re at for various usage occasions. The 1.5L package has experienced significant velocity, selling 5+ units a day at multiple locations of one of Oregon’s top natural grocery chains. Minor Figures, the brand known for their plant-based coffee products for a better planet, is launching a new line of canned coffee and tea drinks. Made to be equally enjoyed at home, in the aisles of a major retailer, or behind the bar at your favorite coffee shop, the entire line is plant-based, barista-quality, and carbon neutral. They’re launching with four different drinks including Latte, Matcha Latte, Chai Latte, and Mocha. They will be available for online purchase at, as well as select natural food stores and coffee shops beginning February 1.

B E S T O F 2 0 2 0 AWA R D S

Each year, BevNET’s annual Best Of awards honors companies, brands, individuals, products, ideas and trends from across the dynamic and ever-changing beverage landscape. But, as no one needs reminding, 2020 wasn’t just any other year. Under the crushing squeeze of the global COVID-19 pandemic, the market was stressed from all directions, with grocery sales spiking, c-store traffic slowing and service delays everywhere -- whether waiting in line outside the store or on Instacart for a delivery slot. Yet even under extreme pressure, beverage brands and drink entrepreneurs did what they do best: make lemonade, and with optimism and energy to spare. When consumer demand for oat milk soared to “essential item” status this spring, Oatly moved to get more product to them. When gyms and fitness clubs were shuttered to slow the spread of COVID in May, O2 Recovery Drink led a campaign to support them. And when everyone was forced to become an at-home mixologist when bars closed down, innovative RTD cocktail makers like Elenita, Tip Top and Drnxmyth gave them a reason to feel excited about staying in on the weekend. For these reasons and many more, out of a field of over 300 nominees, we have selected the winners for this year’s BevNET Best of 2020 Awards in recognition of their hard work, dynamism, diversity and entrepreneurial spirit in leading the beverage industry through a difficult and disruptive period. The honorees represent the personalities, products and purpose that proves -- no matter what challenges the future may hold -- we won’t face them thirsty.

its remarkable sales and operation capacity. Early next year, the company is set to open its second U.S. production facility, which CEO Toni Petersson has said will allow the company to up the pace of innovation and double -- or triple -- its national retail presence in the coming year. Though he has already declared the brand the “market leader” of oat milk, Oatly has a ways to go, of course, to truly fulfill all the expectations that investors, retailers, and consumers see for it; there’s competition, not just from other oat milk brands but from other types of dairy alternative ingredients as well. But there’s no conversation about any of it without Oatly, and it’s well-positioned, well-funded, and well-run for the long race ahead. BRAND OF THE YEAR Oatly If you truly don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone, then the reaction to the lack of Oatly available to online shoppers during the opening weeks of the pandemic pretty much clinched at least a nomination for brand of the year from the start. If 2019 was the year that the brand broke through and raised oat milk as a leading new innovation in the beverage business, 2020 was the year that it became an important, established category. Investors responded in a highly significant way -- to the tune of $200 million -- and the company unleashed a marketing wave to match 48 BEVNET MAGAZINE – JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2021

PERSON OF THE YEAR Danny Stepper, CEO/Co-Founder, L.A. Libations It’s BevNET’s honor to name Danny Stepper, the co-founder and CEO of L.A. Libations, as the winner of this year’s BevNET Person of the Year. Danny, we believe, represents a true vision of entrepreneurship within the beverage industry, and his work in the past year shows the fruit of his determination to prove that a company can produce while mid-pivot. It’s fair to say that as

late as the fall of 2019, the future of L.A. Libations was uncertain due to the end of its relationship with longtime corporate partner Coca-Cola. But Danny has led L.A. Libations through a remarkable rebound in 2020, spurred by a new partnership with Molson Coors beverage company. L.A. Libations has entered this system like a Swiss Army Knife, helping to create a new set of nonalcoholic products and partnerships that allow the company’s beer distributors to on-board high-profile national products like La Colombe and rising stars like ZEN WTR, while also encouraging Danny to roll the dice in innovative categories. He has also managed to fuse his passion for entertainment and movies with his beverage roots, fostering the growth of new products Don’t Quit and Orro with associates from the world of television, movies, and action sports. It’s hard to mention Danny without his partners, Pat Bolden and Dino Sarti, but it’s also hard not to notice how hard Danny has

fought to keep that partnership viable through the constant search for new ways for the trio to have an impact on the business they have built together. That determination and optimism combine with an outstanding set of relationships, recognition of talent, and unmatched willingness to create partnerships and connections for people from all walks of life. One of the most interesting partnerships Danny worked on this year was the deal between Molson Coors and Coke to develop a hard seltzer under the Coke-owned Topo Chico brand. It’s a remarkable example of an entrepreneur being willing to do what it takes for the benefit of all partners -- regardless of past bruises. And it’s for that incredible year -- in which L.A. Libations has come back from those bruises and created an exciting new set of opportunities, both for itself and for its partners -- that made Danny such an easy choice for Person of the Year.

BEST MARKETING CAMPAIGN O2 Recovery “#StayForMay” This spring, even as beverage brands were scrambling to shore up their own businesses for the long haul of a once-in-a-century pandemic, the responsibility to give back took precedence and the instinct to help those most impacted by COVID-19 and lockdowns kicked in. Hundreds of companies donated product and

launched charitable initiatives, but the #StayForMay campaign, spearheaded by O2 Recovery Drink, stood out as among the most creative and impactful efforts by stopping the bleed of cancelled gym memberships and encouraging consumers to support independently-owned businesses. Offering up to $20 million in incentives, the #StayForMay campaign -- which included O2 and other fitness brands like Born Primitive, Puori and Bear KompleX -- rallied consumers to save American gyms by pledging to pay their membership dues for the month of May in exchange for $100 gift cards. At the height of lockdowns, roughly 90% of gyms nationwide were shuttered and thousands were cancelling their memberships. But nearly 60,000 consumers participated in the #StayForMay program, paying their dues to 1,918 gyms. As companies like O2 and countless other hydration and sports drinks rely heavily on the fitness and gym channel for sales, the project showed a camaraderie between brands and their retailers that made a tangible difference for gym owners nationwide at one of the most difficult periods in modern business history.

RISING STARS C4 During the decades-long reign of Monster and Red Bull at the top of the energy drink pyramid, challengers to their hegemony have come and gone, often leaving bruised after a brutal fight for cooler space and market share. Yet amidst the bombastic noise that sometimes surrounds the category, C4 has quickly and (relatively) quietly emerged in recent years as a legitimate player in the energy space by keeping an even hand on the tiller. Since making the jump from powdered products to RTDs, C4 has leveraged its

roots in fitness and athletic performance channels to give it credibility outside the gym, where its core product has helped establish the “performance energy” subcategory in 16 oz. cans along with Bang

and Reign. The company’s ascent has been fueled by strong execution: having kicked off the year by entering Costco, C4 later added key retailers like Speedway as it continued to build a nationwide network of DSD partners, now standing at around 200 total. Meanwhile, the release of its nootropic-based Smart Energy line (pictured) helped move the brand into a different type of use occasion, expanding its audience beyond athletes to students and laborers. With the forthcoming release of a 12 oz. can format and added muscle to its new e-commerce arm (Rajaa Grar joined as Chief Digital Officer in August), 49

C4’s balanced, versatile approach — rather than facing the big guys head-on — looks set to continue paying dividends. Better Booch For Better Booch, the path to becoming a major national brand has been anything but overnight success. Founded in 2012 by musicians Ashleigh and Trey Lockerbie, Better Booch launched into Los Angeles-area farmers markets and over the next five years the Lockerbies bootstrapped their small, craft kombucha company by maintaining positive cash flow and reinvesting it back into the company. But in 2019, Better Booch saw its first institutional funding, a $2.5 million

round led by Crush Ventures, the venture arm of music management firm Crush Music. The company also underwent a comprehensive rebrand, switching the packaging to tallboy cans and focusing on tea and botanical-forward flavors. At the end of 2020, the company now aims to become one of the top five -- if not top three -- kombucha brands in the country within the next 18 months. Quite a long way from the farmer’s market. This past year, Better Booch has spread into the fast casual restaurant space through partnerships with healthy food chains like By Chloe and Veggie Grill. The brand partnered with Iris Nova to sell its cans through that company’s patented D2C text message ordering platform. Its retail presence has more than tripled and overall sales were up 120% in 2020 (the canned line alone was up 350%). Tapping its relationship with Crush, the company is poised to use the music industry to its advantage in the near future. Though the pandemic put a halt to planned partnerships with live music venues, Ashleigh Lockerbie vowed that Better Booch would be “back with a vengeance” next year. If “Top Three Kombucha Brand” is on the to-do list, then the vengeance may be something to behold. 50 BEVNET MAGAZINE – JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2021

Vive Organic Within the context of CPG, the COVID-19 pandemic didn’t create major paradigm shifts as much as it accelerated those already in motion. Case-inpoint: cold-pressed juice shot maker Vive Organic, which before the pandemic had already been a growing leader in the category thanks to its doctor-crafted formulas packed with nutrients and vitamins. But when COVID hit, the surging demand for immunity boosting products helped turn Vive’s shots from effective to essential in the eyes of its consumers. Having grown its footprint from natural retailers to over 8,000 stores nationwide, including in mainstream chains like Target, CVS and Safeway, as well as having introduced subscriptions to its directto-consumer platform, the company was well-positioned to meet that call. Vive’s strength was reflected in securing a $13 million series B funding round led by Monogram Capital in July. CEO Wyatt Taubman told Forbes he expects Vive’s current momentum will carry it towards its target of $40 million in net sales in the near-term, an indication that those existing trends should extend beyond the end of COVID.

Olipop Last year, we honored Olipop with our Best Packaging Design award, praising the young startup company for “creating a stylish, attractive and inviting can that’s worthy of the liquid inside.” Just 12 months later, it’s become clear that this nostalgia-tinged functional soda brand is very much the proverbial “total package.” Founded in 2018, Olipop began this year by closing a $10 million Series A funding round and now, according to

CEO Ben Goodwin, will end 2020 with sales up over 1000%. While the company’s prebiotic beverages may be helping to reinvigorate the soda category with low sugar, better-for-you options, Goodwin and his co-founder David Lester are quick to highlight that their success has come by updating, not reinventing the wheel. With classic flavors like Vintage Cola, Root Beer, Orange Squeeze and Blackberry Vanilla, the brand has traded on the familiar and leaned into indulgent taste profiles to reel in consumers to impressive results. According to the company, those who switch to Olipop drop their standard soda consumption by more than 20% on average. With strong (and growing) distribution in the natural channel, and a robust ecommerce business, Olipop is now setting its sights on the mainstream with chains like Kroger and Giant Eagle. As this emergent functional pop space continues to grow, Olipop has come out in front as a clear leader setting the tone for a new category. The challenge for them now is to cement themselves there.


ZEN WTR As a country, we don’t look at a bottle of water the same way we did ten years ago, and with good reason. Over the last decade, the long term effects of PET recycling and waste reduction has become one of the most discussed and debated issues in CPG. And while that debate still rages, brands like ZEN WTR represent a small but significant step towards a hopefully better, cleaner future. Each bottle is made from 100% recycled, Certified Ocean Bound plastic salvaged from the coast of Thailand, a process that the company says will save up to 70 million bottles from entering the ocean in 2020 alone. In a year that has forced all of us to adapt to “new normals” with varying degrees of success, ZEN WTR represents one hopeful version for bottled water.

Drnxmyth Traditionally, nailing the flavor of a fresh-made cocktail has been one of the biggest challenges for the RTD space. While innumerable brands have been felled by formulation issues, Drnxmyth has found a phenomenal workaround by keeping the liquor and other ingredients separate through a proprietary 16 oz. bottle design. The brand’s five flavors are pasteurized via HPP and the consumer only needs to twist the bottle to break a seal, shake and combine the mixer with the spirit. The results can’t be argued with, from its Bourbon Sour to Classic Margarita to its Rum Punch, Drnxmyth delivers on the liquid and brings it all home with clean, sophisticated branding.

Poppi When launching a new brand into the crowded retail beverage market, it helps to have packaging that pops. And pop Poppi does. The prebiotic soda company unveiled its new name and look in January (rebranding from Mother Beverage) and, thanks to some guidance from its lead investors Rohan Oza and CAVU Venture Partners, its current look is colorful, eye-catching and sleek. Poppi is one of several startup functional soda brands emphasizing gut health to emerge

over the past 12 months, putting it right on trend from a liquid perspective. But it’s the dichromatic labels, which highlight the fruit-forward flavors inside the can, that make it one of the most visually exciting packages of the year.

bite from the booch is a treat, resulting in a sweeter, more lively brew that feels destined to become a summer staple.


Humm Zero Enjoying kombucha shouldn’t mean compromising — it’s a simple idea, but in the hands of the team at Humm, one that has produced a truly special product. At 10 calories and, as promised, zero grams of sugar, Humm’s fourSKU line offers a bridge to mainstream consumer tastes, but without leaving its core audience behind. And though zero sugar is the big callout, the superb execution of these brews, matched by the clean, attractive design of the 11 oz. cans, makes Humm Zero more about what is in the can than what isn’t.

Phocus Cola Considering all the innovative flavors and bold formulations found on the beverage market today, is it wrong for us to say that we miss the taste of cola every now and then? At least Phocus understands that sentiment: the line of functional sparkling waters — which contain natural caffeine and L-theanine — released Cola as its newest flavor in July, albeit in a decidedly guilt-free zero calorie, sweetener-free version. Coke and Pepsi need not worry just yet, but if flavored sparkling water is truly the CSD-killer some suggest, Phocus Cola should be considered a potent, better-foryou warning shot.

Ugly Drinks (2020 Limited Edition Flavors)

GT’s Kombucha Golden Pineapple With this launch, GT’s seemingly found a way to take the brand’s positive vibes and distill them into liquid form. The combination of bright, juicy pineapple, a tart kiss of lemon juice, fresh sage and a crisp


Thanks to its playful brand personality and digital-first approach, Ugly has emerged as a rising name in the exploding sparkling water space in recent years. But the brand’s unique voice and place in the category is perhaps best reflected in its limited-edition releases, which this year has seen vintage soda flavors (Cherry Cola, Dr. Ugly) feature alongside some less-than-traditional

formulations (Fruit Punch, Candy Cane). Granted, they aren’t the only brand experimenting with flavors, but Ugly’s willingness to successfully either push the envelope (Pumpkin Spice — really) or recalibrate the classics (the chug-worthy Orange Soda), and in the process further its connection with new and longtime consumers, make it worthy of special notice.

Hella Bitters & Soda (2020 Flavors) For the initial two releases in its ready-to-drink Bitters & Soda line last year, one “Dry” and one “Spritz,” New York-based Hella Cocktail Co. treaded relatively lightly when it came to easing consumers into the concept. But with that work done, in 2020 the brand was freed to embrace bolder and brighter flavors with the introduction of Grapefruit, Lemon Lime and Ginger Turmeric varieties. While the featured ingredients may be familiar, the dynamic and precise interplay of sweet, sour and bitter notes in each creates a more vibrant (and functional) drinking experience than suggested by the sum of its parts, and teases at the prospects for further enticing innovations.

Super Coffee Coconut Mocha It was a breakthrough year

for Kitu Life Super Coffee, signing a master distribution agreement with AnheuserBusch InBev to board DSD trucks nationwide and releasing a slate of plant-based innovations. Among these new vegan-friendly offerings was Coconut Mocha, a flavor addition to the brand’s core line containing zero added sugar, 10 grams of plant protein, 200 mg of caffeine and MCTs. The SKU delivers on taste while showcasing Super Coffee’s ability to expand its brand platform to a new range of consumers.

Culture Pop Amid this year’s wave of better-for-you functional soda launches, Culture Pop -- a new brand spearheaded by industry veteran Tom First -- came out the gate with the full package. In addition to catchy packaging and on-trend use of probiotics, Culture Pop has differentiated itself through complex (but tasty and refreshing) flavor profiles such as Orange Mango Chili & Lime and Watermelon Lime & Rosemary. To quote its tagline, the “subtly spicy and slightly sweet” concoctions were an easy selection as one of 2020’s best new products.

Health-Ade Booch Pop In a year featuring multiple line extensions from the trailblazing kombucha maker, Health-Ade Booch Pop stood out as one of the most innovative -- not just in terms

of flavor and function, but in expanding the brand’s use occasions and audience. WIth fruit-forward flavors and vibrant packaging, this canned, shelf-stable line married the best of soda with the best of kombucha to create a betterfor-you, refreshing beverage that has thus far provided the brand with incremental sales and new avenues for growth.

and nutrient rich juice blends — Blueberry Ginger, Pineapple Orange, Grapefruit Citrus and Strawberry Passionfruit — gives the drink its substance, while the fizzy zip of bubbles adds a touch of style. For a brand that has successfully found unique use occasions and formats for cold-pressed juice beverages, Suja has done the opposite here by creating possibly its most versatile and broadly appealing line yet.

BEST NEW SPIRITS PRODUCTS Hoplark HopTea (2020 Seasonal Flavors) Bucking all conventional wisdom, Hoplark HopTea has paved a path for itself by deliberately blurring category lines with its non-alcoholic hopped iced teas that simultaneously play in the beer and standard beverage sets. Though it may not be technically making beer, HopTea is still taking its cues from the craft world with its line of limited edition seasonals. Flavors like The Blooming One, The Sublime Sabro One, The Brilliant Mosaic One and The Royal Citra One have showcased HopTea’s willingness to experiment and ability to innovate both brilliantly and consistently.

Suja Sparkling Cold-Pressed Juice Adding a spark of carbonation to organic cold-pressed juice — it couldn’t really be that simple, could it? Apparently so. The brilliance of Suja’s foray into sparkling refreshment is in its simplicity, as the brand’s experience in crafting flavorful

Tip Top Proper Cocktails Just as a great bartender needs to know how to make the classics, so should a great ready-to-pour cocktail brand. Tip Top Proper Cocktails debuted this year with a line of familiar libations including Manhattan, Old Fashioned and Negroni, all in 3.3 oz. cans and containing between 25% and 37% ABV per serving. The premium look and feel of the packaging, combined with regal turn-ofthe-century style branding (the giraffe with a top hat and monocle is a wonderful touch), do a lot to communicate the quality of the liquid inside. Once they’ve been poured and stirred, it’s easy to declare it among the best of the year. Drnxmyth Traditionally, nailing the flavor of a fresh-made cocktail has been one of the biggest challenges for the RTD space. While innumerable brands have been felled by formula-

tion issues, Drnxmyth has found a phenomenal workaround by keeping the liquor and other ingredients separate through a proprietary 16 oz. bottle design. The brand’s five flavors are pasteurized via HPP and the consumer only needs to twist the bottle to break a seal, shake and combine the mixer with the spirit. The results can’t be argued with, from its Bourbon Sour to Classic Margarita to its Rum Punch, Drnxmyth delivers on the liquid and brings it all home with clean, sophisticated branding.

Elenita If Elenita’s sparkling mezcal cocktails taste authentic, it may be because the drinks are produced in Mexico using agave Espadin. But in addition to succeeding on flavor -- the brand’s smoky Cucumber Lime Basil and Pineapple Jalapeno SKUs are both excellent in their own right -- Elenita also deserves recognition for filling a notable white space in the RTD cocktail space by introducing one of the first mezcal-based products to the categoryas promised, zero grams of sugar, Humm’s four-SKU line offers a bridge to mainstream consumer tastes, but without leaving its core audience behind. And though zero sugar is the big callout, the superb execution of these brews, matched by the clean, attractive design of the 11 oz. cans, makes Humm Zero more about what is in the can than what isn’t. 53



COVID-19 is set to continue influencing beverage flavor and ingredient trends in 2021 Hurtling from one traumatic year straight into another one rife with its own uncertainty, there’s one thing we’re all sure to need in 2021: something that tastes good. Boldly predicting the latest trends and innovations in beverage is difficult in a normal year, but after a once-in-a-century global pandemic, it certainly isn’t any easier. COVID-19’s devastating effects on public health and the economy are still being felt, which itself is sparking changes in how people think about, shop for and ultimately consume beverages. Some of those shifts may seem obvious: people want to avoid getting sick, so they buy more drinks with immunity claims. But a closer examination reveals a more nuanced picture of how increased anxiety and stress from the pandemic has influenced consumer decisions around beverage and pushed them to seek out physical, mental and emotional benefits from different and sometimes unfamiliar sources. For our annual look at the flavor and ingredient trends that will shape the year ahead, BevNET spoke with suppliers, brands and industry experts to glean insights on the future of beverage innovation. 54 BEVNET MAGAZINE – JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2021

By Martín Caballero

Health, Wellness and Room for Indulgence If there’s a single truth running across all beverage categories, it’s that consumers are looking to get more out of each sip of their favorite drinks. And as those consumers begin to look for different types of functional benefits, brands are eager to provide them with options, whether in the form of a whole line or through value added SKUs. Flavorman listed functionality as one of its 2021 ingredient trend predictions, noting how the pandemic sparked a sharp rise in interest in immunity boosting products, specifically natural ones. “Expect fragrant flavors like hibiscus, elderflower, and orange blossom to be combined with other berry, botanical, and citrus elements to emphasize functional ingredient blends in naturally positioned teas, enhanced waters, flavored kombucha, and more,” the company wrote. Doug Resh, Director of Commercial Marketing at ingredient manufacturer T. Hasegawa, agreed that beverages offering immune system support will continue to be in-demand through 2021 as consumers seek out preventative treatments for future illnesses and ailments. He said he expects more beverages to

make explicit front-of-pack immune support claims this year, which will likely be differentiated in which ingredients they feature, thus adding another element that needs to be properly communicated. The key for brands is “not just to add loads of vitamins but to explain to consumers the intended function of the beverages,” Resh said. If brands can do that, there would appear to be ample opportunity to pioneer new functional categories beyond immunity. With consumers spending more time in front of screens than ever before, Resh noted that products that contain ingredients

medium for these ingredients, expect to see sleep or anti-energy drinks capturing consumer interest. These are not meant for people with medical conditions or chronic sleep disorders, just for those who could use some help relaxing before bedtime.” Despite their timely appeal, however, immunity benefits aren’t the only thing consumers seek. The increase in stress and anxiety is also helping push them towards nostalgic and indulgent flavors from their childhood: according to Spoonshot, interest in flavors categorized as such increased by 13%. Had the pandemic not occurred, the data showed that interest would have instead declined 6%. As such, a growing number of adult beverages are taking their cues from products like children’s juices, breakfast cereals and sweet treats. Vasani said that he sees that trend coinciding with drinkers taking a “more moderate look at [sugar] consumption” and finding a place within their diets for indulgent drinks with more emotional than nutritional rewards, rather than completely excluding them. With that in mind, expect to see a rise in flavors like cookie dough and peanut butter, he added. T. Hasegawa also noted in its 2021 flavor trends report that sports nutrition beverage consumers appear to be driving the shift by embracing dessertinspired flavors like brownie, birthday cake, s’mores and others. Elsewhere, writing in Flavorman’s trend report, Kristen Wemer, Flavorman’s Director of Beverage Development, wrote that 2021 will see the return of “classic flavors but in unexpected, more sophisticated forms.” “When you think about childhood flavors re-imagined for premium applications, you get something like a smokey vanilla cold brew, bubble gum seltzer, or a fruit punch gin cocktail,” Wemer said. “We’re experiencing a renaissance of these nostalgic flavors— peanut butter, orange creamsicle, grape cotton candy— in concepts like hard coffee, energy drinks, and craft soda.”

that promote eye health -- including vitamin A, vitamin E, zinc, omega-3 fatty acids and lutein -- can be positioned as a way to mitigate the effects of too much screen time. Sticking with the theme of resting eyes, according to research platform Spoonshot, U.S. consumers’ level of concern about the quality and quantity of their sleep has increased 40% over the last year and is projected to go up by 12% in the coming year. “Ingredients that can offer solutions to help consumers get a good night’s rest are going to see some traction in the coming year,” said Kishan Vasani, co-founder of Spoonshot, citing options such as tart cherry (rich in melatonin), dairy (tryptophan) and kiwi (serotonin). “Since beverages tend to be an easy

Cannabis/CBD Within the realm of ingredient technology and processing, the maturing consumer market is presenting new opportunities for suppliers in the cannabis (THC or CBD) space. Like many other cannabis ingredient processors, Industrial Sonomechanics is focused on nanoencapsulation and nanoemulsion to create highly bioavailable, fast-absorbing water-soluble cannabis extracts. According to the company’s executive vice president and COO Jeffrey Meyer, advances in production of water-compatible CBD and THC formulations now allow beverage manufacturers more freedom to develop drinks that serve specific use occasions and desired benefits, thus allowing brands to build out their product


portfolios with a range of SKUs. “Now, consumers can dictate what they want out of their product and expect companies with the right equipment and formulations can create high-quality products that enable predictable onset times with predictable strength of effects,” he said. Improvements in the speed and potency of delivery of CBD or other cannabinoids into the body can also help enhance how they interact with each other, said Christopher Shade, Ph.D., the founder and CEO of Quicksilver Science. The company has teamed with Truss USA, a joint venture between Molson Coors and Canadian supplier HEXO Cannabis, to use its nanoemulsion technology in Veryvell, a new line of non-alcoholic CBD beverages that launched exclusively in Colorado in January. “Another major trend we’ll see in addition to a nanoemulsion cannabinoid delivery method is the use of functional ingredients to create an entourage effect,” Shade said. “Manufacturers have the opportunity to enhance and expand the benefits of their beverages beyond the effects of cannabis alone by combining different herbal or nutraceutical compounds and terpenes, or terpene blends,” which will help create a deeper flavor palette and allow for different kinds of THC or CBD beverages for different occasions. Sticking with flavor, Meyer noted that he sees two distinct trends developing: one segment of consumers want to taste the unique terpenes and flavonoids from the cannabis plant (drinkers “want to identify with what they are consuming,” he noted), and another segment wants to taste anything but that. Rather than something to be wary of, Industrial Sonomechanics President and chief scientific officer Alexey Peshkovsky said it was an indication of growth. “The industry is learning that not ev-

eryone’s tastes are monolith in the CBD/THC beverage space,” he said. “If there’s a market for a certain flavor profile or taste, the industry will adapt. Given the tools and product options, the branders, the designers and the marketers will be there, ready to fill that need.” Yet as ubiquitous as it may seem at the moment, it’s easy to forget that we are still in the early days of infused beverages: THC and CBD are just two of the dozens of cannabinoids that exist in cannabis, the vast majority of which haven’t yet been named or fully explored in commercial applications. But the

strength of the trend is too significant to ignore: according to market research group Euromonitor, the U.S. market for adultuse cannabis, including in beverages and edibles, is set to reach $53.6 billion by 2025. As acceptance of this segment continues, those other cannabinoids may present future growth opportunities, said Ian Monat, CEO and co-founder of Rhythm CBD Seltzers. “Awareness of minor cannabinoids like CBG and CBD is still low, and the price of the ingredient is still relatively high,” he said. “But 2021 could be the year we start to see them come into focus and be added to existing CBD beverage formulas, or maybe even get their own SKU.” 57

Homing In COVID-19 Makes it Clear that the Mixer’s Place is in the Home Bar

By Brad Avery


If, during the pandemic you’ve found yourself longing for the atmosphere of a cocktail lounge and the taste of a professionally prepared adult drink, you’re far from the only one. As consumers steered clear of bars and restaurants (despite limited openings around the country), sales of mixers and spirits grew as people shook up their drinking routines by making their favorite cocktails from the comfort and safety of their homes. Retail tracking data show that both halves of the mixed drink -- the spirit and the mixer -- were in high demand in the past year. Mixers grew 35.4% to $404.9 million in MULO during the 52-week period ending January 14, according to market research firm SPINS. The category’s rise accompanied a 19.9% spike in distilled spirits, to $7.1 billion. Jordan Silbert, founder and CEO of premium mixer brand Q Drinks, said that he believed the pandemic accelerated growth trends in the mixer category that had already been occurring. According to the brand’s internal data, Q was up 73% in MULO for 52-weeks as of January, while international competitor Fever Tree grew 53% and stalwart legacy brand Canada Dry improved 18%. In the four-week period between December and January, Q grew 54%, while Fever Tree was up 38% and Canada Dry fell 7%. With the pandemic propelling sales, the challenge now is how to maintain the momentum as the world anticipates a broad reopening later this year. Silbert said that although Q far exceeded past years’ velocity growth in 2020, the brand “had the same amount of placements on March 12 that we did on November 12 and December 12.” The company is now focused on leveraging its strong performance to expand distribution, beginning with a six SKU rollout into Publix this month. As retailers resume resets, Silbert also hopes to expand Q’s shelf space within its existing partners -- like Stop and Shop and Shaws, to increase in-store placements. He also noted that the brand was the highest driver of incremental dollars among mixers in Kroger last year, despite having only “14 inches of space on the bottom shelf.” “What these last four weeks show you is that the trend is continuing,” Silbert said. “There is this move towards cocktails that are easy to make, there’s a move towards premium in general, but particularly around spirits and premium mixers. So all of that, again, was happening before. And it was moving [at a pace] we thought was quickly, but now COVID has been a real accelerator.” Although there will be a day when people can once again enjoy the luxury of drinking on-premise, some entrepreneurs in the mixer category believe the gains made this past year will be permanent as consumers embrace their newfound knowledge of at-home mixology. The growth has extended beyond just crack-and-pour mixers, but also includes more complex ingredients like bitters and syrup, notes Jomaree Pinkard, co-founder and CEO of Hella Cocktail Co. While many consumers may prefer a simple just-add-booze approach to their at-home drinks, others have gotten deeply involved in the craft of cocktail making that could be reshaping the category. The result, Pinkard said, is a “Pandora’s box” of amateur mixologists who now own the home bar materials and have the knowledge and passion to continue making drinks. “Now it’s about building your cocktail or building your mocktail, and knowing what are the ingredients that go into it,” Pinkard said. “And that covers everyone from whether you’re an enthusiast, who wants to know every single nook and cranny and uses Mexican Chocolate bitters as a base, or someone who’s like, I just wanna make something that’s good and that reminds me of the bar. Anywhere along the journey involves being more and more educated and interested in the process.” Like many CPG brands, COVID brought a new view on omnichannel retailing to Hella: the company’s online sales grew 400% last year, Pinkard said, while retail sales grew around 50% -- though he noted Hella is working from a smaller, seven-figure baseline. While the company plans to continue to go deeper into e-commerce, much like Q Drinks, Hella also hopes to be able 59

to turn the year’s momentum into expanded retail distribution. But Pinkard acknowledged that the category, and in particular smaller brands, still faces an uphill battle in traditional retail. Part of that is because of the reset schedule: Currently, most retailers will only do mixer category reviews sparingly, sometimes only once every two or three years, Pinkard said. That limited shelf space means that even as their velocities spike, brands like Hella must still compete for limited space against the bigger Canada Drys and Fever Trees of the space. And with tighter competition, Pinkard said he fears slotting fees could increase. “For retail, we will continue to try to access those points of distribution, but now as the mixer shelf has its heyday, it’s going to be like ‘well, everyone’s up 40%, so why would I substitute for you?’” Pinkard said. “And so it’s going to be a hard battle for different reasons, right? Because everyone’s up. And you’ve got to be able to prove that you can beat that number.” The struggle is even harder for startups. Michiganbased company Proof & Union launched last winter with a brand called Fullbar that sells separately packaged cans of spirits and accompanying mixers. The brand’s portfolio includes Gin, Rum, Tequila, Vodka and Whiskey in 100 mL cans and Classic Margarita, Ginger Mule, Island Punch, Soda Water and Tonic Water mixers in 200 mL cans. Co-founder Brian May, a veteran of the alcohol space who previously served as VP of international business at Founders Brewing Co., said the startup raised seed capital in 2019 but found its rollout halted by the pandemic. Fullbar is currently available in about 300 stores in Michigan, Colorado and Texas, but had to pull back a Florida launch. The brand is now raising additional capital ahead of a relaunch this year. When COVID hit last March, May said Fullbar struggled as consumer pantry-loading generally benefited well-known brands. Similar to Pinkard’s concerns, he’s worried that the newfound interest his brands are finding online will erode as bigger companies make it more difficult for new products to gain placement. The brand’s mixers in particular have faced the biggest headwinds, both from competition and thinner margins. But May also believes Fullbar’s customizability and convenience will benefit it as group gatherings return. “Every time there’s a recession or some kind of a pullback there’s always new habits that form and everybody’s trying to figure that out right now,” May said. “But I think our brand proposition is still there. Events like tailgate season, all those group occasions where there’s a lot of people together that want to eat different things and try different things, that’s really where we need to be. And, you know, that’s where we’re going to try to go.”



In response to consumer demand, Regatta Craft Mixers recently launched a new 6-pack format of 7.5 oz. sleek cans across all five flavors in the award-winning Regatta range – Regatta Bermuda Stone Ginger Beer, Regatta Light Ginger Beer, Regatta Dry Citrus Tonic, Regatta Royal Oak Ginger Ale and Regatta Pacific Sea Salt Club Soda. Corsa’s premium botanical tonics (5 grams of sugar) can now be found in restaurants and cafes throughout Los Angeles as well as grocery stores like Whole Foods and Erewhon, or online for nationwide or two-hour rush delivery within L.A. Betera, the maker of refreshingly bitter, non-alcoholic sparkling beverages, has secured distribution with Scout Distribution in San Diego and Orange Counties, opening up new retail and on-premise opportunities. Just months after launching and coming out of its fi rst Dry January, Betera now ships nationally via DTC, including same-day in New York, Chicago, LA, and San Francisco. This month Wine-A-Rita, a Texas based company offering all-natural mixes made with the fi nest ingredients, introduced its newest mixer: Watermelon. The new SKU is available in three sizes, plus a bulk size for food service. Throughout the month of February, Hella Cocktail Co. will be featured alongside Uncle Nearest Whisky as part of a BlackOwned Businesses display at retailers such as Total Wine & More. The end cap displays will communicate the stories behind the brands along with QR codes that customers can use to learn more information. Hella is also continuing its ongoing video series on Instagram called #OnTheMenuNow, a campaign aimed at magnifying Black-owned businesses by sharing brand journeys, insights and experiences touching on a number of topics. POWELL & MAHONEY line’s of Non-GMO Project Verified mixers have launched nationally at CVS and are the fi rst mixer products to be carried by the chain. 62 BEVNET MAGAZINE – JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2021

The newest addition to Lyre’s range of artisan non-alcoholic aperitifs is Italian Spritz, a mix of prosecco, bitter Italian liqueur and soda crafted to capture the essence of a classic Aperol or other spritz with flavors that are distinct and contemporary. By keeping sugar content low, the palate of the spritz is a bit cleaner and the bitterness of the herbs and spices comes through easier. Navy Hill has expanded its retail footprint to include all Harris Teeter stores, Publix, Pennsylvania Fine Wine and Liquor, and select King Sooper stores in addition to their existing presence at Whole Foods, The Fresh Market, World Market and Central Market. The company just completed a round of funding led by Silver Falcon Capital, which will be used to grow distribution, expand the team and increase marketing efforts. Swoon Mixers and Syrup is expanding its presence into a whole new beverage category with the launch of its fi rst ready-to-drink beverage: a line of zero sugar lemonades available in Classic, Pink, and Half & Half flavors. Swoon Lemonade launched in early 2021 with KeHE and UNFI nationally. The drinks retail for $1.99-$2.49 per 12oz can. Swoon Lemonades are also available nationwide for shipping 12 packs for $29.99. Nickel Dime Cocktail Syrups have created a Sample Kit / Gift Pack featuring four 2 oz. bottles of each of the brand’s crave-worthy syrups: Caged Heat, Crimson Smoke, Fairy Dust and Cherry Bomb. Each 2 oz bottle makes two cocktails or mocktails, and is an ideal way to try all the flavors. Makers of a line of non-alcoholic readyto-drink mimosas made with California grapes, Fauxmosa has is now available in four delicious flavors: Orange with Turmeric, Cranberry with Hibiscus & Ginger, Pineapple with Lemon & Mint, and Grapefruit with Raspberry & Holy Basil. The line is now available via Pod Foods in Greater Los Angeles, San Francisco Bay Area, Greater Chicago Area, New York, Washington D.C., and Texas.

Beverage company Crafted Brand Company has two brand new releases now going into distribution with KeHE: Organic Tonic and Organic Light Tonic, the only premium USDA Certified Organic tonics in the U.S. with no preservatives. The line can be sold in single 12 oz. bottles ($1.99 each) or 4-pack carry case (SRP $5.99-$6.99). The Bitter Housewife is extending its ready-to-drink Bitters & Soda line with a new flavor: Orange Bitters & Soda, which has a bright citrus taste with hints of cardamom, allspice, and hops. Along with the original Aromatic SKU, Orange Bitters & Soda are available for direct purchase online at, and in select stores throughout Oregon and Washington in individual 12 oz. slim cans (SRP $3) or 4-packs (SRP $12). In February, craft cocktail elixir maker Liquid Alchemist is releasing a new 375ml bottle as well as three new syrup flavors: peach, blood orange and simple syrup. The product line also recently secured distribution agreements with Southern Glazers Wine & Spirits, Sysco, LibDib and Faire. Backyard Soda was recently accepted into the new CBD set at Sprouts Market in Colorado stores. Three flavors -Mango Jalapeno, Lavender Lemon, and Ginger Lime -- will be entering the retailer in Q2. The brand’s CBD and regular cocktail syrups were also a featured product in Bespoke Post’s new Last Call subscription box which highlights premium cocktail mixes for the home mixologist. New brand Hazlo has announced the launch of its new craft mixer made with powerful adaptogens and antioxidants. The launch will take place in May 2021 through their online store at drinkhazlo. com.


U.S. Spirits Industry Resilient Despite COVID-19 Big players maintain, but the hospitality industry and craft distillers suffer detrimental losses. By Jennifer Cirillo

Amidst a worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, as the restaurants and bars shut down, Americans drank at home. To wit: the spirits industry in the U.S. saw positive growth in 2020, with supplier sales up 7.7 percent to $31.2 billion and volume up 5.3 percent amounting to 251 million 9-liter cases, reported the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) at its annual economic briefi ng. In all, the alcohol beverage market saw sales grow 3 percent by volume. Also In 2020, spirits gained market share over beer and wine, with sales rising 1.3 points to 39.1 percent of the total beverage alcohol market, according to DISCUS. That marks the 11th straight 64 BEVNET MAGAZINE – JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2021

year of market share gains for spirits. This time, the gains can be understood by reviewing the shift in consumer buying habits with strong off-premise sales, which offset on-premise closures. In the U.S., spirits sales are already heavily weighted toward the home market, accounting for about 80 percent of the category, DISCUS Chief Economist David Ozgo reported. During the early stages of the pandemic, off-premise sales spiked even further, then decreased as the months went on, he said. “The increase in spirits sales revenue refl ects consumers’ willingness to spend a little extra on super-premium spirits during the past year since they were not traveling, going on vacations

or dining out as often,” Ozgo said. DISCUS reported sales of super-premium spirits represented 40 percent of revenue growth. “It also refl ected consumers’ desire to bring that special restaurant and bar experience they were missing into their homes,” Ozgo adds. “We saw a renewed interest in home bartending as people stocked their bars with a range of spirits categories to experiment with new drink recipes and create craft cocktails at home.” While spirits fared well, the impact of COVID-19 on the hospitality industry and craft spirits in the U.S. has been detrimental, with on-premise sales down 44 percent, according to Ozgo.

In April, U.S. restaurants and bars lost 5.8 million jobs—almost one out of every two jobs, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Through December 2020, 2.3 million jobs have not been recovered. According to NielsenIQ, total spirits in the U.S. off-premise were up 25.1 percent in dollar sales and 19.9 percent in volume sales year-over-year for the 52-week period ending Dec. 26, 2020. But restaurants and bars remain key awareness channels for spirits, and the ongoing loss of those accounts is helping choke off the ability of new brands to reach consumers.

LOSING VENUES For smaller players, the on-premise closures have had a signifi cant

impact on business. A new survey of COVID-19 impacts on craft distilleries by DISCUS and the American Distilling Institute found that 36 percent of craft distilleries reported a total revenue decline of 25 percent or more in 2020. Dr. Sonat Birnecker Hart, President and Founder, KOVAL Distillery based in Chicago spoke at the economic briefi ng for the spirits body and offered a snapshot of the pandemic’s impact on craft distillers. Those companies can rely on anywhere from 20 to 80 percent of sales being generated from their tasting rooms and bars. Tourism also plays a critical role: in 2019 KOVAL welcomed 15,000 visitors on its distillery tour; in 2020 that number was reduced to zero.

“Spirit brands are reeling from the loss of on-premise sales, and consumers facing economic hardships prioritize known, familiar brands over experimentation,” says Caleb Bryant, associate director of Food and Drink Reports, Mintel in a report published in December. Still, he noted, “opportunities within the market exist despite these challenges,” DISCUS President and CEO Chris Swonger points to new marketplace modernizations that can aid the recovery of restaurants, bars and craft distilleries. Governors across the country, for example, issued temporary measures such as cocktails-to-go and expanded delivery options in a quick response to COVID-19. This effort continues as state legislatures


2020 Key Spirits Category Drivers of Sales Growth in the U.S. Included: • American Whiskey sales up

8.2 percent or $327 million to $4.3 billion; Rye remains an important component of the overall American Whiskey category growth with sales up 16.9 percent or $40 million, reaching $275 million

• Tequila/Mezcal sales up 17.4

percent or $587 million to $4.0 billion; Mezcal up 17.7 percent or $19 million totaling $124 million

• Cognac sales up 21.3 percent or $413 million to $2.4 billion

• Pre-mixed cocktails sales, driven

by spirits ready-to-drink (RTD) products, up 39.1 percent or $137 million to $489 million. (SOURCE: DISCUS)

are pressing forward to make many of these effective relief measures permanent. In fact, 18 states have fi led legislation to make cocktails-to-go permanent and more bills are expected. Legislation has also been fi led in some states to permit direct-toconsumer shipping of spirits, which was expanded in eight states during the pandemic to support craft distillers forced to shut. These innovative relief measures can boost economic recovery, Swonger says. “Permanently enacting marketplace modernizations introduced in response to COVID-19, from online delivery to cocktails-to-go, will aid in the recovery of restaurants, bars and craft distilleries,” he said. Throughout the pandemic companies have been launching campaigns for support. DISCUS recently introduced DISCUS Academy offering courses for the Spirits Industry in fi ve 66 BEVNET MAGAZINE – JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2021

key areas: leadership, laws and regulations, safety and risk management and business and fi nance. This is just one of the ways the industry is putting efforts forward to help progress businesses to provide the best outcome for the future in unstable times. Nevertheless, the recovery trajectory is very much dependent on the longevity of the pandemic and the state of the economy.

NEW OPPORTUNITIES Spirits companies have pivoted from on-premise to the off-premise marketing and e-commerce to take advantage of other sales opportunities to salvage lost chances to reach consumers. That’s happening at the craft level and the big company level as well, where brands see an opportunity to innovate and provide consumers with products and services that may not have been as desirable pre-

pandemic. The RTD trend, for example, has accelerated as a result of the pandemic, according to Mintel, as ready-made cocktails to consume at home are appealing to consumers looking for a convenient option. In addition, reducing package size to drive trial has become another way for brands to engage with consumers at home. In the same way eCommerce offers no-hassle delivery service, some companies have also operated cocktail to-go services. “We’ve seen unexpected opportunities as demand has shifted from out of home to in-home consumption,” says a Beam Suntory spokesperson, pointing out that the company recently scooped up RTD cocktail maker On The Rocks. “We are excited about the long-term opportunity in eCommerce and are working to ensure we are capturing our share of this growth during COVID-19 and beyond.”


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Flavor Manufacturer Mother Murphy's Flavors

EXBERRY® by GNT is the leading brand of natural food coloring for the food and beverage industry. EXBERRY® colors are derived solely from fruits, vegetables, and edible plants through a process of chopping, pressing, filtering and blending. EXBERRY® products can be applied to a range of beverage categories including enhanced waters, carbonated soft drinks, dairy, and plant-based milks.

Mother Murphy's is a full service flavor manufacturer dedicated to supporting customer needs through quality and flavor innovation. At Mother Murphy's we specialize in flavor and prototype development for the beverage and snack industries and have over 60,000 flavors in our portfolio. We have made the world taste better for 75 years!

Experience the ISI Difference Ingredients Solutions Inc.

Small Scale Thermal Processors MTI Bioscience

For TEXTURE & STABILITY, experience the ISI difference. Our product line includes Agar, Carrageenan, Gellan, Konjac, Hydroxypropyl Methylcellulose, Locust Bean, Methylcellulose, Microcrystalline Cellulose, Pea Protein, Pectin, Propylene Glycol Alginate, Sodium Alginate, Tara and Xanthan. Our technical support team and R&D lab are equipped to assist customers in their product development projects

MTI Bioscience (A MicroThermics sister company) clients expedite R&D by bringing new products to market rapidly and cost effective. Seamless scale up from R&D to production with: Awardwinning systems for Ultra High Temperature (UHT), High Temperature Short Time (HTST), Pasteurization, and Aseptic Processing. Two and three-piston homogenizers, clean fill hoods, and aseptic fillers.


Water Soluble CBD Additive Mixer Elixir

PakLock Cannabis Beverages PakTech

SUPPLIER & SERVICES LISTINGS Packaging Line Automation Ska Fabricating


Natural, Clean Label Flavors Omega Ingredients Ltd

Branding & Package Design Watermark Design

We are Omega Ingredients, Award Winning Creators of Natural Flavors & Clean Label Ingredients for Innovative Beverage Development. Our focus is on 100% Pure & Natural ingredients, helping to create your next beverage from ‘Source to Sip.’ We specialize in the innovative fusion of biochemistry & natural materials to provide the finest extracts & natural flavors, with a taste as nature intended.

Watermark Design is an award-winning branding and package design studio delivering exceptional artistry. We believe that great design drives sales through the initial brand interaction, whether on-line or on-shelf. With experience comes knowledge. We have been designing for premium brands & products since 2007. Let our experience lead your brand to the front of the pack, out of the gate.

Fruit & Vegetable Ingredients Stiebs

Co-Pack and Can Supplier Wild Leaf Beverages

Stiebs, since 2005, has been devoted to sourcing, processing & delivering the world's finest plantbased products. We offer a full line of fruit & vegetable based ingredients as single strength juice, juice concentrate, purees, extracts & powders. From the beginning stages of product development to delivering an on-going supply of premium natural products, our team is here to help you succeed.

Wild Leaf Beverage is a world-class class co-packing and co-manufacturing company that specializes in producing both alcoholic and non-alcoholic, ready-to-drink beverages. With locations in Baltimore, Sacramento, and Las Vegas, we can produce and package your beverage in aluminum cans of all sizes. We are also a supplier of shrink sleeved cans and other packaging materials.

Inspiring Taste & Innovation Synergy Flavors, Inc

Synergy Flavors is a leading manufacturer and supplier of flavorings, extracts and essences for the global food, beverage, and nutrition industries. With over 130 years of expertise, we combine a long heritage of flavor development with modern extraction technology, blending art, science, and market insights to create an exceptional array of profiles that inspire taste and drive innovation.

Vortex Cannabis is a fully licensed producer in Canada, licensed for cultivation, processing, and sales. Hydrocarbon Extraction (THC and CBD) Edible Manufacturing (Gummies, Baked Goods, Chocolates etc) Solventless Extraction Vape Pens and Cartridges Formulation, Manufacturing, Packaging, and Sales to every province throughout Canada. Contact: (450) 687-9333








A. Holliday & Company Inc.

Christine Renken



(416) 225-2217




(630) 859-1410

Abelei Flavors Ablis CBD

Max Bendis



(502) 741-7043

AIBMR Life Sciences, Inc.

Jared Brodin



(253) 286-2888

Applied Food Sciences (AFS)

John Kathrein



(512) 732-8300

Aqua ViTea Kombucha

Laura Smith



(802) 453-8590

Jonathan Schultz



(216) 534-7378

Karen Trotter



(713) 302-1365

Backyard Soda Co. Bayou City Hemp Company Beak & Skiff Research

Eddie Brennan



(315) 406-1425


Saint Paul


(866) 956-4608

Jolene Jacobs



(720) 273-3824


Kim Carson



(360) 412-3340

Candelay Industries

Chris Geisert



(302) 696-2464


Jake Bullock



(303) 929-2286




(800) 940-3660

BevSource Caliper Ingredients

CBD Living Citromax Flavors Inc.

Zeynep Taskin



(201) 933-8405

Closure Systems International

Clint Rush



(800) 311-2740

Cloud Water Brands

Sonia Ortiz

New York


(281) 731-9644

CMC Beverage Solutions Colorados Best Drinks Cruise Beverage Deerland Probiotics and Enzyme DWS Printing Associates, Inc.

Mark Rosenberger



(762) 234-1781

Ashley Knotek



(802) 355-9771

Brian Post



(847) 372-7391

Leanne Levy



(404) 797-3138


Deer Park


(516) 769-1907

Colleen Roberts

South Plainfield


(908) 822-8855


Phil Icsman



(502) 289-5549

Foa & Son

Bradley Hamburger

Rye Brook


(212) 812-8990

John Fishel



(630) 578-8638


John Murphy

Salt Lake City


(801) 975-2604



New York


(212) 966-2417

Flavor Dynamics, Inc.

FONA International

Franklin Baker, Inc.

John Slade



(901) 881-6681

Jeannette O'Brien



(914) 524-0600

Ingredients Solutions Inc.

Danielle Ashey



(207) 722-4172

Jibby Coffee

Alvaro Ortega



(305) 479-7821


Robert Clark



(321) 289-0631


Kona Gold

Robert Clark



(321) 289-0631

Scott Schaible



(720) 795-5547

Living CBD

Alexandre Bennet

New York


(914) 364-6920





Mixer Elixir

Karen Trotter



(713) 302-1365

Mo George-Payette

Huntington Beach


(714) 401-7435

Paul Paslaski



(847) 367-6665

Liquid Core Gum Company

MOMO's CBD MONK FRUIT CORP. Mother Murphy's Flavors

Michael Oden



(336) 273-1737

MTI Bioscience

Eric Schraibman



(919) 594-9658


Brandon Savela



(763) 221-6578

John Lynch



(970) 426-4660

Jim Kavanaugh




Oh Hi Beverages Inc. Omega Ingredients Ltd PakTech Prism Beverage




(541) 461-5000

Kiley Hoyt



(503) 367-2018




Ska Fabricating Sprig Stiebs Sweet Crude Synergy Flavors, Inc Udder Free Only Untitled Art Vortex Cannabis Inc W*nder Watermark Design Wild Leaf Beverages YSUB





Jake Kolakowski



(970) 403-8562

Josh Rosinsky

Newport Beach


(646) 345-5913

Brian Nova



(559) 455-8606

Talia Bennick



(512) 693-7379

Chris Ricco



(847) 487-1011

Drew Schwartz

Los Angeles


(716) 912-1707

Lefan Shi



(608) 335-3032




(450) 687-9333

Tanisha Robinson



(614) 233-1244

Watermark Design



(434) 295-5625

Wild Leaf Beverages



(443) 873-0103

Petri Nyländen



(358) 407-3407




Pressed Juicery Partners with Artists to Commemorate Black History Month Through the Power of Art In celebration of Black History Month, Pressed Juicery has partnered with three Black artists who are making a meaningful impact in their communities. These artists were each invited to provide a design for a special label for one of Pressed’s juices to showcase their work and commemorate Black History Month through the power of art. Proceeds from the sale of these one-of-a-kind juices throughout the month of February will support the artist’s ongoing work to promote solidarity, strength, and diversity within their work and community. The artists’ unique labels will be featured on three of Pressed Juicery’s top selling juices: Citrus 2, Orange Turmeric and Roots 3. Pressed will donate a portion of proceeds from every sale of these three juices to the artist to support their continued efforts in promoting diversity, solidarity and strength. “By celebrating Black History Month, Pressed aims to honor the achievements of all Black Americans and commemorate them through the work of these inspiring artists,” says Pressed Juicery CMO Michelle Peterson. “We invite our customers to join us in celebrating Black history and honoring the Black voices that continue to shape our future.” Austin-based Alannah Tiller’s piece titled Melanated is featured on Citrus 2 and was “inspired by the black family,” she says. “The use of shapes and shades of brown were chosen to represent the diversity in our black community. I then layered the line work on top with their portraits and each portrait is connected to signify the family dynamic.” Her

work can be described as spontaneous, moment driven line work that attempts to abstract everyday objects and people. To see more of her work or purchase a piece of art visit her page on Instagram @alilscribble. Artist Mikenzi Jones’s piece Melanin Rainbow is proudly featured on Pressed’s Orange Turmeric bottle. A self-confessed “hippie at heart”, Mikenzi is passionate about health and wellness and credits activism, equality, women of color, and women empowerment for being the biggest inspirations for her work. “Growing up without representation of women who looked like me, it was important for me to create a piece that helped black women feel included, beautiful and confident just the way they are.” Visit her Instagram @mikenzijonesto see more of her work. Perryn Ford, a Brooklyn-based artist who worked as a technical designer in the fashion industry for 10 years before making art her full time focus, created a unique piece titled Scorpion to be featured on the Roots 3 bottle. “My current work is inspired by my life as a self-care enthusiast, wellness advocate, and woman,” she says. The piece she created for Pressed is part of a larger series, “Life in Flow Motion”, inspired by her love and appreciation for yoga and the effect it’s had on her life. “Life is all about balances, and I think especially right now, we could all use a reminder to breathe, find our balance, and just go with the flow!” Visit her Instagram @perrynryanto see more of her work. The limited-edition bottles will be available for purchase in-store, online and orders through the Pressed Juicery app.

Waterloo Sparkling Water Donates to Small Businesses Impacted by Pandemic

said Shiver. “Austin is a city of entrepreneurship and independent thinking, and we lean hard into doing the right thing – the foundation that Waterloo has been built upon. In this spirit – staying true to Waterloo’s brand values – we encourage other business leaders in Austin and beyond to lock arms with us to help the small business community. It is a vital sector of our economy and essential to driving innovation, so we urge you to donate, fundraise or simply use your voice to raise awareness of this important need.” The Barstool Fund, created by Barstool Sports on behalf of small businesses, has raised $22 million to support 111 businesses to date. “We appreciate Jason stepping up and partnering with us to support small, local businesses. We were inspired by how he gave his company’s voice to the cause and it gives us hope that together we can usher in a brighter future,” said Erika Nardini, Barstool Sports CEO. Small business owners in need of help due to the impacts of COVID can submit an application For those able to donate, a tax-deductible contribution supporting small businesses can be made at Barstool Fund.

Waterloo Sparkling Water, based in Austin and known for its refreshing, fruit-inspired flavored sparkling water, recently announced the introduction of a new employee benefit designed to support small businesses affected by the pandemic. CEO Jason Shiver introduced this new benefit at the company after making a generous personal donation to the Barstool Fund, which is raising funds to support the small business community. The benefit provides employees with a monthly $200 allowance to spend with local small businesses they value. The program hopes to create a meaningful difference in the lives of struggling small business owners and their employees, as well as inspire others to act. “Through no fault of their own in this COVID time, small business owners are facing dire challenges. As an entrepreneur myself, it has been heartbreaking to see so many members of our community, many I consider friends, watch their livelihoods evaporate,”


BODYARMOR LYTE Announces Partnership with Carrie Underwood

In January, BODYARMOR LYTE Sports Drink announced a new equity partnership with 7-time Grammy Award-winning superstar, Carrie Underwood. Best known for relationships with top athletes including Naomi Osaka, Megan Rapinoe and Dustin Johnson, the fastest-growing sports drink brand has now added a world-class musical artist to its roster by welcoming Underwood and her expanding fitness and lifestyle portfolio to the BODYARMOR team. The decision to team up with Underwood was strategic in nature, as the brand comes off an unprecedented milestone year. An extension of BODYARMOR Sports Drink, BODYARMOR LYTE offers a low calorie, no sugar added premium sports drink option with potassium-packed electrolytes, antioxidants and coconut water. The brand knows that consumers, beyond athletes, are looking for better-for-you options when it comes to sports drinks, as health and wellness trends continue to rise. And if you know anything about Carrie Underwood, you know that the better-for-you mindset matters to her, too. As an entrepreneur, Underwood will celebrate the 6th anniversary this year as founder and lead designer of her fitness and lifestyle brand, CALIA by Carrie Underwood, which is the second-highest selling women’s brand within Dick’s Sporting Goods. In 2020, she continued to turn her passion for health and wellness into a growing business empire with the launch of her fitness app, fit52, and publication of her New York Times bestselling book, FIND YOUR PATH: Honor Your Body, Fuel Your Soul, and Get Strong with the Fit52 Life, in which she shares her belief that fitness is a lifelong journey, providing a common-sense approach to staying active, eating well, and looking as beautiful as you feel, 52 weeks a year. Her partnership with BODYARMOR LYTE,

aligns perfectly with her personal mission to ensure that health and wellness is at the forefront of everything she does. “Partnering with BODYARMOR LYTE was a natural evolution for me, from a personal and professional standpoint,” said Underwood. “I’m a firm believer that what you put into your body matters, so the fact BODYARMOR LYTE is made with no artificial flavors, sweeteners and no colors from artificial sources, is important to me. BODYARMOR LYTE has everything that my body needs to recharge and keep me hydrated throughout my day and everything I do. While music will always be my first love and priority, I’m so fortunate to have been able to build my passion for health and fitness into a business model and personal brand I can stand behind and be proud of. This partnership is an important next step for me and the community I am building, which goes far beyond endorsing a brand.” To kick off the partnership, Underwood stars in a national television campaign, another first for the BODYARMOR LYTE brand. Underwood will also appear in advertising for BODYARMOR SportWater, a premium water with a performance pH9+. In the BODYARMOR LYTE campaign, Underwood is positioned alongside basketball superstar and veteran brand partner, James Harden. “BODYARMOR Sports Drink continues to resonate with consumers who are looking for healthier hydration,” said Mike Repole, Co-Founder and Chairman, BODYARMOR. “Carrie Underwood is an incredible artist and entrepreneur and hydration plays an important role in her daily lifestyle, which is why BODYARMOR LYTE works so well for her. We couldn’t be more excited to have Carrie as part of the team to help us continue to build BODYARMOR’s awareness and momentum.”


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