BevNET Live: Look Under the Hood with CEOs of Zevia, Cheribundi, Aquahydrate

From Red Bull to Honest Tea, some of the most spectacular recent beverage industry successes have evolved from outside the industry. Entrepreneurs, it can be said, are great at getting products off the ground in nontraditional ways.

But the effort required to launch an innovative new product can also leave a company on uncertain footing when traditional market realities take hold.  For every spectacular success – and for a much larger percentage of failures – there are some very rocky rides that can be expected for those beverage entrepreneurs who want to remain in control for as long as possible.

But what if you knew what the road held for you ahead of time? BevNET Live is attempting to provide a map of potential hazards by tapping the experience of those who have been there before.

To help illustrate the key issues that can plague entrepreneurial beverage companies, on Tuesday, June 5, BevNET Live will feature a panel of veteran beverage and consumer product CEOs who have moved into leadership roles at entrepreneurial beverage companies that they did not start. They will apply their experience to helping entrepreneurs understand the issues they found when they looked “under the hood” of their new ventures.

Brian Ross, the CEO of Cheribundi, Paddy Spence, the CEO of Zevia, and John Cochran, the CEO of AquaHydrate, are all known quantities in the food and beverage space, established entrepreneurs who brought experience, leadership skills and brand-building templates to companies that were all built around innovative products, but were demonstrating uneven performance.

Not all of the problems an emerging company faces can be attributed to inexperience, of course – but these three CEO’s have all had multiple opportunities to take on new ventures and determine where tinkering might be needed. All three CEOs have also been entrepreneurs themselves, and have moved on to become involved in other entrepreneurial enterprises. From Fiji Water (Cochran) to Oregon Chai (Ross) and even to sales information firm SPINS (Spence) our panelists have deep backgrounds when it comes to diagnosing the issues hampering company performance, making the kinds of adjustments that can help products realize their potential, and passing along advice on the most common hazards facing newcomers to the business.

Because, while it’s great to learn from your own mistakes, it’s even better to learn from someone else’s before you make them yourself.

About Brian Ross

Currently the CEO of Cheribundi, Ross is a highly experienced entrepreneur, investor, and CPG executive with more than 15 years of experience building and selling iconic brands and companies in the consumer products industry. Ross was a co-founder and COO of Oregon Chai in the mid-1990s. He was also the founder and CEO of TWIST, which manufactures environmentally friendly cleaning products, and cof-founder Organic Vintners, the biggest importer of organic wines in the United States.

Ross has also served as an investor in and VP of Development at Izze Beverage Co. and worked with  Ross graduated from Cornell University with a B.S. in Industrial & Labor Relations and has a LLM from Lewis & Clark Law School. Ross is also on the Board of Directors of Intercambio de Comunidades, a nonprofit focused on building respectful communities through language education, cultural exchange and friendship.

About Paddy Spence

Paddy Spence is an operating executive with 20 years of general management experience in the natural/organic consumer packaged goods industry. Mr. Spence is a recognized authority on health and wellness marketing and merchandising trends, and has helped numerous emerging brands leverage their success in specialty channels to successfully cross over into mainstream markets.

Currently the Chairman and CEO of Zevia, a line of zero-calorie sodas with no artificial sweeteners, from 2009 to 2011, Spence served as Lead Independent Director for Physicians Formula, a manufacturer and marketer of color cosmetics. During his tenure at Physicians Formula, the company’s stock price increased 2.6x, as a result of a successful recapitalization, SKU rationalization, and a range of cost savings initiatives.

Best known as the founder and Chairman of SPINS, a leading provider of syndicated market research, Spence has also worked as president of Levlad, a personal care manufacturer with revenues of $100 million, as well as a director of Natural Products Group (NPG), the holding company comprising the Arbonne and Levlad businesses.

Prior to founding SPINS, Mr. Spence served from 1992 to 1995 as Vice President, Sales & Marketing for the Kashi Company, a manufacturer of natural cereals based in La Jolla, CA. He has also held positions at Harvard Business School’s Division of Research, the Center for Leadership and Career Studies at Emory University and United Parcel Service’s International Marketing department.

Mr. Spence holds an A.B. magna cum laude from Harvard College and an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School. He resides in Los Angeles, and is an avid athlete, having completed over 40 triathlons and trained and competed in martial arts such as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, wrestling, Shotokan Karate, Muay Thai kickboxing, and boxing.

About John Cochran

John Cochran is the CEO of AquaHydrate Inc. and serves on its Board of Directors. Before being named CEO of the Southern California-based performance water brand in January 2012, Cochran was CEO at Pabst Brewing Company. Prior to Pabst, John spent six years as the President and COO of Roll International’s FIJI Water.

During his tenure at FIJI, John and his team tripled the business, expanding to over forty countries worldwide and established the brand as the #1 premium water in the US.  He also completed three acquisitions for Roll International and took the reins as the CEO of Justin Winery and Neptune Shipping.

Cochran spent five years at GE where he ran businesses in the Lighting and Locomotive Divisions. He began his career with McKinsey & Company.

Cochran earned an MBA and Masters of Architecture from the University of Michigan. He served as a Captain in the US Air Force for five years prior to graduate work.