BevNET Live: Top Sales Execs from Vita Coco, Honest Tea and Talking Rain Explore Growth Strategy

When you’re an entrepreneur starting from a small base, astounding sales growth can seem easily managed for the first few years; it’s when that base expands and the growth rate maintains that what had been a wished-for goal can become a confusing, frustrating challenge.

Put simply, getting bigger doesn’t make things easier. Just ask Jeff Popkin, the president of Vita Coco, a company he joined just two years ago to help coordinate its ongoing national expansion. A veteran beer distributor, Popkin also worked for Red Bull as that company finished its transition from completing its national footprint to becoming a mature property – so the ongoing growth rate at Vita Coco initially created a series of sales and marketing challenges that translate in an ideal way for the BevNET Live audience.

Or just ask Chuck Muth, who has seen it from both sides of the desk — as the chief of sales and marketing for the Coca-Cola Bottling Company of Philadelphia, he identified the opportunity that lay in Fuze beverage and helped that company open the fire hose of growth; then, in 2010, he joined Honest Tea as that company’s VP of Sales, with the role of helping manage its change in sales channels from natural to a broad, accelerated mainstream program.

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Or just ask David Kearns, the vice-president of sales at Talking Rain, and the man in charge of organizing the sales efforts for Sparkling Ice, a brand that has grown at a triple-digit rate for the past several years while primarily focusing on the grocery channel — but one that is intent on transferring that momentum to new types of retail while, of course, maintaining it at the core.

Kearns, Muth, and Popkin, who represent three of the most talked-about entrepreneurial beverage brands in recent years, will join a discussion at BevNET Live on the importance of setting a proper plan for a company as it grows – setting expectations for the sales team, the supply chain, and the wholesale and retail community to create what “crisp execution” while also juggling the concerns of investors, consumers, and other stakeholders. For entrepreneurial brands that are about to roll out or are in the midst of a momentum surge, the chance to hear how high-growth companies have prepared for pipeline expansion is one that will be valuable in terms of cost savings and nervous sweats.

About Jeff Popkin

Jeff Popkin, the President of Vita Coco, joined the company in September, 2011 as the VP of Sales with the purpose of managing growth in all channels strategically and profitably. Before joining Vita Coco, Popkin has deep distribution experience: he held a dual role position at Red Bull North America, first as the President of Red Bull Distribution Company, the largest distributor of Red Bull in North America which happens to be owned by Red Bull North America, where he oversaw a 650-person distribution organization which experienced explosive growth under his leadership and he also served as VP of Distribution Strategy for Red Bull North America.

Popkin also started and was CEO of a beer distribution company, KEG1 LLC, that was funded by 10 of the largest Miller and Coors distributors in the country and went on to acquire and consolidate over 10 million cases in key markets throughout Texas.

A graduate of the University of Texas at Arlington, Popkin also has extensive supplier background having held senior management positions at companies like Coors Brewing Co., where he was VP of Market Development and VP of Sales for Western U.S.

About Chuck Muth

Chuck Muth is Vice-President of Sales providing Global Commercial Leadership for the Honest family of brands across Direct Store Delivery, Warehouse, Food Service and International routes to market. Muth began his beverage career at Coca-Cola Bottling Company of NY in 1979 as a Route Salesman in Paterson, NJ. Assuming progressively increasing responsibilities over the next 10 years, he was promoted to District Sales Manager in 1981, Area Sales Manager in 1984, Director of Brand Development in 1987 and Sales Center Manager in 1989.

Muth left in 1991 to join Joseph E Seagram’s & Sons as Region Franchise Manager for their Ginger Ale & Mixer brands. He was promoted to Director of National Sales in 1994 and Vice-President/General Manager in 1999. After the purchase of Seagram’s Mixers by The Coca-Cola Company in 2002, Muth was asked to assume the role of Managing Director to assist in the transition. He left to join the Coca-Cola Bottling Company of Philadelphia in 2004 as Senior Vice-President of Sales & Marketing and helped lead that organization to a successful sale to The Coca-Cola Company in 2008.

In 2010, Muth was asked to assume his present role of Vice-President of Sales at Honest Tea and assist in the planned purchase by the Coca-Cola Company, which was completed in 2011. In 2014, He will assume the role of Senior Vice-President of Sales for Coca-Cola’s Emerging & Venturing Brands business unit.

Muth earned a BS degree in Marketing from Montclair State University and an MBA in Finance from Fairleigh Dickinson University. He serves on Montclair State University’s School of Business Advisory Board, Chairman of the MSU Marketing & Communication Committee, volunteer Mentor at the Maryland Center for Entrepreneurship, VP Board of Trustees Tides at Seaboard Point and lives with wife, Laura, and two teenage children in Ellicott City, Md.

About David Kearns

David Kearns has been with Talking Rain since 2008, when he was hired as the Director for the Midwest. He was promoted to Vice President of Sales in April 2010 and now leads a sales organization excess of 50 team members

Kearns graduated from Southern Illinois University in 1985 with a B.S. in Marketing, and has nearly 30 years of experience in the CPG industry. During college he was a member of several marketing organizations as well as help fraternal leadership positions.

After graduation, Kearns was employed by General Mills in various sales capacities. Other employers throughout his career include Danone Waters North America (Evian), Nestle Waters North America, and experience with a direct import business.

Kearns currently resides in the Seattle area with his wife and has two children in college. He is an active member in his church and is a member of the Knights of Columbus . During his free time he enjoys spending time with his family, flying, golf, and the outdoors.

About BevNET Live

BevNET Live Santa Monica will be held on Dec. 9 and 10 at the Loews Beach Hotel. It is a two-day conference for beverage entrepreneurs, suppliers, distributors, retailers and investors to gather, speak, exchange ideas through interactive panels and lectures, and enhance their marketing and product development strategies through our Beverage School. Attendees can tap the expertise of investment professionals who can help groom them to attract money, business owners with inspiring success stories, and the BevNET.com community, which has spent a decade dedicating itself to careful reporting on the fast-moving beverage industry. More than just a conference, BevNET LIVE includes networking options including the BevNET LIVE Expo, beverage breaks, cocktail receptions and more.

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