It had the makings of a dream pairing: Function Drinks, a fast-growing, doctor-formulated brand of new age beverages braced for national expansion by a pile of investment capital and good press, and Bob Miller, a veteran sales jockey with a reputation for a golden touch with entrepreneurial brands after successes building sales networks with SoBe and Glaceau.
But like many dream pairings, it looked better on paper; Miller, the company’s executive vice president of sales and head of strategic planning, is departing at the end of the month to take the helm of an as-yet unnamed entrepreneurial functional beverage company.
“We had a lot of momentum but it took us a year to adjust our flavors,” Miller said of Function. “We’ve now gotten them down to where they were really good. improved the bottles. The economy has hurt, and we were confused with a vitaminwater-type product when we really shouldn’t have been.”
The nationwide expansion has largely come up short, with Function unable to differentiate itself in a crowded market. Repeated attempts to introduce new functionalities and flavors over the past two years have left it adrift, and the brand is now in the midst of a re-launch in new packaging, one that winnowed the brand to three different functional lines and a total of seven SKUs, down from 14 SKUs sprawling across nine different functional platforms.
Function CEO Dayton Miller (no relation to Bob Miller) said the move would be a mutually beneficial one.
“We’re really excited for him to move into a presidential role,” Dayton Miller said. “We’re going to be able to operate more efficiently.”
For Function’s part, according to Dayton Miller, the company is happy with its roster of regional sales managers, all of whom have extensive backgrounds in the beverage business – experience chockablock with the same kind of emerging brands, like SoBe, Izze, Fuze or Glaceau — in which Bob Miller specialized.
“We took a step back, Bob included,” Miller said. “And we decided to let the regional VPs run their sales areas. It’s not affecting our overall national strategy.”
Bob Miller said he remains an investor in the company – in fact, he owns vested options in what was thought to be a sure-fire winner at one time.
“I definitely believe in Function,” he said. “But as I told Dayton, you can’t always predict when opportunity will come along.”