Here’s one you probably didn’t see coming: in less than two years, the private equity firm TSG has exited its much-discussed investment in functional beverage line Neuro, and with the departure much of Neuro’s senior staff has left the company. Diana Jenkins, the founder of the brand, remains the CEO and is believed to have re-acquired a controlling interest.
Nevertheless, the departures come as sales have been on the increase: the brand sold $51 million in convenience alone last year, according to retailing information service IRI.
Departed are Paul Nadel, the NBA agent and attorney who had been tasked with the day-to-day running of the brand as its President, and Kirk Murphy, who had been VP of National Accounts. The departure of CMO Brian Pope was unconfirmed, although it has also been suggested he has departed and repeated attempts to reach Pope have been unsuccessful – as have repeated calls, emails, and social media inquiries to Neuro offices.
Pope, late of PopChips, another TSG investment, and Murphy, a Pepsi Bottling veteran, had arrived as the brand had begun a national ramp-up as part of the investment on the part of TSG, the firm that had previously invested in Muscle Milk owner Cytosport and Vitaminwater maker Glaceau. TSG representatives would not comment on the investment, nor would Silverwood partners, which had shepherded the original investment in the summer of 2012.
The arrival of TSG cash had been considered something of a maturation moment for the brand, which had also added distribution through Dr Pepper Snapple Group and other high-profile accounts like Polar, Columbia and Admiral to fuel its growth.
Another qualifying moment came in March when Neuro claimed an award from IRI, which named the brand a 2013 New Product Pacesetter – and revealed that it had rung up $51 million in sales in the convenience channel alone last year.
Last year was a crucial one for the brand as it reconfigured its staff and weeded out several employees ahead of its national push, and also rebranded the line behind four core functions, Sleep, Sonic (energy), Daily and Bliss.
With the improved distribution, the brand has extended its reach and has apparently been spending heavily on merchandising in many accounts; racks intended to highlight the brand’s varieties are spread throughout key retailers. On the marketing front actor Neil Patrick Harris has been added as a brand representative.
Beverage insiders have dismissed much of the brand’s improved performance over the last year as a result of extra spending – creating topline revenue increases by dropping off extra cases at retail accounts. But, they have pointed out, other brands have also been able to build a presence via increased spend as well. The question is what direction Jenkins, who is now in control of the company, will take it next.