Beverage incubator L.A. Libations has played a critical role in the growth of several entrepreneurial beverage brands including ZICO, Neuro and illy issimo, lending its expertise to gain key retail placements for the brands at chains like Target, Wal-Mart and Kroger. Now, the company is utilizing the experience, connections and relationships that it has cultivated in recent years to introduce its second company-owned brand — one with some big names behind it.
Set for a national launch in 8,300 7-Eleven stores, Arriba is a new horchata energy drink that L.A. Libations has been developing over the past two years. Unlike Aloe Gloe, the aloe water brand that the company launched in 2011, Arriba, a dairy/energy blend that is all-natural, gluten-free, is targeted to reach a specific demographic in Latino consumers. L.A. Libations co-founder Danny Stepper hailed the new brand as one that brings “freshness and innovation” as well as “new and unique consumers” to the energy category.
“Every major retailer is jumping at the bit to get it,” Stepper said. “Clearly we’re onto something. We haven’t sold any to customers yet, and so we’re not doing any victory laps, but I’ve never seen retailers so engaged.”
Stepper noted that while L.A. Libations had Arriba in the pipeline for two years, the company felt that it needed a strategic partnership with a major retailer in order to have a real shot at success in the mature energy category, which is dominated by mega brands in Monster and Red Bull. And while he said that L.A. Libations has commitments with several major retailers for a planned wider release this summer, he praised “7-Eleven’s unwavering commitment to innovation.” The chain holds a three-month exclusive deal to carry Arriba, which will be positioned directly next to Red Bull on store shelves, Stepper said.
Although 7-Eleven is as big as it gets in convenience stores, a critical channel for energy products, Stepper noted that the biggest hurdles in the development for an entrepreneurial beverage brand lay with financing and marketing. To say that L.A. Libations found a big-time partner to help build and promote Arriba would be an understatement.
The company entered into a joint venture with film studio and entertainment powerhouse Relativity Media, which is investor in Arriba and will play a major role in the marketing of the brand with product placement in Relativity-produced TV shows and movies, including the upcoming film “Earth to Echo.” Relativity is also the second largest sports agency in the U.S., with 200 professional athletes on its roster, according to Stepper, who said that Relativity athletes, which have a combined 60 million Twitter followers, will engage consumers via social media to promote Arriba.
“We all know that growth is coming from emerging brands and categories, but we also know how many fail,” Stepper said. “Combining L.A. Libations entrepreneurial disruptive spirit, 7-Eleven’s commitment to innovation, alongside the powerhouse media platform of our dear friends at Relativity Media, we have a real chance to create brand love with Arriba.”
Tom Burkemper, the Sr. Director of Merchandising for 7-Eleven echoed Stepper’s sentiment and commended the innovation and trend-savvy nature of Arriba.
“We are extremely excited about our partnership with L.A. Libations and Relativity Media and in particular, the exclusive, first, best, only launch of Arriba,” Burkemper said. “The product was developed through extensive consumer research blending the growth of key consumer, category, and taste preference trends of Latinos, energy, and horchata. We are thrilled to bring this national launch of Arriba at 7-Eleven.”
While horchata, a rice-based drink made with nut- or dairy-milk base and often flavored with cinnamon or vanilla, is relatively unknown among most American consumers, it is a frequently consumed beverage in Latin countries, and, in particular, Mexico. L.A. Libations is betting that Latinos in the U.S. will view Arriba as familiar and welcome option within a sea of competing energy drinks.
“Latinos, like myself, buy a disproportionate amount of Monster & Red Bull, and they also love Horchata,” said L.A. Libations co-founder Dino Sarti, who himself was born in Mexico. “By putting the two together and adding the Relativity to the mix, we believe we are giving ourselves a real reason to be in the energy door .”
Packaged in an 11 oz. white can, Arriba features brown graphics and a major “gluten-free” call-out at the top of the package. Stepper said that while the beverage is all-natural, the swell of “natural” lawsuits affecting the beverage industry precluded the word’s inclusion on the can. Clocking in at 200 calories, Arriba is sweetened with sugar and comes in a Cinnamon Spice flavor. The beverage, which has a suggested retail price of $2.49 and is promoted at 2 for $4, will come in additional flavors later this year, according to Stepper.