Expo East 2015: Braintrust Revamps Inko’s, Blue Buddha

Approximately 12 months ago, Braintrust Investments, a Burr Ridge, Ill.-based private investment firm, announced that it had acquired premium white tea brand Inko’s. Over the past year, Braintrust, led by former Pabst Brewing CEO Kevin Kotecki, has tweaked Inko’s branding, formulation and product lineup, and the company showcased the updates at the recently held 2015 Natural Products Expo East.

The most significant change for Inko’s since the change in ownership is the brand’s conversion to organic and non-GMO formulations, a move Kotecki says has already proved worthwhile.

“It’s been a great response from both retailers and consumers,” he says. “We’re up about 43 percent on velocity this year, and on dollar sales we’re up a little bit more.”

Inko’s energy drink line has undergone a revamp. The new look debuted at Expo East as three-SKU line of products that are certified organic and contain 100 calories per 15.5 oz. can. Previously a one-SKU offering, the line now comes in blackberry, citrus and mango flavors.

Three months after acquiring Inko’s, Braintrust bought Blue Buddha, a brand of blended herbal teas. Blue Buddha joined Inko’s as part of the company’s Wholesome Tea portfolio and also underwent a reformulation, with functional ingredients that were previously exclusive to each flavor now included across the entire lineup.

“Now every bottle offers ashwagandah, amla and Maitake mushroom, which are good for cardiovascular, good for immunity, good for you skin, good for stress,” Kotecki said. “All in clinically proven quantities in four unique flavors.”

Watch this video to hear more from Kotecki about the Inko’s and Blue Buddha revamps, as well as the response to the updates from Expo East attendees.