Hoping to emulate the early success of his San Diego-based beer company Saint Archer Brewing, which was purchased by MillerCoors last September, entrepreneur Josh Landan is doubling down on the beverage business.
Landan, together with current Saint Archer vice president Jeff Hansson, is preparing to launch Villager Goods, a line of food and beverage products backed by many of the same action sports figures who initially funded Saint Archer.
Villager’s first product, a pasteurized and not-from-concentrate organic coconut water line that comes in three flavors — original, pineapple and chocolate — is slated to debut in August and will be sold in 500 mL Tetra Paks for $2.99 each.
The company is currently “in discussions with several national and regional distributors, including DPI and KeHE,” Landan wrote to Brewbound.
Sourcing and production of the Villager coconut water will be managed by the Celebes Coconut Corporation, based in the Philippines, he added. A forthcoming, non-coconut and still undisclosed food product is also being developed and the company plans to launch “extensions of the Villager brand” into other categories within the next six months.
In addition to financial backing from Landan and Hansson, Villager has about 20 action sports investors who will also serve as brand ambassadors. Many of them, including popular pro skateboarders Paul Rodriguez and Mikey Taylor, also backed Landan’s first beverage project, Saint Archer Brewing.
According to public records, the Villager Goods trademark is owned by the newly created JLJH (Josh Landan/Jeff Hansson) Management LLC, which, according to an April SEC Filing, had raised $1.39 million. Also according to the filing, Ryan Kingman, the co-founder and former CMO of Stance Socks (the official sock of the NBA), has been tapped as the company’s chief executive officer.
Villager has also hired Jason Schwenk, a former sales director at both Red Bull and Noho, as its new vice president of sales.
For those familiar with Saint Archer, the Villager pitch will feel eerily similar.
Visitors to villagergoods.com are greeted by a 2-minute video set to an indie musical track and featuring a plethora of surfers and skaters, medium close ups of the individual action sports investors themselves, and plenty of establishing shots that let you know the brand is headquartered near the beach.
Landan, a filmmaker by trade, took virtually the exact same approach when he launched Saint Archer in 2013, though he swears Villager is not simply a carbon copy attempt at conquering an already crowded coconut water category.
“Having a brand, a story and a product that people connect to and are drawn to is something that we wholeheartedly believe in,” Landan said. “There has never been a healthy, authentic, non-alcoholic option that has come from these athletes.”
By that, Landan means a non-alcoholic brand that those action sports athletes actually own a stake in, as opposed to simply endorsing.
Six athlete-investors — Paul Rodriguez, Pat Moore, Jack Freestone, Alana Blanchard, Laura Enever, Nate Tyler — left “major endorsement deals” with the likes of Mountain Dew, Red Bull, Rockstar and Monster to become owners and ambassadors for Villager, Landan said.
Others — like Eric Koston, Andrew Reynolds, Mikey Taylor, Guy Mariano and Taj Burrow — have previously turned down “mid-six figure deals” with soda and energy drink brands because they didn’t “believe in the message,” Landan claims.
“These athletes are now promoting something that is actually healthy for you,” he said. “They already consume coconut water and give it to their kids. Now they are using their voice to do something good.”
The early success of Villager could hinge on its ability to reach more than 17 million combined social media users who follow the company’s various owner-ambassadors on platforms like Instagram and Twitter.
As of press time, Villager already has more than 19,000 followers on Instagram and the product won’t hit store shelves for at least another month.
But that early-stage focus on promotion via social media is “no different” than what other CPG companies do, said Landan.
“Everyone is trying to connect with as many people as possible and get them to use their product over something else,” he said. “Our goal is to bring a healthy alternative to as many people as humanly possible and to influence people that maybe never thought of reaching for a coconut water. Right now, there are no coconut waters being promoted by these athletes.”