Golazo Ceases Operations

luKhl53SGolazo, a soccer-themed brand of energy and sports drinks, has closed its doors.

In a call with BevNET, Golazo founder and CEO Richard Tait said that despite continued growth of the brand in natural and conventional grocery channels as well as a loyal customer base, the company hadn’t reached profitability and was unable to secure the capital necessary to “take it to the next level.”

“It’s disappointing and sad, but I think we did give it our best shot at goal,” Tait said, noting Golazo shut down on Dec. 28. “I don’t think that we’d reached the revenue levels or the profitability status that some of the investors were looking for.”

Tait, the creator of popular board game Cranium, launched Golazo (which means “super goal” in Spanish) in 2010. The company was backed by nearly $4 million in initial funding, including investment from Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz (also an investor in Cranium) and the Moretti brewing family, owners of the Inter Milan soccer club. Golazo debuted in January, 2012 as a single SKU energy drink, picking up distribution at a handful of small grocery chains in the Seattle area. Marketed as “natural sports fuel,” Golazo later added three varieties and introduced a line of coconut water-infused sports drinks.

Leading with the tagline “Born to Score,” Golazo embraced a marketing strategy focused on building a core base of influencers in the soccer community, including alignment with a supporter club of the U.S. Men’s National soccer team called the American Outlaws and sponsorship of youth teams in Washington and Southern California.

The brand quickly picked up steam at retail, and less than 18 months after its market debut Golazo announced that its beverages were carried by 1,600 stores in eight states in the Western U.S., including all Safeway and Whole Foods stores in the region.

In an attempt to bolster its presence in natural retailers, the company added non-GMO and gluten-free certifications to its labels, and in 2014, the brand introduced updated packaging designed to better emphasize the premium, all-natural and functional aspects of its formulations.

In the weeks leading up to the 2014 World Cup, Golazo announced multi-year endorsement deals with Major League Soccer stars DeAndre Yedlin and Will Johnson and another with soccer legend Pelé, who praised the company as one “that matches my conviction for natural and healthier products with my passion for the beautiful game.”

Organic-ML-can-and-bottleLast year the company initiated a strategic pivot, repositioning the brand to be more inclusive of consumers with interests in range of athletic endeavors. Golazo also revamped its packaging to enhance visual cues about health and functionality and removed the soccer ball from its logo. In May, sought to further enhance its positioning as a better-for-you brand, and reformulated most of its product line to be certified organic, promoting the change as “Putting the ‘O’ in Golazo.”

Tait said that Golazo had a “40 to 70 percent lift” from the packaging update. He also attributed some growth to going organic, but said that the company “didn’t have enough time in 2015 to really see the full benefit of that in full distribution.” Despite the revised branding and promotion as a healthy alternative to competing brands, Tait acknowledged that Golazo continued to face an uphill battle in the sports and energy drink categories, each dominated by a handful of companies.

“We were competing concurrently in two of the largest, the most competitive categories in the beverage industry and with some of the best marketers in the world,” Tait said. “Our strategy of going after the natural consumer, I think is still the right one and that was where we made our entry with places like Whole Foods, PCC, New Seasons, and that’s where we looked to try and differentiate and secure shelf position. And then certainly going into general grocery, it gets tougher because those larger competitors are more present there.”