With Sonoma Brands, KRAVE founder and former CEO Jon Sebastiani has already taken the traditional investment route, backing snack brand Dang Foods. Now, the firm is launching the first of its internally incubated product lines. Run by a veteran team, the brands will be tested in increasingly larger markets, and if successful, they’ll be spun out into their own companies.
Züpa Noma, a line of six chilled soups and gazpachos, will be the first to launch. The organic, high-pressure processed line derives its moniker from the Italian word for soup combined with residents’ nickname for Sonoma (where Sebastiani resides and has based his companies).
“During the naming process we wanted to not distance ourselves from soup because at the end of the day our goal is to reintroduce and redefine what soup means,” Sebastiani said to NOSH.
While he’s hoping to disrupt the soup category, the line is packaged in bottles and meant to be drunk chilled. Still, he says it’s not a beverage — despite his vision of “souping becoming the new juicing.”
“We very much view and support the thinking and the strategy that we are headed towards this product being a liquid feast,” Sebastiani noted. “We want to become a snack food, we want to become a meal.”
Unlike many juice options, Züpa Noma soups retain the fiber, pulp and skin of the vegetables they are derived from.
Regardless, the final determination of the category may come from the customer: Sonoma Brands is merchandising Züpa Noma in one of three places: the produce department, the beverage cooler and in branded custom refrigerators in the deli department. The test cycle will help the Sonoma Brands team understand if consumers view this as a produce replacement (it contains four servings of vegetables), a beverage, or a grab-and-go item.
The line will debut in July, with Sprouts as its launch partner, and then soon after move into other retailers. Over the course of roughly 90 days, Züpa (which will retail at $6.99) will be tested in about 1,000 stores up and down the West Coast.
If it succeeds, the brand will expand nationally. “We want to make sure every aspect of our value proposition is right one before we begin scaling this,” Sebastiani said. “We have the capital already there to scale this business as soon as we’re ready.”
Helping spread the message of this low-sodium, 80 calorie “liquid snack” are two powerful women — professional triathlete and Ironman champion Meredith Kessler, and cookbook writer, Ayesha Curry, the wife of basketball player Steph Curry. Both are West Coast residents who can talk about the line’s nutritional benefits (Kessler) and flavor (Curry).
“It’s not about finding someone who has a lot of followers on Instagram or Twitter,” Sebastiani noted, instead the company is aiming for someone who “really can speak with a sense of authenticity… [and] that gives another branch to tell our story.”