Ecuadorian energy blend Runa received a little stimulation itself recently in the form of a $3 million round of financing from a variety of investors, company co-founder Dan MacCombie confirmed to BevNET on Friday.
The round of financing is intended to help the company expand its marketing and sales operation, as well as to help the company establish a second factory in Ecuador for the processing of Guayusa, the plant that offers the tea-like beverage its flavor, character, and caffeine lift.
“We’re doing expansion on the West Coast, trying to build out New York and New England some, and investing in more marketing,” MacCombie told BevNET. “From an infrastructure point of view, we’re probably approaching capacity right now. A new factory allows us to keep growing.”
Most of the investment came through a group of angels including the Swiss social investment fund responsAbility and adman Richard Kirshenbaum, who is expected to help the company’s branding push as well.
The four-flavor line has been gradually expanding into the Southeast and on the West Coast. It is currently in just three Whole Foods regions, New England, New York, and Colorado, but is available through natural foods distributor UNFI on a national level. The company expects to push harder in California in the spring, MacCombie said, but right now the focus is proving out regional success in New York and New England and in college towns like Boulder, Colo., where brand representative Sean Makau was able to land Whole Foods on his own.
The brand also has been working with DSD house G. Housen in Vermont in an attempt to overlay depth to its natural foods footprint.
“The laser focus has Runa at the forefront at The University of Vermont and the Greater Burlington area,” said Peter Boyle, the portfolio manager for G.Housen.
As part of the company’s marketing push it will be looking to identify itself with moments of creativity. Consumer education remains one of the key challenges for an American public still trying to come to grips with Yerba Mate – an Argentinean tea farther along on the awareness scale. One consumer platform that is raising awareness, however, is a deal with bagged tea company Stash to license Runa in the dry tea aisle.
The company currently has 12 employees in the U.S. and 35 in Ecuador.