After a five year run on the shelves, entrepreneur Scott Lerner and his investors have sold Solixir, a line of all-natural functional drinks powered by botanical elixirs, to the owners of Eternal Beverages, Inc., the makers of a nationally-distributed brand in the fast-growing alkaline water category.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed; both Lerner and the buyers termed it as a positive outcome.
“For the purpose of the brand, we established the concept, we did the heavy lifting, and it’s about distribution and marketing support,” Lerner told BevNET. “From that standpoint, they are better equipped to carry it forward.”
Always strong on the blocking-and-tackling aspects of the marketplace, the four-function (Awaken, Think, Relax, Restore) canned Solixir line had begun to get traction behind an engaging Zombie-themed marketing campaign over the summer and distribution in Stop & Shop, a move beyond its core natural foods base. But there was a long road ahead for Lerner, who said he felt that he was doing the best possible thing for the Evanston, Ill.-based brand’s growth by selling it to the better-funded Eternal Beverages group.
“Scott’s idea about an elixir-based functional beverage with some balanced attributes to it is why we were most interested in it,” said Karim Mashouf, the CEO and co-founder of Eternal Beverages. “It’s a technologically advanced, evolutionary step in functional beverages.”
Both brands use hybrid distribution systems that feature a strong presence in Whole Foods but also have a common need to build out their DSD networks more broadly to reach more consumer channels.
Headquartered in Walnut Creek, Calif., Eternal Water, which also launched in 2008, has deep pockets behind co-founder and president Chris Running, who helped start Muscle Milk, and also Mashouf, the son of Manny Mashouf, the billionaire founder of Bebe women’s clothing stores. After a few different attempts at building the brand behind beauty-from-within and anti-aging plays, the company’s Eternal Water alkaline water brand, which features a 100 percent recyclable, BPA-free container, has been making strong progress. The company has a 10-person sales force and recently added longtime sales ace Jon “JC” Crecy, who had previously held high-profile sales and marketing positions with Fuze and Body Armor.
“While I think premium water will be around for a long time, our interest to get into other categories is what compelled us to get into the segment,” Mashouf said.
Eternal was looking for a way to broaden its line of products – the company is also looking at investing in a snack food brand — and saw a complementary part of the portfolio behind the kind of functional products that have always interested Mashouf.
While it was hard to sell a brand he’d build from the ground up, Lerner said, having Running on board as president helped make it easier to accept a deal because of his knowledge of the beverage business.
“I wasn’t so concerned because of Chris’ background,” he said. “If that wasn’t there, it wouldn’t have been as enticing to us or our investors. We all want to see Solixir do well, and Eternal succeed as well.”
The deal was done in 90 days, according to the investors, with Lerner retaining shares of the new company and a short-term advisory role. A true beverage veteran – he’s a former Marine as well as survivor of Naked Juice and ConAgra foods – Lerner will be teaching a course in Entrepreneurship at Northwestern while looking for his next position.
“I gained a great experience,” Lerner added. “I’m happy the brand is living on, and I’m going to take that and parlay it into my next opportunity.”