Of course, Whey Coco founder Jay Ajmera was disappointed when his brand fell short of victory in BevNET’s New Beverage Showdown 5. The competition, held earlier this year in New York City, featured over 20 new brands vying to win $10,000 in cash and prizes. Yet, while the Showdown was ultimately won by Motto, a sparkling matcha beverage, Ajmera was able parlay exposure from the competition into a victory of his own.
Last week, Whey Coco, which markets a powdered blend of whey protein and coconut water, announced a new broker agreement with SoCal-based beverage incubator L.A. Libations. The deal has been in the making since June and recently produced a major retail placement for the brand: Whey Coco will gain shelf space in select Kroger stores in the Northeast beginning in March 2014 with plans for a national launch later in the year. L.A. Libations has worked closely with the Kroger over the past year, acting as the “category captain” for the grocery giant’s entrepreneurial and emerging beverage set.
L.A. Libations co-founder Dino Sarti said that while his company’s past work with sport and nutrition company FRS included retail placement of the brand’s powder products, the deal with Whey Coco represents the first partnership with a company that doesn’t have an RTD component. While L.A. Libations works with a several entrepreneurial RTD brands, including Chia\Vie and Just Chill, Sarti believes there is significant growth potential for Whey Coco in the powdered beverage category.
“As I look at the numbers, the powder space is much bigger than the RTD space,” Sarti said. “Frankly, if you look at the players, there’s not a really strong brand these days, and there not a lot of innovation. It’s primarily just commodity whey, commodity soy, chocolate, vanilla [flavors]. I think that Whey Coco offers something completely different.”
Packaged in 20.35 oz. tubs, Whey Coco is made with 100 percent natural and premium un-denatured whey isolate protein and coconut water powder. According to the company, the formula has no coconut aftertaste and consistent levels of potassium per serving. The brand is marketed as “Nature’s Recovery Fuel” and positioned to attract active lifestyle and health-focused consumers. Ajmera said that company is close to signing a deal with a well-known, professional mountain biker who will represent Whey Coco as the face of the brand.
As for his agreement with L.A. Libations, Ajmera saw tremendous upside for Whey Coco, particularly in establishing strong and sustainable retail partners for the brand, a key point of differentiation from its previous broker relationships.
“Their credibility was key,” Ajmera said. “Other brokers that I worked with, they just talk. But when it comes to delivering, L.A .Libations knows how to execute.”
Execution of its retail strategy will be critical to establishing the Whey Coco brand name and presence, especially with new line extensions already in the works. Ajmera said that Whey Coco will introduce a chia-infused variety in the coming months and has plans to launch an RTD product called Berry Coco late next year. Berry Coco will be a first-of-its-kind beverage that uses protein that is extracted from blueberries and cranberries. Ajmera said that Whey Coco has an exclusive deal with the protein supplier, but declined to name the company.