Ketogenic meal shake startup Bear Squeeze has raised $715,000 in a pre-seed round led by AccelFoods, giving the brand a financial edge as it prepares to launch via ecommerce this spring.
The funds complement an additional $164,000 the company has raised thus far through its IndieGoGo crowdsourcing campaign, which currently has more than 1,100 backers and closes March 7.
Speaking to BevNET on Friday, Bear Squeeze founder and CEO Max Baumann said he first connected with AccelFoods at BevNET Live Winter 2017 during the semifinal round of the New Beverage Showdown 14, a contest that the brand would go on to win. AccelFoods managing partner Jordan Gaspar served as a judge during the semifinal round and praised Baumann’s direct-to-consumer (DTC) marketing plan.
“This round shows that everyone is willing to take a bet just based on trying the product,” Baumann told BevNET.
In addition to AccelFoods, the round also included investment from Ryan Lewendon, a partner at The Giannuzzi Group, Shopify senior account executive Tyler Nemiro, AdQuadrant CEO Warren Jolly, MVMT CEO Jake Kassan, and Andy Chase, managing member of The Chase Group at Morgan Stanley.
Bear Squeeze will officially launch in May via its own website with an online store managed by Shopify. According to Baumann, the direct-to-consumer approach has allowed the company to operate with a bare bones staff. With the funding, Bear Squeeze will hire a full time ecommerce manager.
“Everyone liked the high margin DTC allows for,” Baumann said. “The beauty of ecommerce is you can get way further than traditional food and beverage [approaches] on launch.”
At launch the line includes Vanilla Chai and Chocolate varieties of its bottled powder line, which can be mixed with water and drunk immediately. The company has also developed a Vanilla Chai “Travel Pack,” a product which Baumann said IndieGoGo campaign backers helped develop after he put the line’s calorie count to a vote (the backers opted for a 250 calorie option versus the 400 calories contained in the bottled line).
According to Baumann, Bear Squeeze has identified through market research a target demographic of men between 25 and 40, including athletes, entrepreneurs, engineers, gamers, and other consumers seeking on-the-go meal replacements and nutrition. The company plans to partner with social media influencers and utilize digital advertising, targeted media outreach, and e-mail lists to build and maintain its base.
“A lot of companies don’t talk to their consumer base,” Baumann said, adding that he hopes to keep lines of communication with their consumers open. “That’s the beauty of digital marketing.”