GROWING BEYOND THE BOX WITH LIFEAID
The growth potential for functional beverage brands can at times seem limited by ties to specific use cases and niche audiences. In this saturated beverage market, however, consumers are increasingly seeking out products that provide something more, and functional beverage brands just need to figure out the right way to reach them.
Such is the case for LifeAID, which has grown from a Crossfit-based brand with a direct-to-consumer model to a multi-million dollar company with a range of products sold at major national retailers. Speaking on June 13, 2019 at BevNET Live Summer 2019 in New York City, LifeAID co-founders Aaron Hinde and Orion Melehan shared what they’ve learned on their journey from niche online brand to conventional retail, from investing in your team to making consumers a part of the innovation process.
INDUSTRY ALL-STARS HAVE SPOKEN AT BEVNET LIVE
Mike Repole has always been a big dreamer. His modest upbringing and close family ties fuel his drive as a serial entrepreneur. Surrounding himself with great people and developing great brands has become his proven formula for success. Having achieved success before in the food and beverage industry with the sales of glacéau vitaminwater to The Coca-Cola Company and Pirate’s Booty to B&G Foods, and an early investor and board member at KIND bar, Mike is once again looking to revolutionize a category and build the next megabrand. Mike is the founder and chairman of BODYARMOR, a premium sports drink that provides superior hydration to athletes demanding better-for-you products. Mike saw huge potential in the sports drink category for an innovation like BODYARMOR, and his passion and drive – and the opportunity to disrupt the $10 billion sports drink industry – led him to launch BODYARMOR in 2011. BODYARMOR has grabbed the attention of some of the top professional athletes in the country, including James Harden, Mike Trout and Dustin Johnson, all of whom hold an equity stake in the company. In 2013, Kobe Bryant made a significant investment in BODYARMOR, becoming one of the top shareholders – and in 2018 The CocaCola Company invested in the brand, making them the #2 shareholder behind Repole.
Maya French is a Co-Founder of Koia, the protein packed, 100 percent plant-based beverage that uses natural ingredients to deliver deliciously nutritious flavors. French struggled with food-based allergies, such as being lactose intolerant her whole life, until she discovered the benefits of plant-based proteins when college friend and fellow Koia Co-Founder, Dustin Baker, was testing out recipes in his Chicago kitchen. At this moment, French realized her calling was to create a functional product that would contribute to providing consumers with a healthier lifestyle. With only experience in journalism and fashion retail, French took a leap of faith into unknown territory to follow her dreams and partnered with Baker to launch Koia. Discovering an innovative dairy and soy-free option with a balance of high protein and low sugar made French look and feel better as she committed to a healthy diet change. After years of trials and customer research, she has become a natural foods industry expert and professional. Her focus now is on growing the Koia brand and driving awareness among consumers of how plant based, healthy lifestyle choices can benefit them. “As someone who is lactose-intolerant, there aren’t many protein products that aren’t dairy-based. I make it my personal mission as a co-founder to let everyone know they have Koia as an option,” French says. Besides being dairy-free, French’s favorite thing about Koia is that it is sweet but not high in sugar. “You can still have the taste profile you want without the guilt,” she comments. She is also a fan of how Koia uses only simple ingredients that consumers can actually recognize, making it clear what you're consuming every time you drink a Koia! With the help of French, Koia launched nationally at Whole Foods Market and quickly scaled to become the most productive refrigerated protein brands in the natural channel within 18 months of inception, and is now sold in 5,000 stores across the country.
Managing Partner, Boulder Investment Group Reprise
Carole Buyers is a Managing Partner at Boulder Investment Group Reprise (BIGR) a venture fund that invests in early-stage natural and organic food & beverage companies. Carole has been involved with investments & the natural foods industry for over 20 years. As one of the first analysts to cover Whole Foods, she has had a front row seat as the story of this now powerful sector has emerged. Carole has worked with RBC Capital on the sell-side and The Boston Company on the buy-side. In 2008, she left financial services, taking a leadership role in corporate finance and investor relations with Gaiam. In 2010, Carole joined Boulder Brands, Inc., to lead Investor Relations & Business Development. At Boulder Brands, Carole was responsible for the Company’s investor relations program, managing relationships and communications with the investment community. In addition, Miss Buyers managed mergers and acquisitions for Boulder Brands and identified and led the processes to acquire Udi’s, Glutino and EVOL. These acquisitions marked the initiation of the transformation of Boulder Brands to the natural foods powerhouse it is today. Carole was also one of three Directors of the Boulder Brands Investment Group (BBIG), an incubator fund which provided minority capital and helped natural food & beverage companies accelerate sustainable growth in the natural foods channel. Carole also enjoys time with her husband and children, music, yoga, running, tennis and golf.
Kara Cissell Roell
Co-Founder & Managing Director, VMG Partners
Kara co-founded VMG Partners in 2005 and focuses on all aspects of the Fund’s investment strategy, sourcing, execution, portfolio company oversight and exit management. Since its inception, VMG has partnered with entrepreneurs and management teams to provide a breadth of value-add resources in the areas of sales, marketing, branding, finance, operations and legal support which enable its partner companies to rapidly increase brand awareness, accelerate growth and build equity value. Kara serves, or has served, on the boards of babyganics, Bare Snacks, Drunk Elephant, Health Warrior, Humm Kombucha, KIND Snacks, Pirate Brands, Pretzel Crisps, Quest Nutrition, Solid Gold Pet, Sun Bum, Waggin’ Train and Vermont Smoke & Cure, among others. Kara has been an investor in emerging, lower-middle-market branded consumer companies for the last 18 years. Prior to her private equity career, Kara was an Analyst at the investment bank of Schroders plc and received her Bachelor of Arts in Economics and German from Colgate University.
Head of Soft Drinks Research, Euromonitor International
Howard Telford is the Head of Soft Drinks Research at Euromonitor International, a world leader in strategic research solutions and business intelligence. He has been with since 2010. In his role at Euromonitor, he provides insights on consumer trends and market performance in the drinks industry across 100 markets. Howard’s insights are regularly cited in a variety of national programs and publications including CNBC News, the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg and Fortune magazine. For more insight on Euromonitor International, visit http://www.euromonitor.com/.
Founder & CEO, GT’s Living Foods
GT Dave is the category creator of the Kombucha industry with his line of #1 selling products known as GT's Kombucha & Synergy. Over 20 years ago while he was barely a teenager, GT started brewing and bottling his authentic organic raw Kombucha in his parent's kitchen in Los Angeles. Since then, he has expanded his company's portfolio beyond Kombucha and has once again become a pioneer of cutting-edge wellness offerings including non-dairy kefirs, non-dairy raw coconut yogurts, probiotic shots, adaptogenic teas, and much more. GT continues to be the creative and visionary force behind all of GT's Living Foods while allowing the company to remain family-owned and operated.
Founder & CEO, Hint Inc.
Divisional Merchandise Manager, Chilled Packaged Goods, Walmart
Sarah has spent the last 10 years in the food business at Walmart. During this time she has held roles in private brands, sustainability as well as various buying roles in merchandising. She’s currently leading the refrigerated buying teams to cultivate a new shopping experience. She is passionate about growing American entrepreneurs and creating new models for growth.
NEXT CONFERENCE: BEVNET LIVE WINTER 2019 IN SANTA MONICA
The next BevNET Live conference takes place at the Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel on December 9th and 10th. More than 800 beverage industry founder and executives come together to move their businesses forward and discover what's next for the industry. Plan ahead and secure your seat at the two-day conference. Early registration savings of $200 per ticket ends October 25th.