The Latest News on the Brands You Sell

Changes at Tenth& Blake

Tenth-and-BlakeCoors Distributing Company president Scott Whitley has been tapped as the new CEO of MillerCoors’ craft and import division, Tenth and Blake Beer Company.

Effective Oct. 1, Whitley will replace outgoing CEO Tom Cardella, who is retiring at the end of the year.

In a note to employees, MillerCoors CEO Tom Long describes Whitley as a “uniquely qualified” veteran with more than 33 years in the beer industry.

“As president of Coors Distributing Company in Denver since 2008, Scott has gained invaluable experience in growing a diverse portfolio of craft and import brands, including leading brands from Blue Moon Brewing Company and Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company,” the letter read.

Tenth and Blake, whose headquarters are in Chicago, markets a variety of craft and import beverages including those from Blue Moon Brewing, Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing, Henry Weinhard’s, Pilsner Urquell, Peroni and Crispin Cider, among others.

Whitley previously held a number of senior roles, including vice president of integration planning at MillerCoors, vice president of global strategy at Molson Coors and chief market development officer at Molson Coors Canada.

Chris Kozina, the current chief of human resources at MillerCoors and the chairman of Coors Distributing’s board of directors, will succeed Whitley as the president of Coors Distributing Company.


Packaging Innovation of the Month

In an effort to help re-launch its sessionable year-round offering Peacemaker Extra Pale as “Peacemaker Anytime Ale,” Austin Beerworks rolled out an enormous, Texas-sized 99-pack of the 5 percent ABV golden ale.

Packaged in cardboard, the multi-pack is seven feet long, weighs 82 lbs., and sells for $99 at Austin package stores.


“Peacemaker is a beer that we have always thought deserved more attention,” said Austin Beerworks co-founder Michael Graham. “We wanted to do something big to help reset people’s impression of it.”

The brewery originally described Peacemaker as “extra pale” because of its color, but consumers were confusing the beer for a more hop-forward pale ale, which prompted the company to make a change and charge up the marketing behind it.

Austin Beerworks turned to creative firm Helms Workshop, an Austin-based company that has also worked with Modern Times Beer and Fullsteam Brewery. The idea, Graham said, was born over a round of beers during the two companies’ weekly meeting.

“Most of the ideas we end up executing are our ideas, but they [Helms Workshop] make them more polished and prettier than we ever could,” he said. “It’s been really helpful to have an outside perspective on things. We get so caught up in our little craft beer world and we lose sight of things sometimes.”

With the wheels in motion, Austin Beerworks then turned to one of its packaging suppliers, Pollock Paper, to help engineer a box that would not only grab people’s attention but also bear the load of 99 beers. The result? An elongated multi-pack that takes at least two people to carry.

“They jumped at the chance to work on a special one-off project,” said Graham. “We could have created a much simpler box, but what makes this stand out is the awkward shape of it.”


Ocean Spray and Fresh Bev Squeeze Out a Strategic Partnership

Cranberry giant Ocean Spray has aligned with FreshBev, the maker of RIPE Craft Bar Juice and Project Fresh cold-pressed juices, on the development of a new line of ultra-premium juice blends.

The soon-to-be-launched RIPE Craft Juice, a line of cold-pressed, high pressure processed (HPP) juices, enables Ocean Spray, a grower-owned cooperative of cranberry and grapefruit farmers, a chance to wade into the refrigerated juice segment, a category that despite its vast portfolio of beverages, the company has yet to penetrate.

For FreshBev, the new line is intended to reach a new set of mainstream consumers and educate about how the melding of high quality ingredients and emerging technologies can create a drinking experience that is unparalleled in taste and nutrition.

“What we want to do here is be able to craft an approachable scale-driver brand that leverages cold-pressed technology, 100 percent traceability and responsibility, but is something that mainstream America is going to be able to afford [and] experience cold-pressed, HPP juice,” said FreshBev co-founder Michel Boissy, who added that “an educated customer is the ‘get one for life.’”

The RIPE Craft Juice brand is “100 percent owned” by FreshBev, Boissy said, and in addition to a licensing and long-term supplier contract with Ocean Spray, the deal also includes a non-compete agreement in which the cranberry company will be prohibited from creating a similar line of juices. Boissy could not offer specifics on the length of non-complete clause, but stated that it will hold “for a while.”


While not co-branded with Ocean Spray, the juices do include its well-known “wave” logo on the labels, surrounded by the text, “Certified with farmer owned Cooperative Grown Fruit.”

“We really want to explain to the consumer that if you want to get the best products possible, you’ve got to go to the top growers,” Boissy said. “[Ocean Spray] has been doing this one thing, and that’s it, forever. And that’s what we’re carrying into our business model: being a ‘deep and narrow’ company, being a specialized company.”

The juice blends are made with cranberries and grapefruits sourced from Ocean Spray farmers as well as apples from producers in upstate New York, all of which is cold-pressed with the resulting juice bottled and high pressure processed. Although the juices are not organic, often a key selling point for cold-pressed brands, Boissy pointed to the traceability of the fruit and how it is processed as “a reasonable trade-off” for consumers.

Packaged in a custom 12 oz. PET bottle with a shape similar to the one that the company uses for Project Fresh, along with a 1L package, the juices will initially come in four varieties: Cranberry, Cranberry Apple, Whole Cranberry Apple and Red Grapefruit, which will be a seasonal offering. Competitively priced among other single-serve cold-pressed juices, RIPE Craft Juice will sell for $3.99 for the 12 oz. size and $9.99 for the 1L bottle.

RIPE Craft Juice is set to make its debut in early November with a soft launch in the Northeast and North Atlantic regions of Whole Foods. The products will gradually roll out to other Whole Foods regions and will be sold exclusively at the natural chain for 12 months, before making their way to other natural and specialty retailers.


Big Red Buys Xyience

Big-Red-Logo3-300x297Big Red Ltd., an independent soda company based in Austin, Texas, has acquired Xyience, a zero-calorie energy drink brand best known for its longstanding relationship with the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).

As part of the deal, Xyience, currently based in Las Vegas, will end its partnership with the UFC and focus on a broader demographic of healthy consumers. The financial terms of the deal have not been disclosed.

Gary Smith, the CEO of Big Red, whose prime asset is its long-running, eponymous soda brand, said that Xyience’s national footprint was an important factor in the acquisition.

‘They’ve done a really good job of building out distributors all over the country and retailers all over the country,” he said.

Smith said that he will preserve the brand’s existing distribution partnerships, such as the recently announced deals with Canada Dry New York, Davis Beverage Group andPolar Beverages. The brand also has deep ties with both MillerCoors and Anheuser-Busch distribution companies, such as Hensley Beverage Company in Arizona.

Under Smith, Big Red has gradually acquired a portfolio of brands, including Thomas Kemper Soda and energy water HyDrive, but Xyience is by far the largest brand the company has picked up. The brand had approximately $45 million in sales, according to IRI numbers for the 52-week period ending May 24, 2014, although those figures don’t include vendors like gymnasiums and GNC- and Vitamin Shoppe-type stores, where it has claimed robust growth.

The brand’s position as the leader of an independent chase pack of energy drinks not named Monster, Rockstar or Red Bull was a remarkable turnaround story following years of shaky finances. Under the ownership of the Fertitta brothers, who own Zuffa, the sports promotion company that runs the UFC, Xyience began a gradual ascent led largely by VP of sales Reuben Rios, one of the few holdovers from the brand’s pre-Fertitta ownership, and eventually by John Lennon, a president and veteran of the beer industry brought on in November 2010 to help fill out its distribution footprint.

Under Big Red ownership, that footprint may change. The Dr Pepper Snapple Group (DPSG) has a 15 percent stake in Big Red and handles about 75 percent of the distribution for Big Red and HyDrive. Considering those ties, the deal led to immediate questions about shifting some of the distribution responsibilities for Xyience more heavily into the DPSG system. While Smith said that there are certain territories that could be potential DPSG locations, Big Red won’t abandon any existing distribution partnerships.

“I don’t know,” he said of DPSG distribution for Xyience. “I think it’s a bit premature to have those conversations.”

Smith said that, for now, Xyience will keep its current headquarters in Las Vegas.


Essentia Scores with Private Equity

Finishing its second round of fundraising in less than a year, fast-growing Essentia Water announced that it had reached a deal to sell a partial ownership stake to private equity firm Castanea Partners. First Beverage Ventures, the private equity fund run by First Beverage Group, was also an investor in the deal.

Essentia CEO Ken Uptain would not comment on the amount raised by the company in the transaction. Under the terms of the deal, Castanea partner Troy Stanfield will take a board seat, joining Uptain and former CFO Keith Huetson as board members. Castanea, which focuses largely on consumer ventures, was also an investor in Fuze before that company was bought out by Coke.

“We started networking about a year ago to narrow it down to the right fit,” Uptain said. “We liked the company, the culture, and Troy — they seemed to bring a lot of back-room expertise, and they’re encouraging us to think as big as we can, to be as aggressive as we can be.”

Uptain told BevNET that the combined expertise of Castanea and First Beverage should help the company as it continues its expansion. He cited First Beverage executives Tom First and Jason Camillos as adding operational experience in addition to financing due to their long history in the beverage business, including Nantucket Nectars, where First was co-founder.

Currently, the company is projected to reach approximately $20 million in sales across natural and conventional channels this year, according to a combination of SPINS and Nielsen retail sales data. Sales are up more than 60 percent for Essentia this year, according to the company. According to the company’s VP of Strategy, Neil Kimberley, the majority of the brand’s growth – 60 percent – is coming from same store sales, while 40 percent is coming from distribution growth.

The next step for Essentia is growing its mainstream retail footprint, according to Uptain. The company is currently in less than 20 percent of that channel, but is continuing to fill out a DSD footprint that will allow it support both grocery, and, eventually, convenience stores, according to Kimberley.

To bring the company closer to mainstream consumers, one slight pivot that has taken place is the brand proposition, which has gradually migrated from stressing the brand’s high alkalinity to its place as a hydration vehicle; this year, it has added the tagline “Hydration Perfected.”