Bevscape: The Latest Beverage Brand News

Coke Splits From Big Geyser

The Coca-Cola Company’s fruitful partnership with one of New York’s powerhouse beverage distributors ended in late July when the soda giant confirmed the removal of Honest Tea, Zico coconut water and Hubert’s Lemonade products from Big Geyser’s DSD network.

Big Geyser will cease distribution of Hubert’s Lemonade at the end of October 2018, followed by Zico and Honest Tea at the end of November, when the brands’ respective contracts end. All three brands will transition to Liberty Coca-Cola Beverages, which signed an agreement to acquire distribution rights for Coke beverages in the New York Tri-State Metro area last October.

The announcement effectively concluded the long-running relationship between Coca-Cola and Big Geyser. Over the years, Coke had recognized the distributor as an effective platform for introducing to the market disruptive early stage brands – like Honest Tea, Zico, Hubert’s and Italian premium coffee brand Illy – from Coke’s Venturing and Emerging Brands (VEB) division. Big Geyser was also the distributor for Coke-owned brand Glaceau, which markets Vitaminwater and Smartwater, until it requested a buyout of its contract to carry those products in 2015.

Big Geyser COO Jerry Reda told BevNET at the time that he was informed by Coca-Cola in a call on July 30 that the company would not be renewing its contracts for Hubert’s, Zico and Honest Tea, a move he characterized as “100 percent [Coke’s] decision.”

“We knew that it could happen because the contract was coming to an end,” Reda said, adding that Big Geyser and Coke had had conversations earlier this year about signing a contract extension but the soda company “did not seem to be interested in it.”

Besides the New York metro area, the areas of coverage for Liberty Coca-Cola Beverage also includes Philadelphia, Long Island, the state of New Jersey, and parts of Delaware. Liberty, founded last year by ex-Coca-Cola Refreshments executives Paul Mulligan and Fran McGorry, operates four production facilities and 10 distribution centers in the region, and also serves parts of Hudson Valley, NY and Fairfield County, CT.

Bulletproof Raises $40M

Bulletproof 360, makers of the butter-infused Bulletproof Coffee products, raised $40 million in a Series C funding round led by CAVU Venture Partners.

The deal is the largest ever to date for the Seattle-based brand, which markets butter-infused ready-to-drink coffee and other nutritional products aimed at optimizing mental and physical performance.

According to Bulletproof VP of finance and administration David Borges, the raise will fund Bulletproof’s continued growth as an omni-channel lifestyle brand. CAVU founding partner Rohan Oza said Bulletproof will seek to grow its media presence, including via podcasts, blogs, and books written by founder and CEO Dave Asprey.

Also in August, Bulletproof 360 COO Anna Collins was promoted to President. She will focus on leading growth strategy, operations, and continuing the company’s multi-channel expansion. Former Amazon Prime senior leader Jeff Hull also joined as VP of strategy and analytics.

Diplo, Von Miller Among Celebs Backing MatchaBar

MatchaBar’s next meeting of investors may need a velvet rope at the entrance.

In July, the New York-based matcha brand announced the completion of an $8 million Series A funding round led by a slate of celebrity investors including DJ/producer Diplo (born Thomas Wesley Pentz), Denver Broncos linebacker Von Miller, actor Ansel Elgort and singer Billie Eilish.

The company, founded in 2014 by brothers Max and Graham Fortgang, split the Series A round into three “closings,” beginning with a previously reported $2.25 million investment in July 2016. A second $2.5 million round, which saw rap star Drake join as an investor, followed last August as the brand entered into a new distribution deal with Whole Foods.

Co-founder Graham Fortgang said that the company sought investors from entertainment and sports industries that could drive consumer engagement for Hustle in their respective fields.

“We want to align with people who aren’t just performing but are really doing something to create communities,” he said. “I think for them it’s logical; energy is the universal language, and so I think many of them are becoming very understanding that no one is really drinking Red Bull anymore.”

This latest round, a $3.5 million investment led by Diplo and Miller, arrives as MatchaBar has begun rolling out its new matcha-based energy drink, Hustle, to retailers nationwide. Funds from the new investment will be directed towards expanding distribution and expanding the company’s sales and marketing team, as well as supporting the launch of Hustle.

Along with the debut of Hustle, in September MatchaBar will introduce a new flavor, Lemonade Matcha, to its 10 oz. bottled lineup.

Humm Develops Non-Alcoholic Kombucha Brewing Process

Starting in April, Bend, Ore.-based kombucha maker Humm began shipping product made from a proprietary fermentation process that the company says prevents the liquid from reaching an alcohol by volume (ABV) of over 0.5 percent.

Humm CEO Jamie Danek said the company spent three years developing a fermentation process that ensures its kombucha will not increase in alcohol content when left unopened at room temperature.

Danek said Humm’s goal was to create a live and authentic kombucha without manipulating the product in any way. She offered limited details on the process itself, though she noted that it includes the use of a proprietary technology.

“We’ve taken what people use to brew kombucha in and we’ve enhanced it in a unique way,” she said. “It’s still a live, raw product, so it still doesn’t run on a clock and it’s not completely predictable every day, but everything is more streamlined, efficient, consistent and scalable.”

Several other kombucha makers have attempted to tackle the secondary fermentation issue in the past. KeVita co-founder Bill Moses discussed his plans to begin using a “Verified Non-Alcoholic” label on its packaging, while Suja also labels its kombucha line “verified non-alcoholic.” Brew Dr. Kombucha, also based on Oregon, uses a steam-based system called a spinning cone column to separate ethanol from kombucha without affecting its bacterial profile.