Bevscape: The Latest Beverage Brand News

Revive Launches Sparkling Kombucha in Cans

California-based kombucha maker Revive is testing a new four-SKU shelf-stable sparkling kombucha line in 12 oz. cans, as part of what the brand called a refocusing on its core mission of replacing carbonated soft drinks.

Speaking with BevNET in early March, Revive founder and CEO Sean Lovett said making the jump from 12 oz. refrigerated glass bottles to shelf-stable cans had been one of the company’s long-term goals. He noted the format opens up new possibilities in flavors, route to market, use occasion and audience, all of which position it as a product that can take on soda.

The canned line differs from Revive’s refrigerated product in more than just packaging. The line features less sugar (5 g) and fewer calories (20 g), with Lovett noting the four flavors – Cherry Hibiscus, Citrus Ginger, Mango Orange and Strawberry Lemon – were developed specifically with a lighter, more refreshing drinking experience in mind.

To create the line, the company developed both proprietary equipment and a proprietary production process that could maintain flavor after pasteurization. The product also uses DE111, a probiotic strain that becomes active after digestion, and delivers a similar functionality as the brand’s raw kombucha.

The line is currently in limited distribution in the Bay Area, where it is available via online retailer GoodEggs and at Oliver’s Market locations. Single-serve 12 oz. cans have a suggested retail price of $2.99 and 4-packs are priced at $11.99.

Beyond flavor and use occasion, the canned line gives Revive the chance to take previously unavailable routes to market. Whereas the brand’s refrigerated line is distributed in California via Cold Craft – the cold-chain system run by its majority stakeholder, Peet’s Coffee – the shelf-stable product could potentially leverage Peet’s relationship with Keurig Dr Pepper (KDP), which last year partnered with the coffee maker to distribute its ambient RTD espresso line.

Monster vs. VPX: Whose “Reign” Is Supreme?

Monster Energy and rising rival Bang wrote the next entry in their long history of contentious litigation in late March, when the latter filed a lawsuit claiming Monster is infringing on its trademark with the launch of its new “performance energy” line, Reign.

Described on its label as “total body fuel,” Reign, announced in January, represents Monster’s foray into the high caffeine, fitness-oriented subset of “performance energy” drinks in which VPX Pharmaceuticals’ Bang line has enjoyed much recent success. In revealing the new line, which launched in 16 oz. cans in March, Monster CEO Rodney Sacks and vice chairman Hilton Schlosberg said Reign will have a dedicated team of senior managers focused exclusively on the brand and that it would receive its “own marketing and positioning” relative to Monster’s other portfolio products.

However, in late March, VPX announced it had filed a lawsuit against Monster accusing the company of trademark infringement, trade dress infringement, and unfair competition over its use of “REIGN.” According to a document attached to the complaint, JHO Intellectual Property Holdings, of which VPX CEO Jack Owoc is CEO, obtained the exclusive licensing rights for the trademark from DASH on March 12.

In an Instagram video posted to Bang Energy’s verified account on March 28, Owoc announced the launch of its own product called REIGN, which is packaged in an 8 oz. bottle and described as a “pre-workout energy drink.” The product is also referenced in the complaint.

In response to the suit, Monster issued a statement which said the company is “confident that VPX’s lawsuit will ultimately be dismissed.”

“VPX’s lawsuit is nothing more than a frivolous and bad faith attempt to slow the national release of ‘Reign Total Body Fuel,’” the company stated. “The fact is, this meritless lawsuit will not impede the launch of ‘Reign Total Body Fuel’ in any way. The facts are straightforward.”

Comparing Reign to Bang in January, Sacks noted that Monster’s product would have the same amount of caffeine (300 mg), but five times the amount of branch amino acids (BCAAs) and CoQ10 as its main competitor. The company’s top 200 accounts have committed to picking up the zero sugar, zero calorie line, which is available in SKUs like Peach Fizz, Carnival Candy, Sour Apple and Razzle Berry.

Hormel Sells CytoSport to PepsiCo

Hormel Foods Corporation announced a deal to sell CytoSport to PepsiCo for $465 million in February, as the company behind the Muscle Milk brand makes a new start less than five years after its acquisition by Hormel.

CytoSport, founded in 1998, was acquired by Hormel in a deal valued at $450 million in 2014. The company markets a variety of protein-focused sports nutrition products under the Muscle Milk brand, including powders, ready-to-drink beverages and bars. In 2017, it launched a parallel brand platform for plant-based protein products, Evolve.

The acquisition, Pepsi’s first under new CEO Ramon Laguarta, gives the soda and snack giant another legacy brand that will allow it to further expand its product offerings. Within the Pepsi portfolio, CytoSport products will be featured alongside Gatorade, which in recent years has broadened its offerings to include protein-based powders, RTDs and bars. Pepsi also purchased Health Warrior, which markets sports nutrition powders and bars, for an undisclosed sum in October 2018.

As one of the best-known legacy brands in the sports nutrition segment, Muscle Milk has faced increasing competition from direct rivals in RTD, such as The Coca-Cola Co.’s Core Power and fast growing brands like OWYN and Iconic Protein, as well as beverage products featuring protein as a value-added ingredient.

During an earnings call in November 2018, Snee said CytoSport had a “disappointing year” after declining sales in powders and RTDs. Hormel recorded a non-cash impairment of $17 million in the fourth quarter “associated with the CytoSport business.”

KDP Invests Further in FORTO

In March, Dyla Brands, the parent company behind FORTO Coffee and Stur, secured a $20 million raise led by Keurig Dr Pepper (KDP) and hired former CORE SVP of sales Jon Crecy to build its national DSD infrastructure. Existing shareholders also participated in the raise.

Nestle veteran Alberto Hernandez Lopez was also named Dyla’s new chief marketing officer, joining the company as the FORTO brand is in the process of making the leap from 2 oz. shots to an 11 oz. RTD energy coffee line this spring.

Dyla founder and CEO Neel Premkumar told BevNET that the impetus for this round of fundraising arrived following the merger, which provided the opening for the brand to enter a nationwide DSD network.

“The opportunity to go DSD opened up this chance for us to not just have checkout distribution via wholesalers but also get secondary display, off-shelf display, to go smaller format with cooler door racks and larger format with floor stands and shippers,” said Premkumar.

To establish its bonafides as a national brand, Dyla has brought in an experienced hand in Jon Crecy as the company’s new head of sales. Crecy, a former VP of sales at CytoSport and sales director at Fuze, was most recently at Core Nutrition through the completion of its sale to KDP in January. He told BevNET he was attracted by the opportunity to join an entrepreneurial brand at a critical growth stage and integrate it into a “world class distribution system.”

“For me [the role] leverages a lot of my past experiences with Core, as well as past relationships,” said Crecy. “We know the system and we know the executives; they are engaged, passionate, and they want to win.”

On the marketing side, the addition of Hernandez brings another seasoned veteran to the team. As VP of integrated consumer communications at Gerber, he helped execute a comprehensive overhaul for the baby food brand that shifted focus towards clean ingredients and more sophisticated flavors.

The investment also comes as FORTO’s first non-shot product – an 11 oz.

RTD energy coffee available in three varieties – rolls out at retail this spring. Premkumar said the investment was timed to coincide with the new product, which is currently available at Walmart nationwide, and that the brand’s marketing strategy will be informed by consumer data.