Video: Visit with Activate Drinks

Activate is a product that has intrigued me since I first saw a picture of a mockup bottle in Beverage Digest in early 2008. The product, which uses a cap dispenser to mix the flavor and nutrients at the time of consumption, is, at least in my opinion, the best-executed product to use this type of cap, selling the benefits of the cap (aka bioavailability) rather than the gimmick of watching stuff drop into the bottle of water below. Plus, it’s hard to pass over a story that starts with “Son of Former Disney CEO Eisner Launching New Beverage” – it’s pretty likely to be a sufficiently funded startup.

But a lot has changed since then. Dan Holland, who has been at the helm of the company since July of 2009 (and sat with me for a video interview at BevNETLive Winter 10, which you can watch above) has helped the company create a more polished product (they switched the cap, which Holland says “speaks directly to the consumer in terms of what to do with it”) and significantly expand its distribution footprint. Things are now starting to click for the brand: with several new distribution and retail agreements completed this year, Activate is now sold in 14 US Western states. When pressed about plans for expansion to the East (the next logical point of expansion), Holland admitted that the company is currently looking for a copacking partner in the eastern half of the US – a clear sign of what’s to come. For now, this growth has, according to Holland, allowed the brand to grow and hit its targets – certainly not something to take lightly in this climate.

On the funding side, the company did have former Disney CEO Michael Eisner (whose son Anders is the co-founder) on its friends and family rounds – that’s obviously not a bad place to start. Recently, they closed $21 million of external funding – the company’s first external funding, according to Holland. While this round most notably included Tata Global Beverages, it also included existing distributors as well as other distributors that have signed, but have not started selling, Activate. All of these are a big vote of confidence that this brand – and to some further extent cap dispensing technology – has a bright future ahead of it.

For now, the company is just focused on reaching more consumers, whom Holland describes as being “functional users” that shop at various retail channels. Having some more capital to make this happen is certainly a good thing – and Holland offers some advice in the video about having the right amount of funding and having a unique idea, two things that are especially important when you are dealing with patented cap technology and a product that has, at least for some consumers, a slight learning curve.

In the video, watch Dan talk about the recent money raise, expansion, their target consumer, the Activate cap, and more.