Hansen’s Hires West “Coaster”

In a hire that is notable for what it indicates about Hansen Naturals Corp’s increasing emphasis on the Hansen Beverage Co. portfolio of products — long the weak sister to stablemate Monster Energy — one of the company’s key hires was on the floor at the National Association of Convenience Stores yesterday.

Aimee Peters, one of the first members of the Coast Brands Group team, has joined Hansen’s as the regional manager handling distributor sales in the West.

Peters, who leveraged her experience with  major California Anheuser Busch distributor Straub into the position of VP of sales when Coast rolled out as an independent entity three years ago, will try to extend Hansen’s growing line of mainstream-focused NA products to new distribution clients. It’s a role similar to the one she had at Coast, where she focused on distributor sales for that company’s stable of brands. (Industry observers with longer memories might recall that Coast Brands Group was originally Coast Beverages, working largely with Straub as a base, which is how the whole ball started rolling, but that’s a lot of beverage under the bridge by now.)

The new hire seems to underscore Hansen’s commitment to build a stable of brands with credibility independent of Monster but also focused outside of the company’s traditional natural products retailer focus. At NACS Sunday morning, that stable of new or new-ish brands, included the first appearance of Angeleno, a new five-flavor set of aguas frescas, enhanced water Vidration, fast-growing Hubert’s Lemonade and recent introduction Hubert’s Half-and-Half. With the exception of Vidration, the new non-carbonates brands are all recent launches under brand manager Blair Owens, and they show, as Peters puts it, “where the company has always focused on natural, we’re going mainstream with this line.”

Such a move stands in contrast to Hansen’s traditional focus on products like Hansen’s Soda and Hansen’s Energy — both natural food stores staples — as well as the core juices and smoothies that were the 75 year-old company’s stock-in-trade prior to the arrival of investors Rodney Sacks and Hilton Schlosberg in 1992. Schlosberg is in charge of Hansen’s Beverage on a day-to-day level, according to Owens and Peters, while Sacks remains more focused on Monster with that company’s President, Mark Hall.

As for Coast, which helps get brands authorized in chains and within 60-house distributor network, Peter’s move might have hurt the rapidly-growing operation but Groux quickly filled the position with old friend Mitch Brantley, who was on board with several of Groux’s past ventures, including Pacific Snapple, where he was president, as well as a slew of other new hires that indicate the company is extending its own reach into new, important geographic regions.

Coast is counting on its own portfolio, including cap-release functional water Activate, protein drink Oh Yeah!, fat burner Celsius, craft beer brand Crazy Mountain and emerging biodegradeable bottled water Green Planet to help the company move forward despite the financing and supply problems that have handicapped New Leaf Tea, one of its early workhorse brands. In addition to Brantley, the brand house has added three other key hires, including former Jolt and Dad’s sales executive Jeff Smith in the Midwest, and Mick O’Donnell (Big Earth Brands, Arizona) and Wayne Smith (Boylan Bottling Co.) in the Southeast.

“We hated to see Aimee go, but it was a good opportunity,” Groux said. “She’s been wonderful to work with.”