Celsius Rising: Good Quarter Yields $2.2 Million DeSantis Investment

Celsius has picked up another $2.2 million in financing from lead investor Carl DeSantis, an indication of his commitment and belief in the brand, according to CEO Gerry David.

Celsius CEO Gerry David

David, brought on by DeSantis in September, 2011 to replace founder Steve Haley, has been quietly rebuilding Celsius, a brand of “calorie burning soda” that has gone through fits and starts, both in terms of sales and strategy, since its introduction in 2005.

A consumer product company veteran, David said the brand has been growing as a result of a new marketing emphasis behind an aggressive “single sales” strategy. Putting the brand in the cold box has encouraged consumers to begin trying it more, he said; a previous strategy based largely on multi-packs had required too much of a financial commitment.

“It was a real miss on the part of the original management,” David told BevNET during an interview last month, following the announcement of a quarter that had shown a 66 percent increase in revenues to $3 million for the publicly-traded company.

A rebrand and new packaging design, as well as a long period of rebuilding the confidence of retailers, has helped the company achieve something of a turnaround, according to David.

“You can’t slash the company in half,” he said, “So I spent a lot of time last year meeting with retailers face to face.”

The brand presented last July at an ECRM forum, meeting with 50 buyers over a three-day period. Ideas about the brand’s new look and feel were fully implemented at the start of the year, he said, with a focus on six key markets: Los Angeles, San Diego, South Florida, Tampa, Texas and New England. Key distributors include DSDs Haralambos in California and Polar in New England, along with fitness-oriented broadline shippers like Europa and Lone Star. Down the road, David sees potential to move the brand into natural food stores, as well, as he’s trying to create a Stevia-sweetened formulation.

But for now, he remains in support of what he calls a “drill-deep strategy.” It’s been addition by subtraction. Previously, the brand had banked heavily on a national presence through drug and warehouse accounts, which had led to a very thin, hard-to-support distribution structure.

“We just didn’t have enough consumers on a daily basis drinking the product,” David said of the period in which the brand was pushing nationally. “I don’t think the company was ready to go into Costco – but we spent $2.5 to $3 million over a three-year period in Costco.”

After pulling out of the chain, he said, “All of our accounts are up. Retailers, online, everything is up… we’re moving now in the right direction.”