Larry T’s Brain-Twist Shutting Down

After nearly a dozen years developing some of the most innovative and off-the-wall products ever seen in the beverage industry, Brain-Twist is closing its doors. Company founder Larry Trachtenbroit confirmed to BevNET that the beverage incubation house, which is partly owned by The Coca-Cola Co. Inc., is in the process of winding down operations. The company’s close was initially reported by Beverage Digest.

Although he declined to comment on the reasons behind Brain-Twist’s seemingly abrupt fall, Trachtenbroit stated that he is starting a new beverage innovation company called “ThinkIt-DrinkIt.” However, he demurred when asked about details on the new venture.

“I love the beverage industry; I want to be in the beverage industry,” Trachtenbroit said. “It’s still early for [ThinkIt-DrinkIt].”

Sources close to Brain-Twist told BevNET that Slap Energy, the company’s line of value-priced energy drinks, had recently been on unsteady ground with Wal-Mart, by far the brand’s biggest customer. Also hurting the company was that over the last year, Trachtenbroit himself had spent a significant amount of time and financial investment developing two new drink brands – Slap Frozen Energy, a line of slushie-like energy drinks, and Halo, an aloe drink brand.

Launched in 2001, Brain-Twist was founded as independently operating unit of Coke following the company’s purchase of Trachtenbroit’s Planet Java brand. Coke gave Trachtenbroit a three-year contract to develop new and innovative beverage brands quickly in what he described as an “entrepreneurial farm league” for the cola giant. Although the relationship bore few marketable ideas, Brain-Twist continued to operate after the contact with Coke ended, and launched a series of new beverage brands, including Cinnabon Coffee Lattes, Defense Vitamin Drinks, and Liquid Cereal, each of which gained some traction and interest, but eventually fizzled out.

Nevertheless, Coke still saw promise in Brain-Twist’s ability to develop new ideas, and in 2007 the company’s newly created Venturing and Emerging Brands (VEB) unit purchased a 20 percent stake in Brain-Twist. VEB President Deryck van Rensburg called VEB’s first investment – reported to be worth $5 million – as one that would garner ‘‘access to a pipeline of innovative ideas and products.”