MetaBrand Acquires Growing Innovative Brands

When Eric Schnell and Debbie Wildrick agreed to present at BevNET’s Beverage School conference in April, little did they know the event would become a sort of first date for a merger.

In the two months following the event, Schnell and Wildrick, each a veteran of the beverage industry and both owners of consulting firms specializing in the growth of new and emerging companies, found themselves collaborating on the development and incubation of a number of upstart drink brands.

As the weeks progressed, the pair saw growing alignment between Schnell’s Metabrand, which bills itself as a “one-stop shop” for taking new beverage concepts to market, and Wildrick’s Growing Innovative Brands, which works with new brands to develop and enhance retail channel strategies. Although Wildrick had already taken a role with Metabrand as a part of its sales and marketing advisory team, Schnell sought to fully integrate her knowledge and expertise in convenience, drug and mass retail channels, something that his firm, which primarily works with natural brands, had lacked.

Schnell would get his wish.

Metabrand has agreed to acquire Growing Innovative Brands and make Wildrick the centerpiece of a new advisory department focusing on snacks and beverages. The acquisition, which will go into effect on June 1, gives Wildrick an equity stake in Metabrand, and a primary role in advising natural brands on breaking into mainstream channels.

“We’re very excited with the level of shared experience to collaborate,” Schnell told BevNET. “It’s the best of both worlds.”

On the docket for the combined companies: first, putting a seven-figure funding round to use, according to Schnell, who said much of the investment came through a single lead financing source. In addition, Wildrick will lead the development of a new “food and beverage business 101” webinar series designed for new and pre-revenue companies. The series will be a fee-based, 10-part online course streamed live and led by a range of industry professionals with experience in a variety of related fields. The course will feature a new segment once a week and be offered on a quarterly basis.

Schnell also said that Metabrand will also work with Wildrick to publish a new book about her life in beverage industry.