Functional Investment: Boulder Brands Purchases Stake in Tumeric Alive

Tumeric_LineUpA few months ago, Tumeric Alive founder Daniel Sullivan took the stage at BevNET Live Summer ’14 to discuss how his company has leaned an on-trend ingredient, turmeric, to build a highly differentiated brand within an evolving (and increasingly crowded) functional beverage set.

His talk caught the attention of Presence Marketing founder and CEO Bill Weiland, whose company is a broker for a range of natural and specialty products, including Suja, the fast-growing cold-pressed, high pressure processed juice brand. Weiland is also a primary investor in the venture capital arm of Boulder Brands, the parent company of several natural CPG brands including evol, Earth Balance and Glutino.

Boulder Brands Investment Group (BIG) operates on the premise that it offers not only financial investment, but operational expertise in being able to accelerate growth for trendy brands. Based on that value proposition, BIG, which in 2013 purchased a minority stake in Suja, has taken an equity position in Tumeric Alive, which markets a line of turmeric-infused, bottled beverages and shots, all of which are high-pressured processed.

Duane Primozich, one of three managing partners at BIG, praised Tumeric Alive’s explicit association with turmeric, considering “the magnitude and potential” for the ingredient.

“It was readily apparent to us that this was an on-trend concept,” Primozich said. “We love turmeric as an ingredient. We think it’s, given all the things that it’s good for, timely.”

Primozich also applauded “the quality of the people” behind Tumeric Alive, noting that the BIG “prioritizes working with people that we really like.” It’s something that gave Primozich and his partners comfort to move quickly on the deal, which he said took less than 90 days to complete.

Daniel Sullivan, Tumeric Alive

Daniel Sullivan, Tumeric Alive

Sullivan said that the investment, which gives BIG a minority stake in the company, will be used to buffer Tumeric’s supply chain, expand the brand’s distribution footprint, increase its staff and implement a new digital marketing campaign. Most notably, however, is the company’s plan to use some of the funds for the development of a new mainstream-oriented line of products. The new beverages will feature a refreshment component that is more apparent than in its primary line and come in at a price point of around $3.99, which is about a dollar less than its flagship drinks.

Tumeric Alive will not be implementing funds to build its own manufacturing facility, Sullivan said. Instead, the company will continue co-packing its products at FreshBev, LLC, a New Haven-based company that, in addition to producing its lines of RIPE Bar Mixers and Project Fresh cold-pressed juices, sells some of its capacity to other HPP brands.

While Primozich said BIG believes in the ability for Tumeric Alive to scale relatively quickly, the brand has up until now, mainly operated within the natural channel, with distribution focused in the Northeast. Like many natural beverage companies, Tumeric Alive has built a significant part of its business in Whole Foods, and will continue to focus its efforts on development through the retailer via increased regional distribution and same-store sales, as a means to wider placement. Primozich said.

“If it works in Whole Foods, and works really well in Whole Foods, there’s a darn good chance that it will work elsewhere,” he said. “It’s sort of stamp of validation or credibility if you’re successful there. And because of its scale, I’m not in any big hurry to move outside of that.”

However, Tumeric Alive will eventually make a move into conventional grocery, Primozich noted, and the new sub-line will be a key part of that cross-over. Another key aspect of an expanded channel presence will be an impending rebrand, which Sullivan said is timed to launch in conjunction with Natural Products Expo West 2015. Sullivan said that the company is in “the very early stages” of the revamp and declined to offer details, yet Primozich noted that a change in the name of the brand will incorporate a clear link to turmeric, particularly because of the need to increase the awareness of the ingredient.

Beyond beverages, Sullivan said believes that there is a significant opportunity to evolve the brand’s product offerings, in large part due to its ownership of a proprietary supply chain. It’s something that not only allows the company room to innovate, it’s a clear and definable competitive advantage.

“I think we offer something that no other brand does,” Sullivan said. “And no one else has done anything to scale with turmeric or has a supply that we have access to.”