Runa Closes Financing Round, Opens Safeway Shelves

A second investment round by fast-growing Runa, an organic Amazonian guayusa tea brand, has landed an interesting mix of actor, musician, and industry stalwart, along with a lead investment from a fund with strong CPG ties of its own.

The series “B” round, which came on the heels of last year’s $3 million series “A” round, brought in beverage industry investors Mark Rampolla – the founder of ZICO – and Kim Jeffery, the former CEO of Nestle Waters North America, behind lead investor Rosemont Solebury, a family office associated with the Heinz ketchup fortune.

The total raise was greater than the series “A” but less than $10 million, according to Runa co-founder Tyler Gage, who has a bizarre connection to at least one of the other investors, movie star Channing Tatum. One of Tatum’s earliest roles, in the movie “Step Up,” featured him playing a character named… Tyler Gage.

Channing Tatum, ready for a Runa investor meeting?

Beyond Tatum, the round added music industry heft with producers Lukasz Gottwald (known as Dr. Luke, he’s worked with Ke$ha, among others), Mike Dean (Kanye West) and musician manager Coran Capshaw (Dave Mathews Band, Phish).

The star-studded round came from “friends of friends” and growing interest in the brand, Gage said.

That interest may be accompanied by even more exposure now that the brand has closed a deal for six SKUs to enter the Safeway system nationally, giving the “Clean Energy” brand a national, conventional footprint to accompany its national Whole Foods availability.

On the hiring front, the company has brought on Zico and Vitaminwater veteran T. J. Leenders to run its East Coast sales team – a role that Leenders also held at Zico. Leenders will be dealing with some new DSD accounts as well, as Runa is leaving Blue Coast Beverage in Massachusetts for the larger Polar Bottling company. New Age Beverage, out of Denver, Colo., will also pick up the brand.

According to Gage, Runa sold more than $2 million in product last year – and he expects that amount to triple in the year to come.