Waiting on a Miracle

coast brandsBob Groux brings home plenty of samples — enough for his family to be pretty jaded about it. As the founder and owner of national beverage broker Coast Brands Group, samples are a regular byproduct of the job. His family has grown accustomed to this fact. They usually don’t give it much thought. However, not long ago, when Groux’s 18-year-old daughter had a party at their house, he brought home a few cases of Little Miracles.

“The kids went nuts over it,” Groux said.

They told him that if he brought Little Miracles to their school, it would sell out. And this isn’t just daddy’s little girl expressing pride in her father’s work. Groux said that he never gets this kind of reaction. So what’s the fuss about?

Little Miracles, a line of teas marketing organic energy, is unfamiliar to teenagers and even to many beverage industry folks in the U.S., but that’s not the case overseas. The London-based brand has already established a distribution footprint in 21 countries in Europe and the Middle East, with plans to hit Asia. The product is available in four flavors — Green Tea & Pomegranate, White Tea & Cherry, Black Tea & Peach and Lemongrass Tea, Orange Juice & Ginger — and hopes to challenge other new-age beverages and the firmly established energy drink pantheon. With the “organic energy” idea, the product seems to align itself in a similar fashion to Brooklyn, N.Y.-based Runa; the easygoing packaging, however, gives it a more feminine mien.

But, Little Miracles represents more than just a new take on the potential for the organic energy category. It will also answer another question: what have you done for me lately? For Coast Brands, an entity that has seen its ups and downs over the years (like just about anyone in this industry, mind you), that’s an important question. For Groux, Little Miracles is also a chance to recalibrate the efficacy and value of Coast Brands’ own proposition.

A Long Career

From his years of experience in just about every tier of the industry, Groux plans to apply a craftsman’s philosophy to Little Miracles’ path to market.

“Measure twice,” he said, “cut once.”

Groux started his career as a buyer for 350 7-Eleven stores in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. That’s where he got to know exactly the kind of people you want to know: the Snapple founders. This led to no small feat — Groux bringing Snapple to California in 1989. Then in 1993, Snapple asked him to partner with the company in Texas, which he turned into one of the brand’s largest domestic markets. After the Quaker Oats Company acquired Snapple for $1.7 billion in 1994, Groux returned to California and the distribution business. He launched SoBe there in the mid-1990s, as well as Nantucket Nectars, Stewart’s and Dad’s Root Beer.

After years of enduring the grind of beverage distribution, Groux’s wife suggested that he could use his expertise and connections to help young brands. He wouldn’t need trucks or warehouses, only a Rolodex and a willingness to share his understanding of the industry. He launched Coast Brands in Newport Beach, Calif., as an incubator and brand development house. He also put together master broker agreements for brands seeking DSD distribution in California.

Since launching Coast Brands, Groux has experienced much of the unpredictable madness of this volatile industry. Through DSD distribution, he built Wolfgang Puck Cold Lattes, a $7 million company that he hoped would compete with Starbucks Frappuccinos. But another Wolfgang Puck Product — the self-heating latte — ran into some serious technical problems, leading to recalls and litigation.