When it came to Greenshoots Distribution, Sean Lovett saw the writing on the wall.
In October, the natural and specialty DSD distributor, which had in recent months been roiled with irate suppliers, many claiming thousands of dollars in unpaid bills, had attempted a consolidation of its distribution territory as a way to focus on its most profitable regions. Nevertheless, the company, faced with a mass exodus of its suppliers, alerted remaining brand partners that as of January 2, it would cease business operations.
Despite the ongoing turmoil, Lovett, the founder of Revive Kombucha, remained a supporter of the company, which had been a critical partner since the beginning of his brand. Lovett may have been wistful for the old days, but he had a business to run, and in the weeks leading to Greenshoots’ demise prepared for a transition in distribution, namely by creating his own.
Earlier this month, Revive, which has always maintained a self-distribution business in Sonoma County (where the company is based) established its own DSD operation in southern California, aiming to maintain its presence in the region and space on store shelves.
“We’ve been anticipating some of this, and… from the get-go, we’ve wanted to be our own DSD provider,” Lovett told BevNET. “We’ll be able to put our own trucks on the road, go service those retailers, [and] keep them happy,” Lovett said. “At the end of the day, it’s about keeping our product on the shelf, keeping the shelf space protected.”
Lovett noted that as the company looks to expand its geographical footprint, Revive will adopt distribution options beyond DSD, as it has in a newly minted deal with UNFI, one of the largest natural products wholesalers in the U.S. As with several other brands formerly affiliated with Greenshoots, Revive turned to UNFI, aiming for distribution growth and consistent placement of its products. While the agreement required Revive to create new custom-molded crates for its bottles, it’s certainly a small imposition for the kombucha company, which, through UNFI, will regain distribution in the Rocky Mountain region beginning in mid-February.
In this interview, filmed at Revive’s booth at the 2015 Winter Fancy Food Show, Lovett discusses much more about the company’s DSD operation and what he expects from the deal with UNFI. Lovett also talks about the success of Revive’s package variety and its bottle return program, the creation of a new production facility and whether kombucha is finally finding its place in the mainstream.