As if the competitive heat in the cold-brewed coffee space wasn’t turned up enough already, a new entrant is on the scene, and she’s accustomed to sweating: celebrity fitness trainer Jillian Michaels.
With the Biggest Loser star’s Empowered Media leading the way, Michaels revealed today that she had purchased a controlling interest in emerging cold brew brand Lucky Jack Coffee Co. The cost was not disclosed. David Seldin, a venture capitalist whose fund, Anzu Partners, has also invested alongside Michaels in the past, is part of the investment group, she said.
Las Vegas-based Lucky Jack is the first bottled line of organic, nitrogen-infused cold brew coffees, according to its new owners. It was started by Richard Karno, who is best known as the founder of Gourmet Coffee Warehouse and Groundwork Coffee, a popular organic coffee roaster in Southern California. Karno will remain on board as head of innovation, while Giancarlo Chersich, the CEO of Empowered Media, will take the role of acting CEO.
“We’re looking for companies that have the hip factor, the cool factor,” Michaels said. “Is the branding on point, something you want to hold in your hand, and how is the taste?”
Acknowledging the attention coming into the category — with companies like Stumptown, Califia Farms, Chameleon and High Brew all vying for consumers — Michaels used one of her favorite terms to emphasize her belief that Lucky Jack has “the kwan — that cool factor, that organic factor, the nitro factor.”
With nautical imagery on its 10.5 oz. “stubby” bottles, Lucky Jack has six SKUs and combines coffee and other ingredients with nitrogen in gas and liquid form. It is named for Lucky Jack Aubrey, a British naval officer in a series of books and the movie Master and Commander. The product retails for an average of about $3.69 per bottle with an MSRP of $3.99.
In their search for “the kwan,” Michaels and Empowered Media — which is responsible for the Jillian Michaels brand — have been active in the food and beverage and wellness space, investing in Krave Jerky, online retailer Thrive Market, PopChips and alkaline water brand AquaHydrate. Michaels has also invested in FlyWheel alongside noted food and beverage investor and marketer Rohan Oza.
This is the first time they have bought a majority interest in a company, a move necessitated by the need to get products onto the market swiftly and with scale, according to Chersich. While Lucky Jack is currently sold in Whole Foods in the Southwest, Sprouts, and specialty and natural foods in Los Angeles, the plan is to saturate key markets soon while also unleashing Michaels’ promotional power behind the brand.
“There is a myriad of things we’re going to do — but that’s why we wanted to have controlling interest in the company,” Chersich said. “But getting the right manufacturing going will allow us to grow the business… using Jillian’s megaphone.”
The product will be visible throughout Michaels’ new show, Just Jillian, an eight-part series on her family and growing business interests. She has also been promoting it on social media for several months — something that she began doing shortly after discovering the two-year-old product early in 2015, she said, even berating stores via Twitter when there were out-of-stocks.
“I bought a bottle, tried it, and immediately emailed Giancarlo,” she said.