Tom First Departing First Beverage Ventures for Castanea Partners

tjfpiccopy_27727-1Nantucket Nectars founder Tom First is leaving private equity firm First Beverage Ventures for a post with Castanea Partners.

A serial entrepreneur, advisor, and investor in the CPG space, First, who had been the managing partner for First Beverage Ventures, stressed that his departure was extremely amicable, and one based on family and geography. First Beverage Ventures is the investment arm of First Beverage Group, an advisory and investment firm founded by investor and beer industry executive William Anderson. Castanea is located in Newton, Mass., near First’s own home in the Boston suburbs, while First Beverage Group is in Los Angeles.

“I’ve loved my time at First Beverage,” First said. “It’s pretty amazing what’s been put together in such a short period of time.”

First joined First Beverage in 2011 after arranging for his second beverage company, O Beverages, to become a part of distributor Polar Beverages. The executive and board member became the lead point of contact with emerging beverage companies as the firm created a fund in concert with several investors, including Coke’s Venturing and Emerging Brands (VEB). First played the key role of board member and adviser to brands in the fund’s portfolio, one that came to include fast growing companies like Essentia, Q Drinks, Health-Ade Kombucha, Purity Organics, Project Juice and more.

First will remain a board member with several brands that he started working with via First Beverage, including Health-Ade, Purity, Q, and Project Juice.

While it has a broader consumer products focus than the firm First is leaving, Castanea has invested in the past in Fuze beverages, which was eventually sold to the Coca-Cola Co., and is currently a minority shareholder in both Essentia Water — the firm co-invested with First Beverage Ventures — and Jeni’s Ice Cream.

In his new role, First will be an operating partner at Castanea, bringing his experience in the food and beverage industry to help deepen the firm’s involvement in the sector.

“Food and beverage is undergoing such a sea change,” First said. “Being exposed to the companies that are growing across all of these platforms is an exciting opportunity.”

First Beverage is searching for a new managing partner for First Beverage Ventures, which last year raised a second fund.