CAVU-Backed Waterloo Sparkling Preps National Launch

Positioning itself as a fuller-flavored challenger brand in a burgeoning category, Austin-based Waterloo Sparkling Water will launch nationally next month in all Whole Foods stores, along with several other retail chains throughout the country.

The launch follows a $3.2 million funding round led by food and beverage-focused venture capital firm CAVU Venture Partners. Speaking to BevNET Monday, Waterloo co-founder and CMO Brandon Cason said the launch has an initial production run of just under four million cans, and in addition to Whole Foods will also include Central Market, Market Street, and The Fresh Market stores, with several more major retailer contracts in the works.

“We’re going to be launching nationally everywhere, it’s just a matter of reset time periods and how quickly we can get shelf space, and we’ll be looking for opportunities to get off-shelf presence where we can,” Cason said. “If we have to wait to be cut into the shelf, then we’ll wait to be cut in, but hopefully with the right sales approach and production capacity we’ll be able to deliver cases all over the country in a short amount of time.”

Cason said the company’s goal is to not focus on specific regions, but rather to go “as wide and as deep as quickly as possible” nationwide.

Named for the historical village of Waterloo, Texas (which would become Austin), Cason called the brand “a more realistic tasting sparkling water” which will differentiate itself from the small but competitive batch of other national players in the category, such as LaCroix. To create a stronger flavor profile, Waterloo forwent flavor houses to develop the formula of the brand’s initial seven-SKU launch line itself. According to Cason, the strong taste resonated with Whole Foods, which had been seeking a young sparkling water brand.

“[Whole Foods] tasted that quality and they could see that we were delivering a product that was coming on and arriving at a time when they needed something additional to fill out that category, which the competitive set has largely been low-index,” Cason said.

Waterloo currently self-distributes, but is represented by food broker Acosta’s natural and specialty sales division.

“[Acosta has] already shown tremendous levels of enthusiasm, we’ve had multiple calls with their team, and we’re seeing the signs of the fruits of their labor already, so we expect good things,” Cason said.

The company was founded in January by Treaty Oak Distilling CEO Daniel Barnes, who quickly brought in Cason, who had served as CMO for Deep Eddy Sweet Tea Vodka since 2010. The team also brought on two Amplify Snack Brands alums: Jason Shiver, former North American president at Amplify, to serve as CEO, and Bob York, Amplify’s VP of sales, in the same position.

In Whole Foods, Waterloo will launch with five SKUs, including original, Lemon, Lime, Grapefruit, and Watermelon. The company also produces Black Cherry and Coconut flavors. Currently, the product is only sold in 12-packs of 12 oz. cans with an SRP of $5.99, but pack size variations are on the slate for early 2018, including a potential multi-serve glass offering with new flavors, Cason said.

Waterloo is produced in Austin, but the company is exploring options for producing in other parts of the U.S. to cut down on distribution distance. For the time being, Cason said the latest round of funding has ensured the company will be going ahead smoothly for the foreseeable future.

“It’s all one team, one dream right now,” he said. “It’s all about Waterloo Sparkling.”