Drake Invests in MatchaBar, Whole Foods Picks Up RTD Line Nationwide

Matcha beverage maker and retailer MatchaBar is nearing completion of a new Series A funding round that includes rap icon Drake as an investor. The $2.5 million round is expected to close within the next few weeks and comes on the heels of a new distribution deal with Whole Foods, which will carry MatchaBar’s line of RTD beverages in its stores nationwide beginning in September.

MatchaBar co-founder Graham Fortgang, who launched the company with brother Max in 2014, told BevNET that he was “humbled by [Drake’s] decision to get behind our ‘Better Energy’ platform.”

“Max and I are thrilled around Drake’s involvement,” he said. “Inspired by his hustle, MatchaBar is innovating the energy space, pushing the energy category forward with a product that suits the needs of the millennial consumer. As it’s evolved from novelty to fad to trend, we’ve always known that matcha would emerge as a staple in the energy category.”

The new funding follows a $2.25 million round of capital raised in July 2016 and includes investment from New York-based creative agency Bullish and additional “high net-worth individuals with strategic value,” Fortgang said. Bullish was behind the revamp of MatchaBar’s packaging and transition to minimalist “billboard labels,” which include the brand’s logo, flavor name and short, satirical copy such as “Original Matcha has been gluten free since the year 1204.”

MatchaBar promotes its RTD beverages, which are made with ceremonial-grade matcha and come in four varieties, as antioxidant-rich, better-for-you alternatives to mainstream energy drinks. The products are currently sold in Whole Foods’ Northeast and Southern Pacific regions and retail for $3.49 per 10 oz. bottle. Fortgang called the national deal with Whole Foods one that “will allow MatchaBar to reach a wider audience than ever before as we continue to set the standard for quality bottled matcha.”

“Whole Foods continues to be the leader in the natural food and beverage space,” he said. “We are grateful for the support of [Whole Foods’] beverage category manager Jillian Shimskey, and the entire global team who continues to support young emerging brands and innovative products on the global level.”

In addition to its RTD business, MatchaBar operates matcha-centric cafes in New York and Los Angeles and is planning to launch two more locations by the end of the year. Along with Whole Foods, the bottled line is carried by several independent and small chain natural food retailers, including Lunardi’s, Erewhon, Molly Stones, Jimbo’s Naturally, New Leaf Markets and Nugget.

MatchaBar is planning to raise additional funds to support the national rollout and development of the RTD line. Fortgang believes the products will continue to gain momentum as matcha awareness and demand grows among U.S. consumers, particularly as an alternative to traditional energy drinks and coffee.

“We believe there is a clear need for a healthier alternative in the energy category, and we are thrilled to be at the forefront of matcha in the U.S.,” he said. “Consumers are clearly seeking out a cleaner, calmer way to energize.”