Seattle-based craft soda brand DRY Sparkling has secured new funding to support the upcoming rollout of DRY Zero Sugar and a staff expansion.
DRY founder and CEO Sharelle Klaus declined to reveal the size of the investment, but noted that it was 50 percent larger than the company’s previous funding round from earlier this year. The money comes from a single Seattle-based angel investor who Klaus said has been the company’s biggest financial supporter since its founding in 2005.
First announced in November, DRY Zero Sugar — a four-SKU line made with organic ingredients and naturally sweetened with stevia — is set to debut nationwide this April in 6-packs of 12 oz. cans.
“There’s a lot of excitement from [the investor] and from our board of directors about the fact that we are now going to be able to do some line extensions,” Klaus said. “[The investment] just allows us to really get behind Zero Sugar and knock it out of the park.”
Klaus, a recent guest on Taste Radio, said the new funding would be used to continue an expansion of the company’s sales staff that began earlier this fall. In September, the company announced three additions to its executive management team: Western region vice president of sales Ed Lilly was promoted to executive vice president of sales, while Jim Flood and Anna Johnson joined as vice president of sales strategy and vice president of operations, respectively.
Along with additional entry level sales staff, Klaus said the company plans to hire a chief financial officer, a business insights manager and a natural channel director, the latter of whom will be tasked with helping DRY reestablish a presence in that retail sector.
Klaus noted that the company previously did not have the resources to develop at natural retailers as much as it would have liked. After focusing on conventional chains like CVS, Kroger, Target and Costco in recent years, she said DRY Zero Sugar represented an ideal offering with which to reconnect with natural channel shoppers.
“Now we really feel like stuff is getting shaken up a little bit in the natural channel and now is the opportune time to get in there,” Klaus explained. “I think it’s such a valuable channel for the kind of consumer for either DRY Sparkling, because of the more culinary style flavors, or for DRY Zero Sugar because it’s organic.”
The new funding will also boost a marketing budget that will be almost double the size of last year. The Zero Sugar line, Klaus said, would expand the kind of sampling events the company can do, including athletic activities. But rather than a detailed pre-planned marketing strategy, Klaus said the brand will need to be flexible and responsive as the year progresses.
“Our head of marketing understands that she will have to be somewhat adaptable as we go through this year on where we are going to have to pull levers,” she said. “It’s going to be about going from quarter-to-quarter and seeing where the opportunity is.”
Beyond Zero Sugar and the core DRY Sparkling line, Klaus hinted at long terms plans for the company to expand into different areas should it find opportunities to “improve something” in other beverage categories. But in terms of further investment, she was clear that the company would be looking for “more than just dollars.”
“It’s great to go out and get private equity dollars but I believe the future for DRY is strategic investment,” Klaus said.