Happy Tree Completes Fundraising Round, Debuts Updated Label

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Organic maple water brand Happy Tree has announced that the company has closed a new investment round led by CircleUp Growth Fund and Blue {Seed} Collective.

CircleUp, with a $22 million fund that will match investments made by other investors in select companies that use its equity-based crowdfunding platform, has previously made investments in beverage companies such as adaptogenic elixir maker REBBL and Sonoma Cider.

“Over past the few years at CircleUp, we’ve seen a boom in functional beverages, products with new unique ingredients contributing specific, positive attributes,” said Ben Lee, CircleUp’s Managing Director of Funds, in a press release. “happytree stood out because of its fantastic product, which tastes great and touts compelling benefits, and tenured team with great business experience. We’re excited to be investors and help facilitate their growth.”

Venture capital group Blue {Seed} Collective, an investor during Happy Tree’s previous round of fundraising, also participated in this stage, along with a family office and other angel investors.

In an interview with BevNET, Happy Tree CFO/COO Will Finkelstein called the new investment a recognition of the company’s potential and “a good validation of our brand and the maple water category” after a year in which the brand expanded to over 400 new retail locations and debuted several new SKUs.

“We’ve proven the concept in the natural channel,” Finkelstein said. Happy Tree is sold at Whole Foods in seven regions and at its 365 stores, as well as at more than 500 independent natural food markets, with national distribution through UNFI. “We are a premium brand, but our goal is to bring maple water to a broader set of the population. Our plan was to build around the natural channel and the bring it to the conventional channel.”

The company made its entrance into the conventional channel last summer, securing placement at Giant Eagle, Market Basket and select Kroger locations. Finkelstein said the brand would be launching in several more retailers in the channel in the coming months, adding over 1,000 additional locations to current store presence.

As such, Finkelstein said that new funding would be primarily directed toward field marketing and sales initiatives that will help the brand build its presence in the conventional grocery retailers.

“Everything from a class at a local yoga studio to sponsoring health and wellness-related festivals, that’s pretty much where you’ll see us,” he said.

Over the past year, the brand has branched out beyond its initial maple water offering. With the debut of Lemon, Pomegranate and Ginger varieties, as well as a ready-to-drink coffee that is cold brewed with maple water, Finkelstein explained that Happy Tree was evolving into a dynamic brand platform, with maple water serving as the initial base vehicle for delivering different kinds of beverage experiences.

“The way we think about it is we are an organic tree water company and maple water is what we’ve begun with,” he said. “The way we think of it is maple water has the ability to reinvent certain categories within the beverage cooler. We have the coffee, which has no added sugar and all it is is pure maple water cold brewed in coffee. So we can do that with a variety of other beverages that are in the cooler.”

Happy Tree’s new label design, which will be showcased at Natural Products Expo West 2017 next week in Anaheim, Calif., is part of the company’s strategy to broaden its appeal as it pushes into the conventional channel.

“It’s not a rebrand; it’s more of a label update,” Finkelstein said, noting a slight change to the company’s logo on the new packaging of its 12 oz. PET bottles. The updated label features new customer call-outs; the words “organic treewater” appear above the Happy Tree logo, while below it a new description of the product reads: “Nature’s nutrient-packed subtly sweet complete hydration.”

“It’s a little bit more broadly appealing beyond the natural channel,” Finkelstein said of the new label, which will be rolling out over the next few months throughout the country. “That’s what our logo and package design update is all about.”

Looking ahead, he indicated that Happy Tree’s commitment to pursuing innovation and R&D would continue to yield new product line extensions and categories for the brand to explore.

“We do have a pipeline of products that will be coming out this year,” Finkelstein said. “Our innovation will continue. It’s what we love to do.”