Nakasone at the Helm of Purity Organic as Minnick, Guard Depart

Organic beverage maker Purity Organic is looking to fill two key positions in its executive ranks following the recent departures of its president, Dave Minnick, and vice president of operations Andrew Guard. Bob Nakasone, a managing director with First Beverage Ventures, the private equity arm of beverage advisory and investment firm First Beverage Group and a stakeholder in Purity Organic, has taken the reins of the company on an interim basis.

Minnick came to Purity Organic as its vice president of sales and marketing in June, 2008 and was elevated to president in 2013. Under his leadership, the company focused on new product development, using innovative ingredients and formulations, to enhance its retail presence. He oversaw an expansion of the brand’s portfolio beyond its flagship PET-packaged juices and into coconut water, tea and super-premium juice blends.

Minnick left the company on March 31 and has since worked as a consultant to early-stage beverage brands. Although he declined to discuss the reasons behind his departure, he praised the team at Purity Organic in an email to BevNET and stated that “we grew the business each of the past nine years and there are many tremendous opportunities ahead for the brand.” Minnick, who remains a shareholder in the company, noted that “while I’m pursuing other opportunities, I love the industry and am staying involved by consulting to brands who are navigating the distribution landscape.”

Nakasone began working with Purity Organic shortly after joining First Beverage in January and has a seat on the company’s board of directors. In a call with BevNET, Nakasone, a longtime business development veteran who spent 17 years with PepsiCo and joined First Beverage after a stint at the vice president of sales for probiotic drink maker KeVita, applauded Minnick’s career at Purity Organic.

“Dave had a great nine-year run at the company, and I think the results speak for themselves,” he said. “One of the exciting things we have going on that started under [Minnick’s] leadership is a pretty solid innovation pipeline.” He noted that “First Beverage has continued to invest further into the company and believes that the company can continue to grow and accelerate growth.”

Purity Organic will look to find a permanent replacement for Minnick by the third quarter of 2017, Nakasone said. In the meantime, the company is in the planning stages of a major rebranding initiative and restaging of its “Superjuices” line. It’s also preparing to launch, after some delay, a new line of sparkling water and juice blends. Teased at Expo East 2016, the products are made with 15 percent juice and are low in sugar and calories. The company had held off on launch planned for earlier this year and instead invested in consumer research to learn more about potential demand for the line. Encouraged by the results, Purity Organic will debut the products in August.

“The brand has such stretch,” Nakasone said. “The challenge is really focusing on what categories and what adjacencies that you do want to innovate into, but I think that [sparkling water] is the right one. It’s going to be a terrific launch for us.” He noted that the line is gaining significant interest among Purity Organic’s distributor partners and expects it to be an important driver of new business.

A key figure in the company’s innovation strategy, Guard (also a former BevNET employee) joined chickpea snack maker Biena Foods as its vice president of operations after departing Purity Organic earlier this month. He came to Purity Organic’s operations team in 2012 and was promoted to vice president of the division in 2015. In a call with BevNET, he said he was motivated to join Biena Foods as a way to expand his knowledge base into food production. Guard, who is based in the Boston area, also cited a desire to reduce work-related travel — particularly to the West Coast — as a key factor in his decision to join Biena Foods, which is headquartered in Boston.

“As Purity was growing, we built out our team, especially our [operations] team, primarily focused around our headquarters in San Francisco, and it’s a challenge to have to manage people, especially on the younger spectrum of their careers… cross-country,” he said.

Guard called the timing of his and Minnick’s departure coincidental and stated that Purity Organic is on a “positive trajectory” and that it has “nothing to do with the direction of the business.” The company has yet to name a new head of operations; however, Guard has expressed a willingness to support the transition in an advisory capacity and said that he and Purity Organic are currently discussing terms for that potential role.

Nakasone praised the “bench strength” of its operations team and its ability to continue running seamlessly after Guard’s departure. He noted that Purity Organic is also considering the creation of a new position that would straddle innovation, marketing and operations roles as it seeks to develop a more “accelerated innovation pipeline.”