People Moves: Q Drinks Adds Honest Tea Vets to Senior Sales Team; New COO for Zevia

qddrinks_a_970Q Drinks Adds Honest Tea Vets to Senior Sales Team

Fast-growing premium mixer brand Q Drinks has added two longtime Honest Tea executives to its sales team as it looks to bolster its presence in retail stores. Last week Q Drinks announced the appointment of Melanie Knitzer as EVP of Retail Sales and Becca Ray as Director of Retail Sales – West. They each held similar positions at Coca-Cola-owned Honest Tea and later at the beverage giant’s Venturing and Emerging Brands (VEB) unit.

Arriving approximately nine months after Q Drinks landed $11 million in a funding round led by First Beverage Group, the hires round out a senior sales team that includes Ted Roman, the company’s EVP – Liquor and Devin Wilson, the VP of marketing.

In a call with BevNET, Q Drinks founder and CEO Jordan Silbert praised Knitzer as a savvy beverage executive and brand builder with nearly 20 years of experience navigating sales and distribution in the grocery and natural retail channels. He first connected with Knitzer approximately 10 years ago via an introduction from Honest Tea co-founder Barry Nalebuff, who is also an investor in and director of Q Drinks. Since then Knitzer has been an informal advisor to Silbert, who had been managing grocery retail sales for the company. Silbert relinquished those responsibilities with the hire of Knitzer and is now focusing on other aspects of the business.

“She’s always been really helpful in not only thinking through strategy in how to approach retailers, but more than anything in how to build and manage a team,” Silbert said. “She has a lot of relevant experience. And she’s really talented; at the end of the day, that’s the most important thing.”

Knitzer had been one of the first employees at Honest Tea, joining the company in October, 1998. She shepherded the brand’s development within the natural channel, focusing on its premium glass bottle business at Whole Foods and other key retailers. Upon the company’s sale to Coca-Cola in March, 2011, Knitzer’s role evolved into a position as the VP of natural sales for VEB, managing the unit’s brand portfolio, which includes Honest Tea, illy, and Zico.

Silbert approached Knitzer about taking the reins of Q Drinks’ grocery business, which includes sales to national chains Whole Foods, Target, Safeway and Kroger, among others, after “sensing that she was looking for another challenge, something that’s kind of fast-paced and building one brand rather than seven.”

With the addition of Knitzer and Ray, her longtime lieutenant, Silbert believes he has a leadership team that can help the company “win spectacularly” at grocery and liquor stores. He’s also hoping to leverage growing brand awareness in the food service channel, where Q Drinks has benefited from a recent national partnership with premium spirits distributor Breakthrough Beverage Group.

xyg_ot7iZevia Promotes Margolis to COO

Zevia today announced the promotion of Hank Margolis to the role of COO. Margolis has been the SVP of Operations for Zevia, which markets stevia-sweetened, zero-calorie carbonated drinks, since September, 2010. According to his LinkedIn profile, Margolis heads up supply chain, regulatory, food safety, quality and product development activities for the company.

“Hank is an example of how entrepreneurial companies are increasingly leveraging big company practices to scale rapidly,” said Zevia founder and CEO Paddy Spence. “We hear a lot about how big companies are trying to be nimble, but we’re also seeing emerging brands scale more quickly than ever before, in part because leaders like Hank are bringing big company tools and practices to these brands.”

Prior to Zevia, Hank spent 17 years focused in business consulting for major companies, most recently at Alvarez & Marsal and before that GE Capital Logistics and Arthur Andersen Business Consulting, and also served as Senior Vice President, Supply Chain for Amerex Group. He holds a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Drexel University and an M.B.A. from Columbia University.

Margolis’ promotion comes a few months after the departure of Natalie Gershon, who had been Zevia’s vice president of marketing. She recently joined Boulevard Brewing Company in the same role.