Runa, a maker of guayusa-based teas and energy drinks, has tapped veteran beverage executive Alex Galindez as its new CEO. Galindez, who was most recently the general manager of organic cold-pressed juice brand BluePrint, takes the reins from Runa co-founder Tyler Gage, who has a new role as chairman of the company.
Gage cited personal reasons for the decision to relinquish day-to-day responsibilities at Runa, noting his recent marriage and relocation to the Pacific Northwest. Runa is based in New York City and Gage said that commuting back-and-forth became too challenging.
“It became pretty clear quickly that bringing in someone else who could run the company day-to-day, who could bring strong beverage experience, strong management experience and help grow the organization was a great opportunity to deepen our bench and help us scale,” he said.
As chairman, Gage will focus on “telling the brand story” which he called the “biggest asset value to the company.” He recently wrote a book about the development of Runa that will be published by Simon & Schuster in August. The book “traces the lessons that [he’s] learned down in the jungle and the teachings from the native community and how we use that as inspiration for Runa as an organization.”
Gage will also continue to oversee the company’s sustainable farming and sourcing initiatives in Ecuador and its non-profit foundation, which supports medical clinics in Peru and Ecuador.
“It’s freeing me up so I can focus on being on the front lines to share the story and the mission of what we do is how I can add the most value to the company,” Gage said. “Stepping into the role as chairman gives me the breath and the space to do that.”
Galindez had been with Hain Celestial-owned BluePrint since June, 2015 and spearheaded a brand revamp and foray into new beverage segments, including energy drinks, kombucha and drinking vinegars. Prior to BluePrint, she held marketing positions at Facebook, Univision, Burger King, glaceau and Red Bull. Galindez comes to Runa as somewhat of a familiar face, having worked with the company to supply guayusa for BluePrint’s line of tea-based energy drinks, which launched last year. She told BevNET that her decision to join Runa “was really motivated by the [brand] story, but more than that the desire to tell it.”
That communication will be key to the development of Runa’s USDA Organic “Clean Energy” drinks. Both Gage and Galindez view the line as Runa’s gateway into broad distribution at conventional retailers, where consumers are increasingly looking for natural energy drinks and transparent and sustainable ingredient sourcing.
“I have a background in energy [with Red Bull], and the idea of clean energy is a personal passion of mine,” Galindez said. “To have the opportunity to play in the energy drink space but do in a way that I feel good about was also a huge driver.”
Gage concurred, telling BevNET that Runa’s “big dream is to define the space of healthy energy” and will innovate behind that mission.
“I think it’s one the things that’s so central to our mission and the DNA of what we have a Runa. Focusing on the cans is our top priority and we’re definitely working on some innovation within that segment and starting to think about what clean energy can mean in other delivery systems.”