Wandering Bear Raises $2.4M, Expands Retail Business

After two years of limited self-distribution, Wandering Bear Cold Brew is finding a home for itself on store shelves throughout the Northeast, and a newly completed fundraising round enables the company to trek further.

The New York-based bag-in-box coffee brand completed a $2.4 million equity funding round this week, giving founders Matt Bachmann and Ben Gordon the capital to tackle expanded distribution and a growing product line.

One of the leading investors in the funding round was food and beverage accelerator AccelFoods. Bachmann said AccelFoods has been involved with Wandering Bear since the brand started. M3 Ventures, a strategic investment firm based in New York, and company insiders also invested.

“We are thrilled to deepen our partnership with Wandering Bear,” Lauren Jupiter, AccelFoods Managing Partner, told BevNET. “Matt and Ben represent the type of strategic and innovative founders with which AccelFoods seeks to partner. We look forward to continuing to support the Wandering Bear team as they expand distribution beyond New York and continue to build out their differentiated product portfolio.”

With AccelFoods’ investment, Jupiter joined Wandering Bear’s board of directors.

The raise comes as the company is rapidly expanding its retail footprint. Founded in 2014, Wandering Bear had been entirely self-distributed, with much of its business coming from sales to offices and online orders. At the end of 2016 Wandering Bear was available in just 10 retail outlets in New York City, primarily in Manhattan and Brooklyn.

“That was the story we raised off of,” Bachmann told BevNET. “The traction, the loyalty, the depth we had been able to achieve in our home market. We raised the money and brought in as much as we could to expand the brand. To drive some product innovation, but also to expand geographically.”

Wandering Bear had strategically held off on making a dedicated push into retail and grocery until the company was properly funded, Bachmann said

Since January, Wandering Bear has quickly gained additional distribution via UNFI’s “Next” program and at Target. The brand is now available in more than 250 stores in nine states, with placement primarily in New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts. Wandering Bear is also available in several Whole Foods stores in New York.

“As a brand owner, I don’t think we ever could have imagined how exciting it is for us to walk around the city and see the product on the shelves,” Bachmann said. “To see the pickup on social media, to see the mentions and phone calls and texts from people spotting the product.”

Retail sales are still a small part of the business, making up less than 10 percent of revenue. However, Bachmann said its expansion is moving “full-steam ahead” and he expects retail to continue its rapid growth. It’s necessary, he said, both for the visibility gain and for further integrating Wandering Bear into consumers daily rituals.

The money raised in the equity round will also go toward new product innovation. Until last year, Wandering Bear only offered a single black bag-in-box cold brew. The company launched a seasonal Peppermint Mocha flavor last winter and according to Bachmann, more flavors are coming for retail this year with potential size variations. But the company is also looking to offer new options to bring the brand into larger scale food service.