Distribution Roundup: FORTO Partners with Juice Press

FORTO Adds Juice Press Stores for On Premise Growth

FORTO Coffee Shots has secured placement for its line of coffee energy shots in all 75 Juice Press stores nationwide, beginning in June, representing one of the brand’s first forays into the on-premise restaurant channel.

Speaking with BevNET this week, FORTO founder and CEO Neel Premkumar said that prior to partnering with Juice Press, the company had been mostly focused on growing in the convenience, grocery, and drug channels, with placement in more than 50,000 retailers nationwide. According to Premkumar, Juice Press chairman Michael Karsch is an investor in FORTO and had wanted to partner with the brand.

According to Premkumar, FORTO plans to heavily promote the launch, with marketing efforts including weekly sampling at Juice Press’ New York City stores. Part of the goal, he said, is to use Juice Press’ exposure to young female consumers to help activate the brand’s presence in more than 450 other New York retailers.

In addition to Juice Press, Premkumar said FORTO is growing its grocery presence and is adding more multi-serve four-pack offerings to complement its grab-and-go sales.

“We’re starting to move pretty heavily into the coffee aisle,” Premkumar told BevNET. “We found out most of our consumers are hardcore coffee drinkers and we’ve started to really go after them. So one of the things we’re doing is pushing into close to 15,000 stores in the coffee aisle with a reset coming up in the summer.”

As the company looks to double its retail presence to more than 100,000 stores by 2019, there are still logistical questions about the best placement in the store, Premkumar said. Some grocers, he said, are shifting ready-to-drink coffee displays into the general coffee aisle, giving FORTO the opportunity to place itself within the RTD set. However, in stores that have yet to integrate their RTD offerings with beans, the brand is hoping to place itself closer to instant coffee products.“The small pack size can be tough to stand out in a 20 foot section with huge boxes, so we’re looking at all kinds of retail theater to help it pop in the aisle,” he said.

In a promotion to drive new trial, FORTO is tapping into its partnership with Keurig Dr Pepper to include roughly one million free samples of its coffee shots in direct-to-consumer Keurig ecommerce packages throughout 2018. The brand is also available for purchase on Keurig’s website.

Tio Gazpacho Hits Walmart

Drinkable soup brand Tio Gazpacho has entered 150 Walmart stores throughout the Northeast, with locations as far south as North Carolina and as far west as Ohio, VP general manager Matt Merson told BevNET this week.

According to Merson, Walmart is adding a healthy snacking display set in its stores and picked up three Tio Gazpacho SKUs, including its Clasico, Maiz, and Verde varieties. The addition of Walmart stores represents an early entry for Tio Gazpacho into the club channel, Merson said, where the brand has had little presence.An attempt to enter the channel via Target last year was unsuccessful, he added, due to poor location selection with the brand only entering rural stores around the Midwest.

“We wanted to be in the Northeast,” he said. “We have some other partners there and a good foothold in metro New York and New Jersey, so it made sense for us to participate in this healthy snacking section.”

As part of the launch, Tio Gazpacho has also partnered with consumer promotion app Ibotta, which offers Walmart shoppers cashback rewards and coupons. According to Merson, the app is a valuable data collection source, drives trial, and reaches “a significant selection” of Walmart shoppers.

In addition to Walmart, the brand has also launched with UNFI in Lancaster, Texas, which will primarily service 50 Snap Kitchen stores, giving Tio “up and down the street distribution” in the state, Merson said.

Overall, the brand currently has placement in more than 1,000 stores nationwide, Merson said, with high growth in the natural channel, conventional grocery, and food service with corporate dining and airports driving strong sales.

KonaRed Accelerates National Growth

Hawaii-based cold brew coffee brand KonaRed announced this week that it has grown its retail presence to more than 2,500 stores nationwide, with more than half of those accounts opening within the last year, the company said in a press release.

KonaRed, which signed with California distributor L.A. Libations in February, has focused much of its growth in the club, drug and grocery channels, adding retailers including Walgreens and Duane Reade, Sprouts, Costco, Safeway, Publix, ACME Markets and Giant Eagle.

“Our unique approach has allowed us to secure multi-channel growth, including more than 1,500 new locations in the past 12 months alone,” said CEO Kyle Redfield in the release. “We are very pleased with our distribution gains and increasing velocities as the competition gets tougher in this space.”

The brand recently launched two large format products, including 32 oz. multi-serve bottles of its Original and Hawaiian Vanilla coffees, as well as a Hawaiian Vanilla multi-serve bag-in-box format.

Celsius Announces Deeper C-Store Penetration

Fitness-focused energy drink maker Celsius Holdings, Inc. announced in a press release Wednesday the brand has added 590 new chain convenience stores across the country in its latest distribution announcement. According to the company, the retail gains include cold vault placement and present further opportunity for the brand to reach mainstream consumers.

The company did not release which chains the brand will be available in, but noted that the authorizations primarily include placement for two SKUs from the Celsius Original line.

“With convenience channel data showing softer energy category growth, retailers are heeding the call from consumers across the board, and taking action,” said CEO John Fieldly in the release. “In some convenience chain stores, the Celsius brand portfolio now has five facings of authorized placement between our Originals and Celsius Heat lines. This is a great time to position our proprietary, proven formula away from traditional energy into a fitness position, reaching a broader, healthy audience of consumers who aren’t just looking for sugary energy, they want to ‘Live Fit’.”

In addition to c-stores, Celsius also announced it is now available in 800 U.S. Military exchange stores across all branches of the armed forces. All Celsius product lines, including Heat, are represented in the military channel, where sales are now averaging more than 40,000 units sold per week, a more than 300 percent increase year over year in the channel.

Ito En Partners with Kimball Distributing

Ito En North America has partnered with Kimball Distributing to expand the company’s DSD reach in Texas, the company announced in a press release. The company produces Teas’ Tea, Matcha Love, and Oi Ocha brand ready-to-drink teas.

“We have been looking for a strong DSD partner to expand our presence in the Texas market for some time now,” said COO Jim Hoagland in the release. “In Kimball Distributing, we feel we have found that partner given their strong distribution network into convenience and grocery stores. Being a full-service DSD supplier gives us confidence that we can grow our business in these communities.”

The partnership will immediately add 140 Quik Trip stores in the North Texas region, as well as opportunity to expand into 7- Eleven, Lone Star Business Co-Op, Independent Business Independent Buyer’s Co-Op, Alon and Race Trac stores.