People Moves: Canvas Brings on Staff Ahead of Launch

Forager CMO Moves to Canvas

CJ Roberts, former CMO of juice and cashewmilk producer Forager Project, has signed on as a co-founder and director of business development with Canvas, a line of barley-based fiber and protein shakes with funding from Anheuser-Busch InBev’s investment arm Zx Ventures.

In addition to Roberts, former Stumptown Coffee VP of cold brew Diane Aylsworth has joined the company as VP of marketing. Hain Celestial Group sales director Ed Hepler joined as the brand’s national sales director.

“I came across the Kickstarter [by CEO Sarah Pool] and thought it was amazing and I fell in love with it,” Roberts told BevNET. “I reached out to Sarah on LinkedIn as I was looking for a job and we hit it off. There’s such passion for the industry, skill, and everyone on our team is extremely enthusiastic and really driven to move the world and bring the next big brand into the industry.”

Initially positioned as a “barley milk,” Canvas has rebranded the product as a line of prebiotic fiber and protein shakes and is preparing to launch on February 1 via ecommerce. The brand is also currently in discussions for retail placements. According to Roberts, Canvas will offer a subscription service through its website.

Giannella Alvarez Goes to Beanitos

Harmless Harvest CEO Giannella Alvarez stepped down from the coconut water company earlier this month, leaving the brand searching for a new permanent chief executive.

On Thursday, Alvarez told BevNET she has joined Austin, Texas-based bean chip brand Beanitos as CEO, effective as of January 22. Alvarez relocated to Texas for the position.

Merson Joins Tio Gazpacho

Industry veteran Matt Merson has joined drinkable soup brand Tio Gazpacho as VP and general manager. Merson comes to the brand following a nine-month stint as the SVP of Sales at UPTIME Energy. Prior to that he served for three years as VP of sales at Boxed Water, VP of national accounts and international sales at ZICO, and director of national accounts for Vitamin Water.

“I spent my first 12 years or so in food, and the last 12 or so in beverage,” Merson told BevNET. “Tio Gazpacho is the perfect blurring of the two — is it food or is it a beverage? It’s the perfect culmination of my career.”

Merson said he was turned on to the brand by friend and ZICO founding board member Jim Tonkin. After meeting with Tio Gazpacho’s founder and CEO Austin Allan, Merson was sold on both the product and the company.

Merson will oversee operations at the company. The brand’s top goals for 2018 include finding new distribution, increasing retail authorizations, increasing sales velocities, and making large improvements on production.

“We really hit all the cylinders of the growing categories,” Merson said. “We’re all natural, non-GMO, gluten free, on-the-go, no sugar added, non-dairy. All growing.”

The company also just closed a Series B funding round, supported by existing investors. Details of the round were not disclosed.

Co-Founder Leaves Distill Ventures

Distill Ventures co-founder and COO Dan Gasper announced his departure from the beverage accelerator earlier this month, writing in an email that he was leaving, effective January 12, to “pursue other opportunities in the drink industry.”

Sol-ti’s O’Donnell Steps Down

Ryne O’Donnell, founder and CEO of San Diego-based cold-pressed juice company Sol-ti, quietly resigned from his post last month and sold his majority interest in the company to business partners Jack White and Jim Buechler. O’Donnell officially announced his departure via email earlier this week, adding that he has relocated to Costa Rica to run Permaculture Planet, a real estate development company with a focus on utilizing and preserving natural resources.

Buechler, former CEO of Ballast Point Brewing Company, has taken the reins as CEO at Sol-ti. O’Donnell remains the third largest shareholder in the brand, but is no longer involved in operations.

“I felt that Jim is incredibly capable and has experience scaling beverage companies to a large size, which is where Sol-ti is headed,” O’Donnell told BevNET on the transition. “I had an affinity towards projects in Costa Rica including Permaculture Planet which currently develops and sells land/properties as well as our Permaculture Planet Provisiónes Line, which includes shelf stable … organic, raw, vegan packaged products that come from our farms.”

Fever Tree Grows Board

Kevin Havelock, global president of refreshment at Unilever, and Jeff Popkin, North America CEO of Mast-Jagermeister, have joined Fever Tree’s board of directors, the company announced earlier this month. According to Just-Drinks, the pair join the board as additional, non-executive roles.

“They both have highly impressive track records across the beverage sector and a breadth of relevant international experience that will bring valuable insight and additional perspective to the Company,” Fever-Tree chairman Bill Ronald said.