Vanessa Walker has left her role as executive vice president of sales and marketing at functional beverage company CELSIUS, effective immediately.
In a call with BevNET today, Walker confirmed that she had left the company after almost three years, having joined in January 2016. Before CELSIUS, she was previously with National Beverage Company, where she oversaw sales and marketing for La Croix Sparkling Water for eight years.
“I’ve enjoyed my time with the company — it’s a great brand and they have a great, great future ahead of them,” Walker said. “At this time in the industry, there’s a tremendous amount of capital and a tremendous amount of opportunity out there. I feel like this is a great time to start a new adventure.”
In a statement emailed to BevNET, CELSIUS CEO John Fieldly stated: “CELSIUS decided to mutually part ways with Vanessa Walker on October 22nd. We wish her much success in her next endeavor.”
At CELSIUS, she explained, Walker began to reevaluate her skill set, particularly after the company completed a rebranding, with new packaging and logo, and repositioning, as a healthy functional energy drink, that debuted in January 2017. In working with a team to execute changes — such as targeting natural consumers and upgrading to a 16 oz. package to compete with rival Bang Energy — she recognized an ability to understand the mechanics of product commercialization.
“What I’ve really been able to do with both of the brand I’ve worked on is understand where they are and see where they fit into the bigger picture of the beverage landscape and chart a new course for them, creating a new position and breathing new life into the brand,” she said. “That level of strategy cascades throughout an organization and creates a trajectory for the brand. That level of strategy work and positioning, combined with my experience, is where I want to go next.”
For now, however, Walker said she’s simply looking forward to having more conversations with friends and associates in the industry and “catch up on what the opportunities are.” She said she had been approached by individuals over the last several months with potential ideas, but held back on pursuing further. “It was never the right time, and I was excited about my position at CELSIUS,” she said.
With those constraints now lifted, Walker is keeping an open mind as to her future. She said her career could take her to work for another brand or independently; “Wherever I wind up,” she said, “I plan on utilizing my vision of what a product can be.”
She noted that opportunities could potentially include serving in an official advisory role at a company, or working to develop commercialization and go-to-market strategy for brands in a venture capital group’s portfolio.
“I’m going to do something for myself that I didn’t do when I left La Croix, which is get my name out there,” she said. “I’ve never put myself out there and said ‘Hey, I’m looking and I’m interested.’ I want to see what’s next.”
Another recent departure from Celsius was marketing director Nicole Cheifetz, who left in late August. The pair were also colleagues at National Beverage Company.
“We are an interesting combination, either on our own or working together in the future,” she said.