Vive Organic has closed a $7 million Series A funding round led by PowerPlant Ventures, as the cold-pressed juice shot maker looks to continue building out its staff while expanding distribution.
The Venice, Calif.-based brand, founded in 2015, has found a growing audience for its line of 2 oz. organic, function-forward shots, which retail for $3.99 and are currently available in over 1,400 doors. In September, at Natural Products Expo East 2018, the company showcased two new SKUs in its Immunity Boost line: Boost with Cayenne and Boost with Elderberry, the former of which launched as a Whole Foods global exclusive last month. Vive’s other lines include Coconut Probiotics, Wellness Rescue and Antioxidant Detox.
PowerPlant Ventures, co-founded by ZICO coconut water founder Mark Rampolla, has invested in a variety of emerging plant-based food and beverage brands, including REBBL, Ripple Foods and Beyond Meat. Private equity firm Blueberry Ventures, also an investor in REBBL, participated in this round, as well as individual investors including KeVita co-founder Bill Moses and Koia CEO Chris Hunter.
Vive Organic CEO and co-founder Taubman told BevNET that his relationship with Rampolla began after they met at BevNET Live 2016, during which Vive Organic participated in the New Beverage Showdown competition. The two stayed in touch, sharing feedback and advice. In the meantime, the company raised three rounds of funding; a friends and family round in December 2015, followed by a seed round one year later and a bridge round one year after that in December 2017. The company did not disclose the total size of the investment it has already received.
“Mark was providing feedback throughout that process and during that time,” said Taubman. “A relationship that started earlier and then came to a point where we checked enough boxes to generate the interest from Mark and from PowerPlant.”
Taubman said the new financial resources will allow Vive to recruit talent to grow its distribution channels in both natural and conventional grocery retailers. Some of that talent has already been acquired; Last month, the company announced a trio of new hires, with Blair Cornish joining as SVP of sales, Sherri Sparaga as VP of business of development east and Joia Pardo-Matthews as VP of business development west. He said the company is focused on “getting the right people into the right places,” particularly in marketing and finance, over the next three to six months.
“I think Wyatt and the team did a phenomenal job of following the playbook that’s known by all and followed by few, which is build an audience, focus on a market, prove out that you can drive velocity and then figure out how to scale,” Rampolla added. “I think that Wyatt understands that this is a people business at the end of the day and getting the right talent on board is the difference between businesses that win and fail.”
Arif Fazal, founder and managing director for Blueberry Ventures, told BevNET that, in addition to a belief in Taubman and the Vive team, he was attracted to the company because of its position in an emerging category that can deliver clear functional benefits and “concentrated nutrition” on-the-go.
“The use case for the consumer is not mutually exclusive — it doesn’t disrupt their consumption around RTD beverages,” he said. “Vive has done a phenomenal job out of the gate getting alternative distribution and alternative merchandising for that. The form factor allows it to do different things with respect to merchandising, and we believe there’s a real leg-up for the category as a result.”
Rampolla also praised Taubman and Vive for having “proved that the product can work in virtually every channel in Southern California,” including food service, hospitals, gyms and yoga studios, as well as in independent and chain retailers. He said the company will take a deliberate approach to building distribution in the conventional stores, noting that in select geographies the brand will look to partners with DSD operators who can service multiple channels.
Asked if Vive’s future was tied specifically to juice shots, Rampolla acknowledged he wasn’t sure.
“I learned a lesson early on in coconut water not to make broad stroke predictions and instead to just focus on execution and let consumers tell us how they are going to use it,” he said. “One of the things Wyatt has been amazing at is testing and learning. We are going to do that and keep learning and see how far we can push this.”
Taubman added, “We are anticipating retailers will build out large wellness shot sets in their functional cold boxes, next to their functional beverages like kombucha and coconut water, and in grab-n-go boxes near register. The trend is this overarching category adoption itself, without getting into specific function or different flavor profiles.”