Distribution Roundup: Pillars Doubles Store Count

Pillars Drinkable Greek Yogurt Doubles Store Count

Pillars Drinkable Greek Yogurt announced this week that it has doubled its store count this summer to roughly 1,500 locations. Founder and CEO Eric Bonin told BevNET that, over the past several months, the Massachusetts-based brand has added Big Y, D’ag NYC, Festival Foods, Foodtown, Giant, Gristedes, Lowes Foods, and Wegmans accounts along the East Coast and in the Midwest.

“Wegmans is one that honestly is a big personal win,” Bonin told BevNET. “It’s one of these accounts I’ve been chasing since the very early days of the company and it’s kept me up at night. I went in there two, three, maybe four times and got a lot of no’s but now we’ve finally got a yes. That’s just an account where I feel it’s such a natural fit and such great opportunity and already, a week in, I’m hearing a lot of good feedback throughout the chain.”

According to Bonin, Pillars has also added independent accounts in the New York metro area and the Midwest through DSD and regional broker partnerships. Bonin added that he is currently in discussion with several major grocery chains and anticipates the brand’s nationwide expansion will continue through the end of the year.

The company has hired a senior sales manager to help lead retail expansion, Bonin said, and has also brought on part time marketing support. Pillars is currently seeking to hire a full time senior marketing lead. Currently, he said, the brand is focused on reaching new consumers through in-store demos and digital targeting with email blasts and coupons.

Launched in 2016, Pillars produces a line of reduced sugar drinkable yogurts that are sweetened with stevia. The brand recently added a sixth flavor, Peach, and is currently developing new product lines including plant-based and kids products.

“I think the big picture, relative to other parts of the world, is that drinkable yogurt is still a very, very small market in the U.S.,” Bonin said. “We see it continuing to grow and our story will continue to stay the same. As more people focus on health and convenience within their fast-moving lifestyles, those two areas continue will provide the most opportunity.”

Yerbae Adds 2,000 Stores

Sparkling yerba mate drink maker Yerbae has added more than 2,000 stores this summer, including 250 Target outlets and 800 CVS locations. The company has also expanded its presence in Circle K to 1,100 locations, bringing the brand to more than 8,200 total retail doors.

The brand has also rolled out chainwide in Fred Meyer and added WinCo locations in Washington and Southern California. According to founder Todd Gibson, the brand is on track to pass $5 million in revenue in 2019 with retail presence in 12 states, including the West Coast, Midwest, and the New York metro regions.

“We now have our toe in the water with Target, we’ve now cracked the code with Kroger [through Fred Meyer], we’ve cracked the code with CVS, and now it’s time for our brand to perform and take it to the next level,” Gibson told BevNET.

Gibson said the company has pulled back on plans to double its business in 2019 in a move to avoid over expanding, but has instead opted to go deep within its existing markets. In December, Yerbae closed a $5 million funding round and announced a partnership with New York DSD distributor Big Geyser. The company also works with Anheuser-Busch InBev DSD distributors in the Midwest.

To support its growth, Gibson said Yerbae has partnered with CMG Group in California and Northwest Products in the Pacific Northwest to handle marketing activations and merchandising. The company also employs 12 full time sales representatives across the country.

“Now it’s about sampling, executing, and nailing those retailers,” Gibson said. “Our L.A. business has more than tripled since last year and our business up in Columbia Distributing has more than tripled. It’s only going to get bigger from here, we couldn’t be any more excited about the growth.”

MATI Energy Launches Whole Foods Southwest, Focuses on Office Accounts

As it rolls out a rebranded product line, organic energy drink maker MATI Energy has added 45 Whole Foods locations across the Southwest region, the company told BevNET this week.

CEO Eric Masters, who joined MATI in September, said the brand is currently focused on expanding throughout the natural channel and in high end retailers where consumers are “predisposed” toward clean label and plant-based products. In addition to Whole Foods, the brand has added stores including Dierbergs Market and Town & Country.

“For us first and foremost, we want to get the product in front of our target consumer,” Masters told BevNET. “Our priority for us, distribution wise, right now is in the natural channel. We’re not concerned with geographically where we are because we know that any consumer going into a natural channel or higher end grocery store is going to be predisposed and looking for those types of natural products and solutions.”

Masters added that the brand anticipates 150% growth in retail sales in 2019.

In addition to retail, MATI is also working with food service distributors Canteen, Oh My Green, and Vistar to service office accounts.

“That immediate consumption opportunity is a great trial and awareness driver,” Masters said. “We absolutely will expand into traditional grocery, drug, mass, and other channels like that. But what we’re trying to make sure of is that we have a broad enough awareness and demand first before we do. So the whole immediate consumption side of things is definitely part of building that up before we go into those other channels.”

LIFEAID Partners with Hudson News Distributors

Functional beverage maker LIFEAID has partnered with Northeast DSD company Hudson News Distributor, according to Hudson News chief revenue officer Tom Dowdy.

Dowdy posted the announcement to his LinkedIn profile last week.

“LIFEAID has grown from a Crossfit-based brand with a direct-to-consumer model to a multi-million dollar company with a range of products sold at major national retailers and with the Hudson News Distributors partnership looks to expand even more in the Northeast,” Dowdy wrote.

ITO EN Oi Ocha Green Teas to Enter Walmart

Oi Ocha, an RTD green tea brand produced by ITO EN, will rollout to 2,800 Walmart locations nationwide in October, the company announced last month in a press release.

“With a growing number of consumers looking for authentic and healthy beverages, we could

not be more excited to expand ITO EN’s tea products into Walmart stores nationwide,” said ITO EN North America COO Jim Hoagland in the release. “With Walmart responding to the growing consumer interest for high-quality, authentic and better-for-you products, we are confident that our traditional unsweetened green teas are a great fit for Walmart and their customers.”

HFactor Adds 1,500 Walmart Locations

Hydrogen-infused water brand HFactor has added 1,500 Walmart locations nationwide, bringing the brand’s total retail presence to more than 6,500 accounts. According to a press release, the brand’s 11 oz. pouches will be placed in Walmart’s new functional beverage set.

“Walmart has been carving out shelf-space for functional beverages – it is an honor to be one of the brands selected, and truly amazing to see HFactor on the shelves of the largest retailer in the world,” said HFactor founder and CEO Gail Levy in the release.