Soylent Goes Chainwide in Walmart
Meal replacement brand Soylent is now available in all 4,378 U.S. Walmart locations with five SKUs, including four-bottle multipacks. The expansion, which comes a year after the brand first entered 400 Walmart stores, brings the company’s total retail presence to more than 20,000 doors nationwide.
Speaking with BevNET, Soylent SVP of sales Melody Conner said the expansion comes as Walmart evolves its category and emerging brands strategies to focus on incubating smaller companies. When Soylent first launched with Walmart, she said, the retailer allowed it to enter select strategic regions based on ecommerce sales performance. In September, the brand added 1,450 stores in rural areas where it was less well-known so Walmart could gauge Soylent’s ability to attract new consumers — a test that Conner said showed the brand over-indexing in dollars and units with midwest shoppers.
“It’s allowed us to make changes and broaden our marketing on a global scale,” Conner said. “We’re talking to a much broader audience and have adapted a little bit even on our ecomm business. We know there is a true need state for a product like Soylent in all markets, even those that don’t have the heritage of the brand driving that success. Whether you’re at a tech startup in San Francisco working 20 hours, or you’re a farmer and you’re on a tractor all day.”
Since launching in retail last year, Soylent has pivoted from a food technology company to using “aspirational” mainstream messaging, Conner said. The initial stigma of the brand’s early marketing — pitched toward Silicon Valley and early tech adopters as an innovative product that could replace food — has not followed the company to retail, she said, noting Soylent has seen strong velocities that have led to chainwide expansions with Target and Kroger.
Soylent has also added retailers across channels including Chevron Extra Mile, CVS, H-E-B, and Safeway Albertsons. The brand is currently targeting East Coast grocery and mass accounts, Conner said, which has been the company’s fastest growing channel.
“Every month our syndicated data changes,” Conner said. “I tell a lot of people to only look at four weeks because even 13 weeks doesn’t represent what our business is today. Every week we’re picking up new customers, we’re setting new stores, we’re still building a 52 week look at what this business is.”
With the ready-to-drink line still growing, Conner said the company’s next step is to expand use occasions and fill in “meal voids” with snacking products. In January, the company launched Soylent Bridge — a 180 calorie “in-between meal” drink, which Soylent is preparing to launch on Amazon in the coming weeks. This week, the brand also announced Soylent Squared, a line of 100 calorie “mini-meal” snack bars. Both lines are only available through ecommerce, but could eventually roll out to brick-and-mortar accounts.
“We don’t intend to take brands quickly to retail,” she said. “We want to leverage the community we have at Soylent.com and give them a first-to-market advantage. They give a lot of feedback, they provide critical data for us. Then Amazon allows us to reach an even broader audience as an open marketplace. Then we take the best selling and most successful products and bring them to market when we’re ready.”
New Age Beverages Signs with Hudson News, Adding 15,000 Accounts
Colorado-based New Age Beverages Corporation announced this month a partnership with Hudson News Distributors to service the company’s cross-category beverage portfolio in 11 states throughout the Northeast. The deal will grow placement for New Age’s brand portfolio — which includes Marley, Xing Tea, Bucha, and Coco Libre — to more than 15,000 stores.
The announcement comes as Hudson News continues to build its beverage portfolio, a CPG category it first began distributing in 2017 as a way of recuperating costs from declining book and print magazine sales. According to Hudson News chief revenue officer Tom Dowdy, the exclusive partnership gives Hudson News its first brands within the tea, kombucha, and coconut water categories.
The partnership will also include new Marley branded CBD drinks, which New Age announced earlier this year.
“With the addition of the New Age Beverage portfolio of brands, Hudson News Distributors continues to grow our presence as a dominant factor in Northeast Beverage DSD services,” Dowdy told BevNET in an email. “With exclusive New Age Northeast distribution rights to all customers in all classes of trade, this agreement will also propel our beverage business into more retail doors from Virginia to Maine.”
Hudson News’ distribution services include a 400 truck fleet with 14 warehouse locations. The distributor’s retail coverage includes numerous convenience, drug, grocery, and mass accounts including Ahold Delhaize banners, Walmart, Target, CVS, Walgreens, and Rite Aid, as well as more than 2,300 independent retailers. The distributor also carries Hint, La Croix, Polar, FIJI, Icelandic Glacial, illy, and Nestle Waters products.
New Age Beverages was unavailable for comment.
CBD Brand Bimble Grows in Northeast
Bimble, a honey-sweetened sparkling beverage brand with 25 mg of CBD per 12 oz bottle, is gaining a foothold in the Northeast, signing partnerships with distributors Brooklyn Food and Beverage and Chex Finer Foods.
The startup brand, which produced its first line in November, is now in roughly 100 stores in the New York metro area and has launched ecommerce, founder Jay Moskowitz told BevNET. The brand is currently in New York retailers including West Side Market, Westerly Market, Healthy and Harmony, Sunac, Hemp Gardens, Mamacha, and Space Market, as well as Dean’s Market and Shop Rite stores in New Jersey. The brand also signed last month with New England distributor Chex Finer Foods, which services grocery accounts including Market Basket, Shaws, and The Fresh Market.
Bimble sales director Gary Prusher — a former regional sales manager for Big Geyser — told BevNET the brand opted not sign with major distributors in order to avoid long term exclusivity contracts. Prusher said the brand is looking to continue scaling this year, targeting high profile natural and specialty retailers, with eyes set on Whole Foods.
According to Prusher, although the CBD category is in high demand, retail buyers are still unsure where to place Bimble. Often, he said, Bimble is negotiating with retailer’s water and health and beauty product buyers, and shelf placement can vary from the kombucha set to coconut water.
Moskowitz noted the brand is fighting to stick out among an increasingly crowded CBD category, and is preparing to launch a second SKU later this year to increase visibility. However, the brand — which retails for $7.99 per unit — is quickly increasing its pull through, a surge Moskowitz attributes to its high CBD count and strong flavor profile.
“You never know when that moment you start getting tractions is, but that moment seems to be here,” Moskowitz said.
ICONIC Protein Adds Whole Foods Nationwide, 800 Target Stores
ICONIC Protein is going deeper in the natural and grocery channels, announcing last week it has expanded nationwide in Whole Foods with three of its RTD SKUs — Chocolate Truffle, Vanilla Bean, and Cafe Latte.
“For us, this is about a deeper expansion into the natural channel,” founder and CEO Billy Bosch told BevNET. “Grocery is a very large piece of our business right now and part of expanding that business is getting into a big retailer like Whole Foods and going nationwide. I like to think they were impressed by our success in chains like Sprouts, Wegmans, and H-E-B, and Whole Foods is a really exciting partner to have at this stage in the game.”
ICONIC also added 800 Target stores, which puts the brand into the mass channel. The expansions bring ICONIC’s retail footprint to about 8,000 stores nationwide, with Bosch noting that the brand has doubled in growth year-over-year.
“When I started the brand in New Orleans I really took a shotgun approach, on purpose really, to understand what channels would drive the most revenue and the most growth for us,” Bosch said, adding that the brand was sold in convenience, grocery, gym, and on-premise accounts. “What we learned was that natural and specialty and grocery was where we needed to play. So that really drove the volume, and that’s where our customers were. The expansion road for us has been to maximize our footprint in natural and specialty, and really get into conventional grocery and other channels from there.”
Riff Cold Brewed Partners with Hensley
Oregon-based coffee maker Riff Cold Brewed announced this month it has partnered with Arizona distributor Hensley Beverage to service the brand in the southwest state. According to a press release, the brand received an exclusive retail launch in AJ’s Fine Foods stores.
“We’re actively seeking innovative and forward-thinking brands as we continue to prioritize strategic non-alc portfolio growth,” said Chad Marston, Hensley chief sales officer, in the press release. “We’re thrilled to announce our partnership with Riff — their brand and product integrity put them in a strong position in a hyper-growth segment of the beverage landscape.”