Roughly one year after joining Forager Project as the company’s chief marketing officer, Alex Matthews has departed the plant-based food and beverage brand to launch Here Studio, a multi-faceted branding, design and CPG product development house in Los Angeles.
The launch of Here marks the next step in Matthews career following the sudden closure of Juice Served Here (JSH), the cold-pressed juice maker and retailer he co-founded, in December 2017. Speaking with BevNET earlier this month, Matthews said the foundational team at Here will also include former JSH art director Sandy Yang, who followed Matthews to Forager as an art director last year.
Here, based in the West Adams section of Los Angeles, will also have a strategic partnership with creative agency Matte Black, in which Matthews is a strategic advisor and his wife, Chelsea Matthews, is founder and creative director. The agency will allow Here to access its staff and resources for content creation, including videography, photography and other media.
“First and foremost, we are a branding and design agency that specializes in consumer packaged goods,” he said. “The design aspect is focused purely on brand creation, rebranding, packaging and all the things that go with that.”
Here’s initial client list includes organic coffee roaster and retailer Groundwork Coffee, for which it will be executing a comprehensive rebrand and packaging refresh. The studio is also working to revamp the look and feel of products from Austin, Texas-based butter coffee maker Picnik, beginning with its creamer.
In addition to contracted design work, Here will also create its own brands, starting with Vina, a line of organic sparkling apple cider vinegar drinks in 12 oz. cans. The studio has taken an ownership stake in Vina, which launched in August 2017, and Matthews has joined the company as a co-founder. Existing product currently on the market will be pulled from shelves and relaunched later this year with new packaging and branding as Vina Fresca. An unfiltered apple cider vinegar drink and a 2 oz. shot are set to follow later in 2019.
“I never really felt like any of the vinegars have gotten it right, outside of Bragg’s,” Matthews said. “I just think that there’s this opportunity for an apple cider vinegar to have the ‘chug-ability’ of a LaCroix or Spindrift but with the added functionality of vinegar.”
As the company gets up and running, Matthews said the initial goal will be adding to its roster of design clients, which currently includes ArcLight Cinema and Netflix, for which it has contributed art for the documentary series “Chef’s Table.” The studio’s work can also be seen in the cafe Highly Likely, which is co-designed and operated by Matthews, his wife, and partner Cary Mosier and located in the same building as the Here Studio offices.
“Right now the focus is we really want to build and out and expand the client roster on the branding, design and packaging side first because, for us, that’s the stuff that we love and that we get really excited about,” he said. “In second place is focusing on the brands we want to own and launch ourselves this year. Lastly, there’s helping those brands may need funding or go-to-market strategy — those opportunities we are going to have to be really careful about which ones we decide to work with.”
Reflecting on his year at Forager, Matthews thanked founder Stephen Williamson for the opportunity and “recognizing that there could be some real fun we could have together.” During their time with the brand, Matthews and Yang work included an overhaul of Forager’s visual identity across all product categories, a new website and a cookbook featuring 100 recipes made with Forager products.
“To have the responsibility of a brand like Forager, which is now starting to become mature and obviously has become fairly successful, there was a responsibility to me that we respective the heritage of what’s gone before and also kind of push forward,” he said. “I feel really proud of the work we’ve done.”