People Moves: Stratus Group Hires CORE Vets to Lead Sales Growth

Stratus Group Hires CORE Hydration Veterans to Lead Sales Growth

Stratus Group, which includes brands KÖE Kombucha and Perfect Hydration in its portfolio, has hired four new executives — all veterans of CORE Hydration — to guide the company’s retail strategy towards the goal of doubling sales year-over-year.

Starting with the company in July, former CORE national accounts manager Dave Brown and former CORE regional sales manager Gabe Lopez joined Stratus Group as co-directors of sales. That same month Michael Rigney, CORE’s VP of national accounts on the East Coast, began at Stratus Group in the same role.

Founded in 2015, CORE was acquired by Keurig Dr Pepper (KDP) in September 2018 for $525 million. The transition of CORE leadership to Stratus Group comes as the company initiates a regional expansion strategy for its own premium water brand Perfect Hydration, which as of June was available in about 3,000 retail stores nationwide.

Speaking with BevNET, Stratus Group chief strategy officer Louisa Lawless, who herself left CORE to join Stratus Group in July, said the company is preparing to increase its retail presence in the coming year.

Stratus is also preparing to launch a rebrand of the KÖE Kombucha line next year, Lawless said, which will introduce two new SKUs and feature reduced sugar and lower calorie count across the line.

“With both brands in both categories, we’re really venturing into a high growth space,” Lawless told BevNET. “I think it’s really exciting and appealing to attract benchmark strength to come over and grow these brands.”

KOPU Names Richard Harrison as Director of Sales

Richard Harrison, a veteran of premium water brands including Voss, Danone and FIJI, has joined premium sparkling water brand KOPU Water as director of sales.

Launched in 2017, KOPU has focused its messaging on sustainability and is packaged in aluminum bottles, a quality that Harrison said drew him to the brand.

“The move away from plastic — PET — is something I felt was the right direction to go,” Harrison told BevNET. “What I had been working on in the past isn’t as relevant anymore in the marketplace because of environmental concerns.”

According to Harrison, KOPU is currently growing in independent on premise accounts, including delis and cafes, as well as in chain retailers such as Gelsons and Bristol Farms. The company is currently exploring expanding into additional natural channel retailers and is preparing for a funding round to facilitate broader growth.

Harrison previously spent six years at Voss Water as the company’s director of sales on-premise in the west division. Prior to Voss, he served as regional sales manager for the West Coast at Danone Waters and has held positions at FIJI and Boston Beer Company. Although he has not previously worked for a startup company, Harrison said KOPU allowed him to take “a directional change” in his career.

“We’re starting small, doing this ourselves, which allows us to give a very personalized service to the customer,” Harrison said, noting that KOPU is currently handling its own distribution. “It allows us to offer our customers something like no minimum case orders, no overhead charges. We’re free to grow our own distribution network by doing this ourselves and that allows us to be a bit more profitable.”

Owl’s Brew Expands Advisory Board

Owl’s Brew, maker of tea-based cocktail mixers and Boozy Tea alcoholic beverages, has added three industry veterans to its advisory board, the company told BevNET this week.

The new board members include Randy Ornstein, director of alcohol at GoPuff and former Anheuser-Busch InBev VP of Beyond Beer; Dave Holmes, the co-founder of Spiked Seltzer and Plant Life Ventures; and Rick Roth, CEO and founder of boutique brand advisory firm Roth Partners.

“Each of the advisory board members we have brought on has been able to bring expertise and to help us fine tune the launch of Boozy Tea [this past May] and our messaging,” Jennie Ripps, CEO and founder of Owl’s Brew, told BevNET. “Having these holes in our advisory board inspired us to connect and find new members.”

Ripps said each new board member has specific experiences that will Owl’s Brew to overcome its own issues in the marketplace. Holmes, she noted, helped to pioneer the spiked seltzer category and is able to advise on how to educate consumers on new kinds of alcoholic beverages.

Ornstein, she said, is knowledgeable in building “beer adjacent” brands from his time working at AB InBev as well as experience working with retail chains such as Walmart. Roth, she added, brings a strong marketing background and a “generalist aspect” to brand building.“Dave and Randy are advising us because they have both seen CPG categories evolve and dealt with exciting new products,” Ripps said. “We’re really working [with Roth on] marketing, messaging, and how to communicate what Boozy Tea is to our consumer. Rick has spent a long part of his career building brands honing on messaging.”

Waterloo Co-Founder and Former CMO Launches CANTEEN Spirits

In February, Brandon Cason stepped down from his position as CMO of Texas-based sparkling water brand Waterloo, which he co-founded in 2017.

Last month,Cason announced the launch of his latest venture: CANTEEN Spirits, a brand of vodka sodas made with natural flavors, of which he is a co-founder and CEO. Cason created CANTEEN with his Waterloo co-founder Daniel Barnes and former Vela Wood venture attorney Caroline Fabacher.

According to LinkedIn, CANTEEN began operations in March. A press release indicated that the brand will launch into retail this fall.

“We look forward to growing CANTEEN quickly as consumers are looking for new, refreshing alternatives,” said Cason in the press release.

BevMo! Names Matthew Champion as SVP and CMO

California-based beverage retailer BevMo! announced last month that it has named former Amazon Canada head of marketing Matthew Champion as its senior vice president and chief marketing officer.

In a press release, the company said Champion will be responsible for traditional and digital marketing initiatives, as well as in-store activation and e-commerce campaigns.

“Matt is a talented leader and strong marketer with a track record of success across many industries,” said CEO Dimitri Haloulos in the release. “His consumer-focused growth mindset and expertise in leading cross-functional teams to deliver profitable growth is what makes him the right leader to continue our digital transformation.”

Pawan Kalra Named CEO at Pressed Juicery

After nearly nine years leading the company, Pressed Juicery founder Hayden Slater resigned as CEO in March, according to LinkedIn, ceding the chief executive position to the company’s CFO and COO Pawan Kalra.

Kalra joined Pressed Juicery in May 2016 as CFO, taking on the additional title of COO in January 2018. He previously served as the CFO of Pinkberry Ventures.

Since May, Slater has served as CEO of The Walking Company Holdings, Inc. and Big Dog Sportswear.