BevNET Live Adds Case Study on Sweet Leaf Tea

Founder Clayton Christopher, Catterton Partners’ Michael Farello, Nestle Waters North America’s William Pearson join BevNET Live Program

When you’re building an authentic, entrepreneurial beverage brand, there are two key financial issues: raising the right amount of money, and spending it properly.

Using Sweet Leaf Tea as the lens – and its founder and former CEO, Clayton Christopher, as well as key investors Michael Farello (Partner, Catteron Partners) and William Pearson (CFO, Nestle Waters North America) as the guides – BevNET Live attendees will have the opportunity to hear, and discuss, how that happened for one beverage company.


Sweet Leaf Tea may have grown from an independent, organic tea company sold in a few stores in Austin, Texas to a national brand wholly owned by Nestle Waters, but throughout each stage of its development its owners and investors have striven to maintain the balance between growth and the authentic, consumer-friendly branding and high quality standards that launched the brand. This careful tightrope – Sweet Leaf’s need to establish and maintain authenticity even as it achieved national distribution in new, unfamiliar retail channels – is one that every successful beverage entrepreneur must navigate.

In this unique, three-part presentation and panel discussion, Christopher, Farello and Pearson will walk attendees through the key strategic decisions undertaken during Sweet Leaf’s growth and capital raising cycle. From its earliest search for startup capital and financing through the deployment of resources gained through its eventual investment by Catterton and Nestle Waters, attendees of BevNET Live on Dec. 5 and 6 in Santa Monica will have the opportunity to better understand the hazards and opportunities that come with growth capital.

About BevNET Live: A perennial sellout now in its third year at the Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel, BevNET Live Winter 2011 is a two-day event featuring presentations from leading beverage innovators, instructional breakout sessions, ample networking time, a “mini-expo” of supplier and beverage exhibits, and an intense “New Product Showdown.” It will take place on Dec. 5 and 6, 2011.  Registration information >>

About Clayton Christopher: Clayton Christopher is the Founder and former CEO of Sweet Leaf Tea Company. Clayton started Sweet Leaf in 1998 with $15,000 in savings, an old delivery van and an ice tea recipe from his grandmother. Sweet Leaf Tea is one of the fastest growing beverage companies in the US, with over $60M in sales and 100+ employees. Nestle purchased Sweet Leaf in June of 2011. Clayton is passionate about entrepreneurship and loves helping small food and beverage brands grow. Clayton is currently co-founder and CEO of Deep Eddy Vodka and co-founder and Chairman of Rhythm Superfoods. He also sits on the boards of several other food and beverage companies. Clayton won the 2006 Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year award for Central Texas as well as the 2010 AU40 Austinite of the Year Award and Business and Entrepreneurship Award. He is an active member of the Young Presidents Organization and serves on the board of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Texas where he has also been a “Big” to his “Little” Andrew San Miguel for 7 years.

About Michael Farello: Mr. Farello is a Partner of Catterton Partners. He has worked in the consumer sector since the late-80s as a consultant, senior executive, and investor. Prior to joining Catterton, Mr. Farello held several executive positions at Dell where he led the company’s consumer marketing and ebusiness following a strategic role in the Office of the Chairman. Previously, Mr. Farello spent 12 years at McKinsey & Company, most recently as a partner focusing on the firm’s retail, hospitality, media, entertainment, and consumer clients facing growth or customer service challenges. Michael left McKinsey to serve as senior vice president of sales and marketing at a privately-held software company serving specialty retailers. Mr. Farello earned an M.B.A. with distinction from the Harvard Business School and a B.S. with distinction in industrial engineering from Stanford University.

About William Pearson: Mr. Pearson is the Executive Vice President, Finance and Chief Financial Officer for Nestle Waters North America. He spent 10 years in various positions with NWNA before becoming CFO in 2007. A graduate of Providence College with an MBA from Fordham University, Mr. Pearson started his career with KPMG and worked for PepsiCo, Inc. For 12 years before moving to NWNA in 1996. He is also the President of the North Salem Foundation for Learning.