GPI Founders Split, Focus on Building New LA Distributing Co.

The founders of entrepreneurial Southern California distribution company Gourmet Purveyors International have left the business and started a new, Los Angeles-focused enterprise.

They are looking for new brands, as well, to fill out a roster that already includes Marley Beverages, Taste Nirvana coconut water, Coke’s IllyCaffe coffee line, Cabana Lemonades, Nika Water and CSD offerings by Reed’s.

The third co-founder of GPI, Jon Paul Chevalier, has retained the company and continues to operate the original company. But the partners split over territory expansion.

“We decided we wanted to go an inch wide and a mile deep,” said Richard Medina, one of the two young co-founders of L.A. Distributing Company, which started up in late January. The pair pooled their savings to start the company.

By focusing primarily on Los Angeles – where the pair have developed strong ties to independent and chain accounts, they say – they hope to be able to help small brands reach critical mass. The company also carries strong snack brands like PopChips and Food Should Taste Good.

The founders hope to use the popular snack brands as well as its Marley and Reed’s ties to help them get smaller brands in the door of area retailers.

“We’re looking to take on at least a dozen new brands,” Medina, 28, told BevNET.

The Southern California market has been changing in recent months with the reported shaky footing of San Diego’s Five Star Beverage – a company in which L.A. distributing giant Tony Haralambos had an investment stake — and the withdrawal from Los Angeles of Energized.

So what does L.A. Distributing have that other wholesalers don’t? According to Medina, it’s the knowledge of the area and its key accounts – the ones that can help ignite a new product that carries a chain authorization but remains little-known in the city. In March it took over primary NA responsibilities for Los Angeles-based Miller Coors beer distributor Classic Distributing and Beverage Group, and the entrée into more accounts through that partnership should also help new brands, according to Medina.

“They liked that we’re young, passionate guys,” he said, noting that his partner, Arthur Flores, is also under 30 –“So we made a partnership to get those brands on board. We want to slowly cover all of L.A.”

Of course, Haralambos Beverage Co., which has owned that area for years, building brands like Vitaminwater,   as well as up-and-comers like Bai, Activate, and Neuro, is a large competitor. Indeed, the new owners of L.A. Distributing sub-contracted deliveries from Haralambos over the course of their attempts at growing GPI.

“Haralambos is a great company,” Medina said. “We just want to offer an alternative and we hope we can do that.”