February 2014

Apparently we’re not the only ones to notice the rising popularity of St-Germain elderflower liqueur, which has popped up as an ingredient in more and more cocktails since it was first launched six years ago by the Cooper Spirits Company.

Liquor powerhouse Bacardi recently announced the purchase of St-Germain and its plans to turn it into an iconic brand with recognition on par with other Bacardi acquisitions, including Grey Goose vodka, Bombay Sapphire gin and Patròn tequila.

According to a press release, Robert Cooper, the founder of the Cooper Spirits Company, will continue to work with Bacardi as St-Germain’s “brand guardian” and spokesperson.

“With Bacardi’s help, St-Germain can now become a truly international brand,” Cooper said in the release. “That’s something that would have been difficult for me to achieve as a small, creative brand-building company.”

The Miami Herald writes that according to industry data, St-Germain had grown by more than 50 percent by 2011 and delivered about 77,000 cases worldwide. In 2012, the number of cases was expected to grow to 100,000.

The paper also spoke to several bartenders about St-Germain’s meteoric rise, who now “consider it one of their go-to ingredients,” found on cocktail menus the likes of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, BLT Steak and the Living Room at the W South Beach:

“It’s the best liqueur to come out in 75 years,” said John Lermayer, bartender at the Regent Cocktail Club at the Gale South Beach. “It goes well with everything. I’ve never seen anything as mixable since sugar. It goes just as well with rye whiskey as it does with Champagne.”
That said, some bartenders in the piece suggested that St-Germain has become too ubiquitous — a problem that will likely only worsen with the Bacardi acquisition. Gabe Ortega of the Broken Shaker in Miami Beach told the paper that the liqueur has “gotten so overused that it has lost its uniqueness.”

Ortega may be referring to St-Germain’s growth from an ingredient favored in the craft and artisanal cocktail movement to its increasingly mainstream popularity.

The liqueur is widely praised for its unique flavor, which is lightly sweet and reminiscent of pears and lychee. It comes from fresh, hand-picked elderflower blossoms that bloom in Europe once a year during a four-to-six week period in late spring.

By Jeffrey Klineman

After getting rave reviews at the December BevNET Live event – taking home the award during the New Product Showdown — Coco Café had to imagine that it would be getting a lot of attention and some new accounts.

But apparently things have really accelerated for the Los Angeles-based espresso/coconut water blend, as Vita Coco, the country’s best selling coconut water brand, has swooped in to make an investment in Coco Café.

According to Vita Coco CEO Michael Kirban, the new product will be able to employ some of Vita Coco’s production and distribution routes, while also offering the first generation company a counterpoint to rival Zico’s well-received Chocolate variety.

More to come, but the release is below.

Cuckoo for Coconuts… and Coffee

Vita Coco invests in Southern California beverage start-up

Best selling coconut water company takes stake in new coconut water coffee drink: Coco Café

February 2, 2012 – New York, NY – Vita Coco, the nation’s largest coconut water brand, has made an investment in a California-based beverage start-up called Coco Café, which produces a ready-to-drink beverage of fresh coconut water and organic, fair-trade espresso with milk. The announcement was confirmed today by Vita Coco co-founder and ceo Michael Kirban.

Vita Coco, launched in 2004, is one of the fastest growing independent beverage brands in the U.S. The brand sells seven flavors of coconut water at over 35,000 retailers nationwide, including Whole Foods Market, Kroger, Walmart, Costco and Amazon.com.

Coco Café, started by friends Brian McCaslin and Elan Eifer on the beaches of Santa Monica, California in 2011 has, according to Kirban, “enormous potential to be the next breakout beverage brand. Coco Cafe adds a new layer of coconut water-fueled functionality to the coffee category and expands the appeal of coconut water for all beverage consumers.”

“I see a lot of myself in these two entrepreneurs: they have a simple concept based on great taste and authenticity, with huge potential to broaden the category,” continues Kirban.

Kirban should know: just eight years ago Vita Coco was itself a two man (Kirban and co-founder Ira Liran) start-up in Brooklyn, New York. Today, the Vita Coco brand is the national sales leader of fresh coconut water, arguably the hottest beverage category of the past two years that has already seen acquisitions made by, and new coconut water products developed by, both Coca-Cola and PepsiCo.

Coco Café co-founder Brian McCaslin says “Vita Coco was our inspiration when we started the Coco Café brand. It’s a great compliment that Mike took early notice of our efforts and an even greater compliment that we can now call Mike and his team our partners.” McCaslin and Eifer will be able to leverage the best of Vita Coco’s production and distribution networks and marketing expertise to grow the Coco Café brand.

Concludes Kirban: “Coco Café will have an impact not just on the coconut water category, but also in ready to drink coffee. This brand is one to watch.”

About Vita Coco

Vita Coco® is the brand that started America’s craze for fresh coconut water. Informed consumers, pro-athletes, yogis and nutritionists as well as in-the-know celebrities and influencers have all become quick and loyal fans of coconut water, swearing by the Vita Coco brand for its delicious flavor, hydrating properties and replenishment benefits. Award-winning Vita Coco, which counts Madonna amongst its investors, is one of the most sought-after products in the beverage aisle. Visit www.vitacoco.com for more details.

“Jersey Show” star Paul “DJ Pauly D” DelVecchio is adding another accolade to his resume: His own line of pre-mixed cocktails.

The drinks, dubbed Remix Pre-Game Cocktail, are vodka-based and come in a variety of flavors, including “Oye Mojito,” “Yeah Yumberry,” “Strawberry Holla-peno,” and starfruit. The venture is reportedly the result of a partnership between DelVecchio and liquor entrepreneur David Kanbar, a co-founder of “Real Housewives of New York” star Bethenny Frankel’s successful Skinnygirl cocktail line. Kanbar also serves as Remix’s lead investor.

According to a release, the line will launch this June in New Jersey, Rhode Island and other to-be-named markets.

The product’s website isn’t yet fully operational, but interested parties can check out the preview video below. Warning: Get ready for a lot of fist-pumping.

We’re not sure what to make of the alcohol industry’s fascination with flavors from childhood, but here’s another for the trend: Peanut butter and jelly-flavored vodka from Van Gogh. HuffPost Food recently did a taste test of the product that yielded mixed reactions.

NEW YORK–()–Today, Vita Coco, the nation’s best-selling coconut water and one of the fastest-growing beverage brands in the U.S., launched Vita Coco Tropical Fruit, in collaboration with Rihanna. The seventh flavor in the Vita Coco portfolio, Tropical Fruit is an all-natural, luscious blend of coconut water, pink guava, orange, red dragon fruit and pineapple.

“I grew up in Barbados – so when Vita Coco approached me to help develop a new flavor, I thought we should combine the natural coconut water with fresh tropical fruits – two of my favorite things”

“I grew up in Barbados – so when Vita Coco approached me to help develop a new flavor, I thought we should combine the natural coconut water with fresh tropical fruits – two of my favorite things,” says Rihanna. “It tastes so delicious and reminds me of home!”

Vita Coco Tropical Fruit comes in a bright magenta TetraPak featuring Rihanna’s signature to mark the collaboration. The pop star is also the face of Vita Coco’s national advertising campaign, which was released this past June.

Vita Coco, which is Never from Concentrate and contains the five essential electrolytes, 15 times the potassium of a traditional sports drink, and 100 percent of the daily requirement of vitamin C, delivers super-hydration functionality with every sip. Vita Coco contains no fat, no cholesterol and less sugar than an apple – ideal for consumers living healthy and active lifestyles.

Vita Coco Tropical Fruit is available on Amazon.com and at retailers nationwide in a 17 fl. oz./500 ml serving size at $2.79 SRP. For more information on where to find the new flavor, visit www.vitacoco.com.

About Vita Coco:

Vita Coco® is the brand that started America’s craze for fresh coconut water. In the U.S. Vita Coco is sold at over 20,000 retailers including Whole Foods Market, GNC, Kroger, Publix, Ralph’s, Stop & Shop/Giant, Costco select Wal-Mart stores and many chain and independent groceries. It is also sold in most major U.S. airports and university campuses, as well as online at Amazon.com.

Available in seven great tasting flavors – Pure, Açaí & Pomegranate, Tangerine, Passion Fruit, Pineapple, Tropical Fruit and Peach & Mango – Vita Coco was founded in 2004 and is based in New York City.

For more information about Vita Coco and its role in summer hydration, visit www.vitacoco.com/mediacenter or www.vitacoco.com.

Photos/Multimedia Gallery Available: http://www.businesswire.com/cgi-bin/mmg.cgi?eid=6817329&lang=en



Ketchum for Vita Coco
Eddie Moye, 646-935-4145

By Ryan Latif

Major developments out of the Big Apple with news that Big Geyser has secured the exclusive rights to distribute Monster Energy and Sparkling ICE in all five boroughs of New York City, as well as Nassau, Suffolk County, Long Island and Westchester County.

Big Geyser’s deal with Monster will cover all channels of trade, excluding club stores, and begin on April 1. In an unrelated deal, Big Geyser has acquired the distribution rights for Talking Rain’s Sparkling ICE brand from Suffolk County-based Drink King.

“These deals allow us to leverage our extremely strong relationships with retailers, our 26 years of experience and intimate knowledge of the New York market,” Big Geyser COO Jerry Reda told BevNET. “Our priority number one is to grow market share for Monster and Sparkling ICE and to grow market share for our existing core beverage brands.”

With a portfolio that includes a wide variety of beverages ranging from mega brands like Vitaminwater and Muscle Milk to entrepreneurial stars and start-ups including ZICO, Purity Organic, HINT, and Body Armor, Big Geyser is one of the largest independent DSD distributors of non-alcoholic beverages in the country, and the biggest in New York City. However, its deal with Monster marks its first significant foray into energy drinks. Despite being pitched by “hundreds” of energy drink brands every year, the company last carried BAWLS Guarana nearly three years ago, according to Big Geyser COO Jerry Reda.

Reda said he believes that there is “tremendous opportunity to expand distribution of energy drinks” in the New York metro area, and stated that Big Geyser has identified major voids in the market.

“There are many accounts that don’t sell Monster… or don’t [commit] enough shelf space for the brand,” Reda said.

He hailed the deal with Monster as a “perfect marriage,” one that took “a reasonable amount of time” to complete considering its size. Reda said the Big Geyser was particularly impressed with the breadth of Monster’s products, and pointed to Monster Rehab, Monster Zero Ultra, and Uber Monster as “game-changers.”

“We’re impressed with [Monster’s] management team, their creativity and ingenuity,” Reda said.

The arrangement will take distribution of Monster Energy out of the hands of Anheuser-Busch distributors, which had been managing the brand throughout the New York metro market, with the exception of Brooklyn, where distribution of Monster has been serviced by The Coca-Cola Co.

Considering that both Anheuser-Busch and Coke are the primary distribution partners of Monster Energy drinks in North America, the company’s decision to make a change in New York City – the largest market in the U.S. – is a curious one, to say the least. However, Monster has long been the number two energy drink brand behind Red Bull in New York, and remained so throughout 2012, despite some gains in the market.

Big Geyser’s deal with Sparkling ICE will bring the brand – which has grown to $150 million in sales nationally – from Drink King, a DSD house that carries a range of entrepreneurial brands including Cabana lemonades and Marley’s Mellow Mood.  The agreement will be effective on Feb. 25 and will encompass Sparkling ICE’s DSD and direct retail accounts.

Reda stressed that Big Geyser has long focused on avoiding duplication of beverage categories in its portfolio. And while Big Geyser does carry a number of sparkling water drinks, including San Pellegrino and HINT Fizz, he noted that existing sparkling drink brands represent less than two percent of its total portfolio.

“Sparkling ICE brings us into a new section of retail where we don’t currently have a strong presence,” Reda said.

Reda acknowledged that while Monster Energy and Sparkling ICE will be two of Big Geyser’s largest brands, the distributor has a compensation structure in place that “doesn’t allow” its sales team – one that numbers several hundred people, he said – to grow one brand at the expense of another.

“Monster and Sparkling ICE will be incremental to our existing business,” Reda said.

Angels CF Mike Trout has “signed his first big national endorsement deal” with BodyArmor Superdrink, according to Darren Rovell of ESPN.com. Sources said that Trout will be paid and “also will receive a small equity stake in the upstart company, which is projected to hit $10 million in sales in its first year.” BodyArmor Nutrition co-Owner Mike Repole said that Trout “could appear on in-store point-of-purchase displays.” Rovell notes the sports drink brand, which “is targeted to the 15- to 30-year-old with an active lifestyle, has a growing stable of athletes endorsing its product” including Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski, Eagles RB LeSean McCoy and Giants DE Jason Pierre-Paul. In addition to his BodyArmor endorsement, Trout “wears Nike shoes and batting gloves and has a contract to wear a Rawlings glove.” He also recently signed a two-year extension of his autograph deal with Major League Alumni Marketing. Craig Landis, Trout’s agent, said that Trout “uses Old Hickory Bats, wears a Phiten necklace and frequently wears Oakley sunglasses, but is not compensated by those companies.” Landis will “comb through endorsement proposals in the offseason, but says that he doesn’t want to spend the offseason cluttering his client’s schedule” (ESPN.com, 9/20).


Looking for growth, B&G Foods Inc. has turned to pirates.

Courtesy of Pirate Brands
The publicly-traded grocery-brand conglomerate is buying Pirate Brands, the maker of the white-cheddar-cheese rice and corn puffs Pirate’s Booty, for $195 million.

B&G FoodsBGS -0.46%, the owner of grocery brands including Grandma’s Molasses, Ortega and Cream of Wheat, has been expanding into the snack aisle and just landed the healthy option in its third deal for a snack company.

CEO David Wenner told analysts on a conference call the price was at a higher valuation than B&G has typically paid for a company in a deal, but said that Pirate’s Booty was going to expand the company’s offerings and its growth rate. He added that he hoped that it would “broaden our appeal as a stock going forward.”

Shares rose 6.2% to $31 on Monday.

Though he wasn’t specific, Wenner said Pirate’s Booty had been growing at double-digit rates in recent years. And despite its high valuation, the deal would still be cash-flow accretive on closing, which it expects next month, he said.

Though Pirate’s Booty, and its other offerings of flavored rice-puffs, are marketed toward children, a target B&G does not normally aim for, Wenner said the appeal is broad. He believed the all-natural and healthy-snack aspects of the brand is particularly relevant to today’s consumer.

“The brand is oriented toward kids to a great degree but kids are certainly not the only users,” Wenner said. “The fact that it is in the house tends to mean everybody is eating the product.”

Pirate’s Booty is currently owned by financial backers VMG Partners and Driven Capital Management as well as Robert Ehrlich, who founded the business in 1987.

Mike Repole, the chairman of Pirate Brands, said in a statement that he was “very proud” of the past five years including “increasing sales more than three-fold.” He called the transaction successful.

Wenner said B&G saw opportunities for expanding other flavors, as the majority of sales are white cheddar, and that in general B&G is looking at snack foods as a way to boost the whole company’s growth. Last October it closed a deal to buy New York Style, the maker of Bagel Crisps, and Old London brands for $62.5 million in cash.

“We understand that snacks, by definition almost, is a higher-growth business that we need to think about differently than we do most of our businesses,” Wenner said.

UPDATE: This post has been updated with the statement from Pirate Brands’ chairman. Also, Pirate Brands calls its snack products all-natural. An earlier version of this article incorrectly characterized the products as organic.

LOS ANGELES — BODYARMOR® SuperDrink™ is proud to welcome James Harden to its impressive line-up of athlete partners. Harden, like hundreds of professional athletes and thousands of amateur athletes, has been drinking BODYARMOR as part of his training regimen throughout the season – and will now be an official member of the team.

In addition to holding an equity stake in the company, Harden will be featured as the face of a national promotion which will launch on March 1st, and he will also appear in an in-store advertising campaign for the brand.  Additionally, Harden will help promote the latest BODYARMOR “Upgrade Your Sports Drink” marketing campaign with a national text to win program, where a lucky winner and a guest will get an UPGRADED Pro Basketball Playoff Experience complete with an UPGRADED first class flight, hotel suite, and UPGRADED courtside tickets to a playoff game.

Harden, who has had an impressive season which includes starting on the All-Star team and leading Houston to one of the top records in the conference, takes his training and fitness seriously.  Because good health is important to him, Harden carefully chooses what he puts into his body and BODYARMOR has become a natural fit in his professional and personal life as his drink of choice.  BODYARMOR provides superior nutrients and hydration for today’s athletes, is loaded with more electrolytes, vitamins and coconut water, and is an upgraded sports drink that provides the right fuel for the next generation of superstars.

The mock-ups have been displayed in its New York City offices since early winter, but Vita Coco decided to wait a few more months to launch a new line of kids’ drinks.

Today, Vita Coco, the number one-selling coconut water brand in the U.S., has finally introduced Vita Coco Kids to the market. Made with coconut water, filtered water, natural fruit flavors and vitamin C, the beverages, which come in wedge-shaped 6 oz. Tetra Pak containers with an attached straw, will hit shelves beginning in July.

Vita Coco co-founder Mike Kirban cited his two young children as the inspiration for the new line.

“After becoming a parent it was frustrating to see how many artificial, sugary drinks were being marketed to children their age,” Kirban said in a statement. “I knew Vita Coco could create a healthier drink for kids, and we did.”

Vita Coco Kids comes in three flavors  – Apple Island, Paradise Punch and Very Cherry Beach — and will be sold in 6-packs for a for a suggested retail price of $4.99. The products will be distributed nationwide at major retailers including Target and Amazon.com, and the new line will roll out in Wegmans and Safeway stores in the coming months. The launch is being supported by an out-of-home advertising campaign in several major markets.


Investors hungry to add upscale restaurants to their stock portfolios are about to get a new option: the STK steakhouse chain.

STK’s owner, One Group LLC, is merging with a so-called blank-check company in a deal that will take the chain public overnight, according to people familiar with the matter.

The company, which has seven STK locations and a hospitality business that provides food service for restaurants, bars and hotels, is merging with Committed Capital Acquisition Corp., a publicly traded shell company that has little more than the $28.8 million it is putting into the merger.

The merger is happening concurrently with investments of $15.5 million from institutional investors, who will become shareholders in the public company, as will Committed Capital’s backers, the people said.

The investments value the company at $5 a share, which is where the merged company is targeted to begin trading as One Group Inc. on Thursday, they said.

The company will have a stock market value of about $120 million, or about $150 million if warrants are exercised by other investors, they said.

One Group’s haul of about $44 million will be used to open new restaurants, retire some existing debt and buy out investors who took minority stakes in individual restaurants, the people said.

Shares of One Group will initially be traded “over the counter,” rather than on one of the big stock exchanges, though the company is aiming to list on the Nasdaq Stock Market and has had discussions about doing so with the exchange’s operator, Nasdaq OMX Group Inc., one of the people said.

The company expects revenue of about $130 million this year, up from about $6 million in 2006, the people said.

Investors have lately shown an appetite for high-end dining chains.

Del Frisco’s Restaurant Group Inc., DFRG 0.00% a chain of steakhouses, sold shares in an initial public offering last summer at $13. Since then shares have risen by about 40%, handily beating the market and giving the Southlake, Texas, company a market capitalization of about $434 million.

Last week, hedge fund Barington Capital Group LP and other investors announced a 2.8% stake in Darden Restaurants Inc., DRI 0.00% urging the dining conglomerate to separate its faster growing upscale brands, including Capital Grille and Eddie V’s from its larger chains, including Olive Garden and Red Lobster. Darden said it would evaluate the suggestion.

One Group decided to eschew a more traditional route to the public markets partly in the interest of speeding up its access to new capital, the people said. The company, which opened its first STK location in downtown Manhattan in 2006, is in the process of opening its eighth, in Washington, D.C., and has plans to add STKs in Chicago, Dubai, London, Montreal and elsewhere as well as launch a chain of smaller, less expensive restaurants under the name Rebel STK, one of the people said. Executives of One Group didn’t want to put their expansion plans on hold if matters out of their control prevented them from selling shares in an IPO, the people said.

STK, which caters to a younger, and more female, crowd than traditional steakhouses, has an average check of $113. That common performance metric used for high-end restaurants compares with $104 at Del Frisco’s top-end restaurants, according to a presentation One Group gave investors recently and Del Frisco filings.

Committed Capital was formed by New York-based Broadband Capital Management LLC, a firm that helps companies go public without IPOs. Among the companies it has helped onto the stock market are Jamba Juice owner Jamba Inc. and Swisher Hygiene Inc., a provider of restroom and sanitation products.