May 2017

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Originally posted on BevNET

Owl’s Brew, makers of tea-based cocktail mixers and a tea-and-beer Radler line, announced Thursday it has closed a $4 million series A funding round. The round included large investments from investment firm Cambridge Companies SPG and Anheuser-Busch InBev’s “disruptive growth organization,” ZX Ventures.

Speaking to BevNET, Owl’s Brew co-founder and CEO Jennie Ripps said the capital infusion would go toward funding the expansion of the brand’s Radler line. The products — which are made with premium light beer, fresh-brewed organic tea and infused with real fruits and botanicals — launched in October but began a stronger East Coast rollout in Q1.

The funding will enable Owl’s Brew to support its wholesalers and distributors as the brand moves into new markets, Ripps added. As part of ZX’s investment, a representative of the group will join Owl’s Brew’s board of directors.

The Radler is currently available in 14 East Coast states and sold in roughly 1,500 stores, including Whole Foods, Wegman’s, Shaw’s, Shop-Rite, and Total Wine. The Radlers will expand into PriceChopper in June.

“We’re pleased to be part of such an innovative organization,” Filipp Chebotarev, COO and Partner at Cambridge Companies SPG, said in a press release. “Jennie Ripps and [president] Maria Littlefield are incredible founders with a proven ability to bring ideas to mass market. Cambridge Companies SPG is proud to be part of this fast growing brand which has established impressive category velocity, widespread distribution and strategic partnerships across North America.”

Owl’s Brew also landed an on-premise arrangement with concert and events giant Live Nation to sell the Radler line at 21 of its amphitheatre venues in the markets where the brand has distribution, including the Xfinity Centers in Massachusetts and Connecticut, the Ford Amphitheater in New York, and the Verizon Amphitheater in Georgia. Live Nation venues nationwide attract more than 30 million people annually, Ripps said, and the new funding will also be used to help promote the Live Nation partnership.

According to Ripps, Owl’s Brew met with Live Nation executives during the 2016 National Restaurant Association show and the companies have been working closely together since to prepare the launch.

“I think it’s probably the most exciting, largest, on-premise opportunity that I can imagine to coincide with the launch of our brand for the summer,” Ripps said. “In terms of building brand awareness we feel extraordinarily lucky they want to be our partners and sell our product.”

Owl’s Brew launched in 2013 as a tea-based cocktail mixer line. While the brand has now embraced beer, Ripps said the company’s main focus still lies in creating “clean” tea and botanical ingredient-based products. However, since launching, sales of the Radler products have quadrupled and Ripps expects the line to be the largest driver of company growth in the near future. While the company’s flagship cocktail mixers are performing well, Ripps admitted that uses for those offerings are more niche and limited than the ready-to-drink Radler.

“You can drink it at a concert, you can drink it at the beach, you can crack one open much more readily so there’s no barrier for entry,” she said.

The Giannuzzi Group acted as legal counsel to Owl’s Brew.

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Originally posted on FoodBev.com

Campbell’s has invested $10 million in US meal kit upstart Chef’d, less than two weeks after Unilever led investment in a similar kind of business.

The soup company will become Chef’d’s largest strategic investor and receive a seat on the company’s board of directors. The deal will help grow Campbell’s e-commerce capabilities, with Chef’d offering an online platform through which consumers can order meal kits from various different brands.

Unlike other meal kit delivery companies, which focus on a singular product line, Chef’d brings together various different offerings from the likes of Atkins and Weightwatchers.

Chef’d has also developed its own range of meal kits covering different meal times and cuisines.

Campbell Soup president and chief executive officer Denise Morrison said: “E-commerce will transform the food industry in similar ways to how it transformed entertainment and apparel. It is a game changer for consumers, food makers and retailers alike. The movement is irrevocable and irreversible. In the future, shopping for and preparing meals will be flexible, fully automated and even anticipatory. Chef’d will help Campbell connect with our consumers where they are today and, more importantly, where they’re headed.”

Campbell’s expects e-commerce food and drink sales to reach $66 billion by 2021, and its latest investment will be a vote of confidence in the overall meal kit concept.

Chef’d CEO Kyle Ransford added: “We are actively looking to add strategic partners and Campbell’s outlook on the future of food and e-commerce aligns perfectly with the Chef’d vision of the future of online grocery. Both Campbell and Chef’d believe in continuing to drive innovation in the new food economy, particularly around consumer customisation and e-commerce solutions.”

Campbell’s is joined in investing in Chef’d by Fresh Direct, which is making a follow-on investment to their Series A investment.

It comes less than two weeks after Unilever led investment in Sun Basket, the US organic meal delivery service, as part of a $9.2 million funding round.

The company offers consumers meal kits delivered to their door weekly, consisting of organic and non-GMO ingredients alongside an easy-to-prepare recipe.

Sun Basket grew sales by 1,300% in 2016 and has added $124 million in new annual revenue run rate since last September alone, underscoring the potential in this nascent market.

The meal box format has experienced strong growth in recent years, inspired by Scandinavian retail and buoyed by the addition of many new companies in markets around the world.

As the sector evolves, many find themselves offering a specific point of difference – like ethical or organic ingredients – or, as Chef’d has done, bringing a large number of services together in one place.

The Giannuzzi Group acted as legal counsel to Chef’d.

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Originally posted on First Beverage Group

Los Angeles, CA – May 24, 2017 – First Beverage Ventures, the private equity arm of First Beverage Group, is pleased to announce its investment in GEM&BOLT as the lead investor in an equity raise completed by the company.

Distilled in Oaxaca, GEM&BOLT is an artisanal mezcal made with 100% espadin and the Mexican herb damiana, known for its mythological healing properties.

Mezcal is one of the fastest growing spirit categories, tapping into consumer interest in agave-based spirits as well as craft spirits that incorporate local ingredients and production methods. GEM&BOLT’s founders developed their unique brand with a local artisanal mezcal-producing family in Oaxaca and created a product that is both smooth enough to drink on its own and well balanced to mix perfectly in a fresh cocktail.

The company will use the proceeds from this raise to increase retail availability by expanding its sales and marketing efforts with key distributor partners in the United States.

“GEM&BOLT is a truly unique and standout brand in a high-growth category,” said Bill Anderson, founder and CEO of First Beverage. “But most importantly it’s a brand led by four women who bring a rare combination of vision, purpose, style and execution. We couldn’t be more grateful to have the opportunity to join them in their journey.”

“There’s a great deal of market interest today in mezcal as a result of the category’s significant growth,” noted Kristen Bareuther, a managing director at First Beverage. “GEM&BOLT’s highly differentiated product – in taste profile, positioning and packaging – coupled with its core consumer following and dedicated, deeply experienced founder team make it an exciting proposition for First Beverage.”

Created by artist-alchemist duo AdrinAdrina and Elliott Coon, GEM&BOLT is the culmination of a journey which started with a shared bohemian childhood and an interest in apothecary and the homeopathic benefits of herbs and led to a love of mezcal and its role in Mexican culture. “We are on the front end of defining what this category can become with a brand that was born out of a love and respect for art and nature,” said AdrinAdrina. “The sense of place that comes from what we are doing here in Oaxaca is so powerful,” added Elliott Coon. “There is a natural harmony between the agave and damiana that each thrive here, and we have taken our time to craft a mezcal spirit that is truly experiential and celebrates a bond between art + plants.”

AdrinAdrina and Elliott Coon partnered with seasoned beverage veterans, Jody Levy, co-founder and creative director at WTRMLN WTR, Lisa Derman, former COO of Stoli Group USA, and Vicente Reyes, an agave beverage expert based in Oaxaca, Mexico who is actively involved in the cultivation and preservation of agave, and correspondingly, mezcal, to create an artisanal product that brings together art + plants in a manner that honors its cultural traditions.

“We love the work we are doing and the culture that grounds us and guides us at GEM&BOLT,” said Lisa Derman. “There is a satisfaction to making something that is pure and authentic, paying homage to great traditions and bottling an experience that can be shared in new circles and in new ways. Our partnership with First Beverage is the next step in our journey, and one that we are very excited for.”

The Giannuzzi Group acted as legal counsel to GEM&BOLT.

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Originally published on PR Newswire

WALTHAM, Mass., May 3, 2017

Spindrift, the first sparkling water made with real fruit, announces the closing of $10 million of new growth capital led by VMG Partners, a private equity firm that specializes in investing in and building branded consumer product companies. Additional investors in the round include Prolog Ventures, Karp Reilly, and other existing investors.

Spindrift experienced more than 800 percent growth in revenue over the past 24 months. Driven by consumer demand for brands that offer simple ingredients and a focus on transparency, Spindrift has been able to grow steadily in the emerging sparkling water space. New capital allows the brand to continue expansion into other classes of trade while investing in production infrastructure to allow for greater capacity around bringing quality products using only real ingredients to market.

“We are excited and humbled by the continued support for our brand,” says Founder & CEO Bill Creelman. “In most ways, working with real ingredients is a complete reset for the sparkling category. This capital allows us to continue to support our current business partners and pursue expansion opportunities in new channels and geographies.”

“We’re thrilled by the opportunity to continue our partnership with Spindrift. It is a superb brand, with fantastic products, and a talented and experienced management team,” said Robin Tsai, principal at VMG and Spindrift board member.

“Sparkling water is a category where the youngest brand is 30 years old,” added Ilya Nykin, managing director for Prolog. “What excites us is the opportunity to usher in a new age of sparkling: sparkling 2.0.”

Creelman started Spindrift in 2010 as a solution to kick his soda addiction, and to build something he felt comfortable giving to his young kids. The decision to use real fruit originated from growing up on a farm in Western Mass. where his groceries were sourced primarily from local farms. From the kitchen to the board room, Spindrift first started in his house in Charlestown, Mass. and now has more than 30 employees and is distributed nationally in key retailers such as Trader Joe’s, Target and Costco.

The Giannuzzi Group acted as legal counsel to Spindrift.

For more information about Spindrift, please visit www.spindriftfresh.com.