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First Beverage Closes $64M Second Fund

BevNET.com:

First Beverage Ventures, the private equity arm of advising and consulting firm First Beverage Group, has closed its second fund at a total of $64 million, according to paperwork filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission last week.

Founded in 2013, First Beverage has made strategic investments in brands such as Health-Ade Kombucha, ionized alkaline water Essentia, and tabletop cold-pressed juice machine Juicero. Other portfolio brands include Purity Organic, Q Drinks and Project Juice.

First Beverage CEO Bill Anderson told BevNet that the addition of new capital as well as new team members and investors would allow the firm to provide a broader range of insights from within and outside the beverage industry.

“What this provides us is the right amount of committed capital, combined with other partner capital, to support our strategy of investing between $5 million and $15 million in innovative, high-growth beverage companies,” he said. “Our ability to bring a number of long-standing beverage executives and their expertise to our portfolio companies, and really focus in on the lessons we learned from multiple different beverage segments, I think, is an enormous advantage for us.”

Over the past year, the company has assembled a new leadership team that includes managing partner Kyle Wheeler, who also heads the firm’s investment activities, and managing director Kristen Bareuther.

Former managing director Tom First left the company to join Castanea Partners last July. Bob Nakasone, a former vice president of sales at probiotic beverage maker KeVita, was hired as his replacement in January.

While the group has advised craft beer companies on financing and acquisition deals in the past, the first fund focused on non-alcoholic opportunities. The second fund, however, has expanded to include alcoholic drinks, specifically, craft spirits. In May, the group, announced its initial investment in the category with Gem&Bolt, a mezcal made with the Mexican medicinal herb damiana.

At the time, Anderson told BevNET, “Our focus has always been on segment analysis, so that we’re certain to be investing in segments that we believe will provide high-growth and high ascension from distributors and retailers and, ultimately, strategic acquirers.”

Anderson was also asked about Juicero CEO Jeff Dunn’s letter to employees last week in which he announced a 25 percent reduction in staff, mostly coming from the company’s sales and marketing departments.

“I don’t think there’s anything I can add,” he said. “We are going to do everything we can to support the company through this period.”