Beverage Business INSIGHTS:
First Beverage Group, which flipped most of Activate stake to Tata for healthy profit and also has more modest investment in Thomas Kemper Soda, has settled on next bev play: Purity Organic juices. Nantucket Nectars founder Tom First, since Apr serving as co-managing dir at First Beverage, confirmed investment in SF-based organic juice spinoff from Pacific Organic Produce, largest marketer of organic tree fruit in US. He would only describe investment as “significant,” without indicating whether it confers majority or minority stake, and said he’d be taking active role in short term helping plot course for brand that mainly plays via DSD in Calif and NY markets. As part of transaction, juice unit is being separated from fruit unit, with juice unit maintaining rights to use of trademark in all segments besides the fruit itself. It’s produced by Sunsweet, which had also been viewed as potential strategic partner, role that First said is not in works but can’t be ruled out down road. He said he’ll first focus on better supporting brand in its 3 key markets of Northern Calif, Southern Calif and NY, then help plan next 3-4 DSD markets. He’ll also focus on new-product opportunities for brand that sports distinctive grid-like pattern of fruit on label. It’s recently ventured into related segments like half-and-half and tea, and is believed to do upwards of $3 mil in volume, tho this couldn’t be confirmed.
Brand was created by Greg Holzman with sales handled by Dave Minnick, youthful bev exec who after first bev job at Hansen Natural several years ago moved to Purity Organic after considering chance to work with First at his O Water project, which Tom has since sold to partner Polar Beverage. Greg and Dave will both maintain active roles. First Beverage, founded by beer distribution vet Bill Anderson, has been object of considerable interest in NA realm for its willingness to consider even very-early-stage brands and for its quick success with Activate. Earlier this week it decided to seek outside partners for Kemper in hope of boosting co’s chances of success with natural-soda push (BBI, Jul 19).