Originally published on CNBC
Rebbl, which makes coconut milk-based drinks with herbs and plants, is raising $20 million in funding led by Cavu Venture Partners, the brand said ahead of a formal announcement Friday.
Rebbl says it has $20 million to $50 million in annual sales and expects to be growing at a rate of 70 percent by the end of the year. The new fundraising values it at close to $100 million.
The company is led by Sheryl O’Loughlin, former CEO of Clif Bar and Plum Organics baby food, and co-founded by Palo Hawken and David Batstone.
The drink uses “super-herbs” and “adaptagens,” which Rebbl claims have benefits including a decrease in stress hormones. It makes elixirs like its Matcha Latte and cold-brew coffees with protein that promise to provide energy.
That puts them into a new generation of drinks that call themselves “functional,” often low or no-sugar beverages that purport to nourish better than the previous class of sugary or caffeine-fueled sports drinks. Among them is a rush of new kombucha drink brands or drinks like coconut-water infused BodyArmor that say they have more vitamins and fewer artificial ingredients than their predecessors.
Amid this uprising, PepsiCo’s Gatorade, which created the sports drink category and long dominated it, has ceded market share.
“I think you’re seeing consumers shift from beverages that are literally bad for you to not being as bad for you — Gatorade in that category — … to drinks that are good for you,” said Clayton Christopher, co-founder of Cavu Venture Partners.
Pepsi this summer is responding to the consumer shift by launching Gatorade Zero, its sugar-free answer to BodyArmor.
Rebbl is also part of a new upswing in food and beverage brands like snack bar maker Kind that fund or support mission-driven organizations. The brand donates 2.5 percent of its revenue to Not For Sale, a nonprofit group working to fight human trafficking.
“It goes way beyond corporate social responsibility,” said O’Loughlin. “[The mission] is intimately part of the whole business to the point that if you took it outside the brand, it would be destroyed.”
Rebbl is in 7,000 stores nationwide. With its new funds, it is now focusing on putting more resources behind marketing, innovation and moving into more conventional retailers including Safeway and Stop N Shop.
While many premium food or drinks have struggled to move beyond Amazon’s Whole Foods, where shoppers are often willing to pay more and learn more about their products, Rebbl is confident about its mainstream appeal.
“It’s in line with a lot of flavors of [Pepsi’s] Naked and [Coca-Cola’s] Odwalla,” said Christopher. “It’s priced below of lot flavors of [Coke’s] Suja.”
The brand, which derives its name from the acronym for roots, extracts, berries, bark and leaves, is also undeterred by the sea of a competition it is facing from the quick pace of innovation among other upstart drink brands.
“They’re hitting on a lot of health and wellness trends and … the mission they communicate,” Christopher said. “I’ve never come across a business as authentic that way. That’s a safe and a smart bet.”
Rebbl, previously raised money from Bigr Ventures and PowerPlant Ventures, the venture firm started by Zico coconut water-founder Mark Rampolla.
Its board is composed of a “who’s who” in the upstart food world. It includes Rampolla, who sold Zico coconut water to Coke, and Christopher, who founded and sold Sweet Leaf Tea to Nestle and Deep Eddy Vodka to Heaven Hill Brands. O’Loughlin’s Plum Organics was sold to Campbell Soup.
The Giannuzzi Group acted as legal counsel to Rebbl.