Vita Coco announces acquisition of Runa organic company

USA – All Market Inc. (AMI), the parent company of coconut water maker Vita Coco, today announced the acquisition of Runa, an organic energy drink brand made with the guayusa leaf.

Runa, founded in 2009 by college buddies Tyler Gage and Dan MacCombie, produces eight-SKU line of energy drinks made from organic guayusa, a naturally caffeinated plant grown in South America, according to BevNet.

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The company’s vertically integrated supply chain sources its guayusa from Fair Trade certified partner farms in Ecuador.

Until they were discontinued earlier this year, the Brooklyn-based company also marketed a line of ready-to-drink guayusa teas and loose leaf guayusa.

The brand has attracted the support of high-profile investors and advisors over the years, including Vita Coco co-founder and CEO Michael Kirban, who joined as an investor and member of the advisory board in 2014.

Others include Mark Rampolla, founder of coconut water brand Zico; Brian Krumrei, a former managing director at TSG Consumer Partners; and actors Leonardo DiCaprio and Channing Tatum.

“I think Runa is perfectly positioned as an organic, better-for-you energy drink that can really challenge in this space,” Kirban said, noting rising consumer interest in cold brew coffee and other drinks with natural caffeine.

Despite consistent growth and investment over the years, Runa’s products have been mainly confined to natural retailers.

The company has also experienced management turnover over the years; in May, CEO Alex Galindez departed the company, having taken over for Gage in April 2017. MacCombie had left two years earlier.

Since May, investor and board member Tim Sullivan, a former PepsiCo executive, has served as interim CEO for Runa.

“Tim helped a ton as interim CEO getting this deal over the line,” Kirban said.

“He will stay on for a transition and then together we’ll figure out his involvement longer term.”

Kirban noted that previous investment rounds for the company were mainly directed towards building its supply chain, and characterized management turnover in recent years as a typical challenge for any startup company.

He added that Runa’s decision in late 2017 to discontinue its tea line to focus on energy drinks represented a shift in which the company “finally started to hone in on what it really stands for and what the proposition is.”

“We will be going really deep in those markets with distribution and marketing across multiple platforms,” he said.

“The goal is to start a national launch of the brand in March 2019.”

Kirban said both Runa and Vita Coco would exist as independent companies under the AMI umbrella.

Under the terms of the deal, which remain undisclosed, Runa will be 100 percent owned and operated by AMI.

“At the end of the day, if we wanted to sell the business, we would work to sell the business,” he said.

“What we are looking to do here is create something much larger and much more impactful.

This is the start of something really big. I think this will decrease the rumors, because it shows that this is what our focus is — building something bigger.”

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