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'We've learned how much fun it is to embrace competition'

Former PepsiCo exec among angel investors helping Shaka Tea strategically expand

Mary Ellen Shoup

By Mary Ellen Shoup+

09-Mar-2017
Last updated on 10-Mar-2017 at 11:53 GMT2017-03-10T11:53:12Z

Shaka Tea is getting closer to its goal of national expansion after closing its first round of angel investment, the company announced.
Shaka Tea is getting closer to its goal of national expansion after closing its first round of angel investment, the company announced.

Since launching one year ago, ready-to-drink (RTD) brand Shaka Tea now has plans for targeted national expansion in the US after closing its first round of seed investment.

The three investors include: Grant Ferrier, co-founder and managing director of Nutrition Capital Network; Michael Hammer, managing director of Atomic Brand Lab and former senior director of strategic ventures at PepsiCo; and James S. Tonkin, president of Healthy Brand Builders.

In addition to being investors in the growing RTD tea company, the trio will also join cofounders Bella Hughes and Harrison Rice as part of the strategic operations team.

Embracing competition in RTD tea space

“Before entering the space, we kept hearing ‘it's just so competitive’ as if that's a negative thing,” Rice told BeverageDaily.

“Over the past year, we've learned how much fun it is to embrace competition, have fun with it and see it as an opportunity to continue to enhance your brand and how you engage with customers.”

Lightly sweetened Shaka Tea is brewed from māmaki, a native Hawaiian plant which scientific studies have shown to be reach in antioxidants and minerals, including catechins, rutin, and chlorogenic acid.

Each 16-ounce bottle contains 50 to 90 calories and comes in three flavors: guava gingerblossom, mango hibiscus, and pineapple mint. 

Distinctively Hawaiian

“You have a lot of products trying to one-up each other in one way or another on function, but there's a gap in strongly-resonant emotional appeal,” Rice said.

Hughes says that many self-proclaimed “Hawaiian” brands have little or nothing to do with the multi-island state, and that is where Shaka Tea differs.

“We see Shaka Tea having that distinctive, iconic and emotive appeal from our engagement in Hawaii and on test accounts on the mainland.”

Shaka Tea is currently distributed by Paradise Beverages in roughly 150 stores in Hawaii and Washington state.

Rice said he and Hughes want learn how to maximize the Shaka Tea brand in every account and that starts with focussing all of its energy in their home market of Hawaii and strategically expand into the mainland US next year.

More specifically and with the help of its new investors, the company has a goal of shipping 60 cases per month in every major retailer in Hawaii.

Investors see a similar native Hawaiian appeal and echo the founders’ targeted distribution goals.

“Shaka Tea is a strong and attractive brand, with a Hawaiian ethos that is locally resonant and globally appealing,” Ferrier said.

“There has been white space in the RTD iced tea category for a while, and we believe Shaka’s line of iced teas is incredibly distinctive, delicious and timely for the market in Hawaii, on the mainland and in Asia.”  

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