Waterloo – which launched in September 2017 with backing from CAVU Partners and is sold in 13,000 stores nationwide from Whole Foods to Walmart – is now owned by Flexis Capital, Eurazeo Brands and Moore Strategic Ventures.
The Flexis Capital–led equity consortium also includes JW Levin Management Partners and Waterloo Capital’s investors, said CEO Jason Shiver, who will continue to lead the company alongside COO Jeff Arnold. JW Levin’s founding partners Stephen Sadove and Jerry Levin will join the board.
“Steve and Jerry are both operators at heart, which is what I am, so it’s like speaking the Queen’s English to me with the two of them,” Shiver told FoodNavigator-USA.
‘Our velocities continue to increase’
While the flavored sparkling water category has heated up in recent years with the entry of Coca-Cola (AHA) and PepsiCo (Bubly), Waterloo has held its own, with Shiver attributing its success to a combination of bold flavors and extra bubbles, operational excellence and impactful branding.
“We’re getting very close to a $100m run rate, which is a huge accomplishment for a brand that only has 35% ACV, and it also speaks to our velocities, which continue to increase, which goes hand in hand with our data that shows when people try our product, they convert,” added Shiver, a food industry veteran who has worked with brands from SkinnyPop and Arizona Iced Tea to Glutino and Atkins.
“We’re way above budget right now and we’re thrilled with our performance; the sparkling water category is performing really well, and we’re outpacing the market by almost 4x.”
He added: “Cumulatively we’ve spent less than $7m on marketing since our inception, and still have this level of success. We’ll ramp that up with the new ownership, and so you’ll see us build awareness, as well as distribution. Interestingly enough, we’ve got in almost all of the major national players, but we’re still trying to pick up some more of those regional players, many of whom are in the northeast and Midwest.”
While Waterloo’s focus has been on bricks & mortar grocery stores to date, it has seen a big uplift in e-commerce sales in recent weeks, through its key retail partners and Amazon, with plans to build a direct to consumer operation in the works, said Shiver.
“For some of our retail partners, e-commerce sales now account for 10-20% of our business with them.”
Waterloo Sparkling Water debuted via a nationwide launch at Whole Foods, which gave the brand a ‘healthy halo’ and helped put it on the map with other natural retailers, but has since picked up a series of big conventional accounts including Walmart, Kroger and Costco.
The brand, which is currently available in around 13,000 stores nationwide - is now manufactured at up to eight different locations across the US, which has dramatically reduced freight costs, says CEO Jason Shiver (pictured left).
“We talked to a lot of people about what they liked and didn’t like about the brands that were out there, and we kept hearing the same things: there was not enough carbonation, and there was a lack of flavor.
"It’s like you crack open a can and you’re tasting club soda with somebody whispering a flavor in the other room."