Cheribundi, the functional tart cherry juice targeted at athletes, was acquired by GoodBelly maker NextFoods for an undisclosed amount.
While the deal puts the two better-for-you functional beverage brands under a single corporate owner, they will retain their own branding and audiences. GoodBelly makes probiotic-infused juices, shots, supplements and melts to promote gut health.
As part of the deal, Marcel Bens, who has served as Cheribundi’s CEO since January 2021, becomes the head of NextFoods. Current NextFoods CEO Juan Gluth transitions to chief commercial officer.
“Cheribundi and GoodBelly are dedicated to providing natural products that offer scientifically-proven health benefits,” Bens said in a statement. “This merger comes at a time when consumers are looking to move beyond lab-based, synthetic products to something that offers the same benefits naturally, thus positioning NextFoods as a leader in this movement.”
In an email, Bens said the merger brings together two well-known brands with natural or naturally derived functional benefits. The tie-up allows the company to expand the brands’ presence and functional offerings at a larger level.
Each brand is currently available at more than 20,000 retail locations, though Cheribundi has seen an impressive recent spike in e-commerce sales. According to the company, Cheribundi has seen a 120% increase in e-commerce sales year-over-year. Bens wrote in the email he would like to see that sort of growth in the channel for GoodBelly, as well.
Although each brand is in the functional beverage space, their target markets and consumers have been different so far.
Cheribundi was started in 2004 by former Wall Street banker John Davey. He worked with food scientists at Cornell University’s Agricultural Experiment Station to develop an all-natural tart cherry juice to highlight the pain prevention and muscle recovery properties of the fruit.
In 2020, Cheribundi closed a $15 million investment round led by Emil Capital Partners, which Bens worked with at the time. Cheribundi had been growing on its own before that, but the investment was intended to focus on building repeat purchases and customer acquisition. Today, more than 400 professional and collegiate sports teams have partnerships with Cheribundi, the company said.
Bens told Forbes in 2020 that Emil Capital Partners was considering exit strategies for its investment in Cheribundi. NextFoods is a smaller player now, but it is focused as a company on continuing to move into functional foods. GoodBelly and NextFoods were founded in 2008 by former Silk CEO Steve Demos and his former WhiteWave Foods colleague Todd Beckman.
Through the years, GoodBelly has attracted attention both because of its well-known founder and its functional proposition.
In 2018, General Mills’ venture capital arm 301 Inc. led the $12 million funding round for the brand. General Mills partnered with GoodBelly on protein bars, probiotic cereal and yogurt in 2019. These options have been discontinued, but GoodBelly has more recently doubled down on products associated with nutritional supplements to deliver its probiotics.
The functional beverages space has recently seen quite a lot of growth, and is currently worth $182.7 billion globally, according to Euromonitor statistics reported by Glanbia. In the U.S, the segment is worth $50 billion and makes up 27% of global sales.
With consumers becoming more interested in food that can bring about specific health and wellness functions, Cheribundi and GoodBelly are in a good position to capitalize on the segment, which is expected to grow 6.4% globally by 2026, the Euromonitor stats found.
According to Datassential information reported by Glanbia, more than three in 10 functional beverage consumers are interested in using functional beverages to increase energy, add to heart health, sleep better, boost immunity or improve gut health — all of which GoodBelly and Cheribundi’s beverages claim to do.