Just 10 months after it abruptly shut down, low-alcohol aperitifs maker Haus is seeking redemption.
The Naked Market, the owners of brands including Rob’s Backstage Popcorn and chicken chips maker Flock Foods, is purchasing Haus for an undisclosed amount and re-launching it online. It will first sell three of Haus’ best-selling SKUs — Citrus Flower, Pomegranate Rosemary and Grapefruit Jalapeño — before expanding the brand into other categories, including food.
“We had so much respect for this brand, and we see so much potential left in it,” Harrison Fugman, the CEO and a co-founder of The Naked Market, said in an interview. “There's just tremendous excitement on where we think we can take it.”
Haus, which uses fruits, herbs and botanicals to make aperitifs, was on the verge of closing a $10 million Series A funding round last summer that failed to materialize when the lead investor backed out. Helena Price Hambrecht, co-founder of Haus, told TechCrunch the investor was Modelo and Corona brewer Constellation Brands. Without the much-needed funding, Haus shut down.
Fugman said The Naked Market previously focused on starting and then building brands. But when the opportunity arose to potentially acquire Haus, a brand he was a consumer of, he quickly reached out to investors in the low-alcohol offering who in turn connected him with those handling the sale. Discussions intensified around Christmas and the deal officially closed in the second quarter.
“It wasn't something I envisioned coming into the year,” Fugman said of entering alcohol after previously focusing on food. “We remain opportunistic,” he added, noting the company is not hesitant to acquire brands it’s hard to build on its own.
Haus is the first acquisition by The Naked Market, a food and beverage holding company founded in late 2019. The company prioritizes “uniquely positioned brands with trendy products and celebrity collaborations that consumers are hungry for.” Haus fits squarely into that long-term strategy.
“There's still a ton of work cut out for us to do,” confessed Alex Kost, a co-founder and COO of The Naked Market.
Kost and Fugman said they were attracted to Haus’ quality, ingredient mix, unique customer base and the brand's transparency. Fugman was familiar with Haus, having consumed the alcohol brand before it shut down.
The startup has made a name for itself by working with aperitifs it says have the complexity of a cocktail but are low in alcohol content. The resulting products are stronger than wine but lighter than whiskey. In addition to using real fruits and botanicals while eschewing artificial flavors, Haus includes nutrition facts and complete ingredient lists for every product.
Haus also remains ideally positioned to attract consumers as they continue to look for different options when they imbibe and increased transparency in what they eat and drink.
“That's really, really, really hard to replicate. And so you had an amazing brand. You had an amazing product and you had an amazing community,” Fugman said. “For us to be able to acquire that and build off of it was something that got us really excited.”
Rather than quickly bringing Haus back to the market after acquiring it, Fugman said The Naked Market spent several weeks “putting in the work to make sure they had the best chance of success for the next chapter of the Haus brand.”
Haus thrived during the pandemic, with online sales soaring as consumers spent more time at home. But as the lingering health crisis slowed the return of social gatherings, the company struggled. Sales doubled in 2021 from the previous year, Business Insider noted, but the growth rate had declined around the time it collapsed.
Fugman said The Naked Market has looked at marketing, product fulfillment, input costs and shipping as ways to improve efficiencies and reduce costs.
Executives also studied how it could use The Naked Market’s existing retail footprint to grow Haus. Its popcorn and chicken chips are currently sold in more than 10,000 stores, including at Kroger and Albertsons. The Naked Market plans to bring Haus into retail in 2024 after first focusing on e-commerce for the remainder of this year.
As part of the takeover, The Naked Market plans to award 5% of the company back to previous Haus employees, founders and investors through a structured program— a move aimed at rewarding people who built it.