- Cold-pressed lemon water brand Lemon Perfect closed a $6.6 million funding round supported by a host of investors including Beechwood Capital, R3 Venture Partners, the RCV Frontline Fund, the Stage 1 Fund and Skyview Capital. Additional investment came from former Bai Brands COO Barak Bar-Cohen and a roster of NBA luminaries, including Lindsay Gottlieb, Channing Frye, Nick “Swaggy P” Young, Spencer Dinwiddie, Blake Griffin and Josh Hart.
- The water brand said in a release the funding will be used to expand distribution, increase marketing and recruit new talent.
- This funding announcement comes after the company closed a distribution deal with New York’s Big Geyser earlier this year, one of the country’s largest distributors of premium non- alcoholic beverages. The product is now on Amazon and in 3,000 stores nationwide.
From big-name private equity and smaller venture capital firms to former startup executives and NBA stars, this new lemon water brand is appealing to a wide demographic of investors and consumers.
Lemon Perfect sits at the four-way intersection of functional beverages, better-for-you products, convenience and water — all of which are popular sectors with a healthy level of investment. The certified organic brand bills itself as “a naturally refreshing, zero sugar cold-pressed lemon water with hydrating electrolytes and essential antioxidants,” but is also clear that it is a lemon water rather than an essence or extract-filled functional beverage.
This positioning earned the brand "Best New Product" at BevNET's Best of 2019 Awards, and now it is attracting more attention. Big Geyser’s COO Jerry Reda said in the release he has "never witnessed a brand garner the consumer acceptance that Lemon Perfect has in such a short time."
The participation of those affiliated with the NBA aligns with the history of the brand's CEO and founder, Yanni Hufnagel. When Hufnagel founded the brand in 2017, he was an assistant basketball coach at the University of Nevada. He was already a proponent of lemon water before deciding to look into creating a more convenient, on-the-go option, according to Food Navigator.
Earlier this year, the brand took its water concept and translated it into the canned sparkling water category to further capitalize on its popularity. Canned sparkling water is an increasingly popular and competitive category.
The ability to fall into several popular beverage categories attracts attention from venture capitalists. But while funding is important to the growth of the brand, having celebrities endorse the product by putting their money where their mouth is may prove to be more beneficial than just a check alone.
For years, Big Food has shelled out to have celebrities advertise their products. But many brands and A-listers are moving more toward investments, which can be mutually beneficial. Not only can celebrities make money off of investments in food and beverage brands, but they are often emotionally tied to the success of the brand and contribute to its success through endorsement. These investments also help famous faces stay relevant in the news and conversation. For brands, it means a recognizable figure is singing the praises of their products in a more authentic manner, since consumers know that the celebrity believes in the brand enough to put significant funds into backing its success.
For Lemon Perfect, which is looking to increase its marketing, having famous backers could go a long way toward meeting that goal. With so many involved in professional basketball investing, it will be natural to align the brand with better-for-you, functional performance beverages and hydration solutions — which is how the brand already promotes itself.