Clean Cause raised $7 million in Series A funding from private individuals in Austin, Texas, where the maker of organic sparkling yerba mate beverages is based. Founder and CEO Wes Hurt told BevNET the company plans to use the investment to expand its sales and marketing team.
The brand is now available in four varieties at about 6,000 retail locations across the country, including Whole Foods, Central Market, H-E-B, Natural Grocers, Fred Meyer, Safeway and Target. The company expects to add thousands of new locations in the next year, BevNET said. Clean Cause will also be innovating with new flavors and zero-calorie products.
Hurt, a former drug user, said his company's mission of donating half its profits to sober living scholarships to assist those with substance abuse and addiction helped attract the new financing. Clean Cause has so far given out $432,000 through 864 such scholarships, according to the company's website.
This cash infusion for Clean Cause could make a big difference to the company's sales and distribution outreach. Hurt told BevNET it has been doing business nearly five years without key sales and marketing leaders, and new hires in those operational areas have already been identified.
The incoming vice presidents are Sam Wilson, who is joining Clean Cause from previous sales and distribution roles with Bang Energy and Red Bull, and Samantha Ostroff, who had been the senior marketing director for a jewelry brand. Other director positions to be added are in distribution and data, Hurt said, which will bring the company's total staffing level to about 50 people.
Yerba mate is a traditional South American drink made from the leaves and twigs of an evergreen shrub related to holly. It is said to have the strength of coffee, the health benefits of tea and the euphoria of chocolate — and it contains antioxidants and other nutrients that may have positive effects on the immune system, mental focus and energy levels.
Hurt said additional plans for the company are to expand product distribution to the West Coast and Pacific Northwest since consumers there are more familiar with yerba mate because of brands including Guyakí, which contains 150 mg of caffeine per 16-ounce can. Clean Cause advertises its organic sparkling yerba mate beverages as rich in minerals and amino acids. They contain 160 milligrams of caffeine and 30 calories per 16-ounce serving.
Increasing popularity has pushed other companies to enter the category. These include Adrenaline Shoc, the joint venture from Keurig Dr Pepper and beverage entrepreneur Lance Collins. This drink contains yerba mate, green coffee beans and coffee fruit extract. Each 16-ounce can of Adrenaline Shoc provides 300 mg of caffeine — about twice as much as Guyakí or Clean Cause.
Consumer awareness of yerba mate has been growing, particularly among those who may want to switch from coffee to a more naturally sourced and less jitter-inducing beverage — and who also seek to benefit from the ingredient's healthful qualities.
Clean Cause could realize gains from all these aspects. Add in fewer calories, organic sourcing and the company's mission to give back half its profits to help those dealing with substance abuse, and it's likely to be in an even better position with this recent investment to stand out from the crowd.