Roar Beverage Co. has obtained a $5.6 million investment led by a Manhattan venture capital firm and is shifting its marketing focus from young athletes to millennial moms, officials said.
The Huntington-based company, maker of an organic coconut water-infused drink, "is undergoing a definite shift,” said Jordan Gaspar, 39, managing partner of woman-owned AccelFoods, which led the funding. “We’re in the process of focusing on Roar Organic, which is the primary driver of the business, streamlining our offerings, and getting ready for that next stage, becoming a household name.”
Roar CEO Roly Nesi, 34, of Cold Spring Harbor, who founded the company in 2012, declined to provide the firm's 2018 revenue. In an interview in July 2017, he said 2016 revenue was $3.5 million and projected 2017 revenue at close to $10 million. The firm has 14 employees, he said.
Gaspar and Nesi declined to disclose AccelFood’s equity stake in the company. Gaspar said she will have a seat on Roar’s board of directors.
Nesi launched several product lines in addition to Roar Organic, including Roar, Roar Lite, and most recently, Roar Kids.
“Right now, we’re devoting all our efforts to the growth and success of Roar Organic, which accounts for the majority of our revenue,” Nesi said.
Roar's drinks, produced by a manufacturer in New Jersey, are available in 3,000 retail locations across the United States including Safeway, Kroger, Rite Aid and CVS, he said.
The electrolyte beverages, which started in flavors like Green Rush (lemon-lime) and Patriot Punch (cherry, blue raspberry, lemonade), were targeted to 8- to 18-year-olds as a cool alternative to their parents’ sports drinks.
But the company, which gained traction by sponsoring hundreds of youth athletic programs in the metro area, providing teams with sports jerseys and free cases of Roar, has since pivoted and rebranded. Flavors of Roar Organic now include Georgia Peach, Mango Clementine and Blueberry Açaí and are aimed at women in their 20s to early 40s.
“When we launched Roar Organic, it started as an experiment to test consumer interest and wasn’t supposed to become the entire company,” Nesi said. “But it did so overwhelmingly well that we felt it was a natural evolution.”
Consumers who frequent Soul Cycle spin classes and whose lifestyles align with the “yoga pants revolution” and the “athleisure" trend of wearing workout clothes in other settings are now Roar’s target audience, he said.
“We’re definitely looking at an older audience, active, health conscious, and much more female,” he said. “But of course, it’s a product we want everyone to enjoy.”
Of the demographic switch, AccelFood’s Gaspar said, “We’re living in a time in which women-centered products can command more shelf space. Retailers are hyper aware of the purchasing power of millennial moms and women overall.”
Jeff Klineman editor-in-chief at BevNet.com, a Boston company that covers the beverage industry, said it’s not unusual for young companies to reinvent themselves, but finding a successful niche can prove challenging.
“It can definitely take some time, especially in a category that’s as hard to crack as the sports drink category,” he said.
“The risk for companies is coming off as if they’re trying to be all things to all people; that can be a turnoff for consumers,” Klineman said. “But once a small brand has found its focus, the one thing that works, it needs to get behind it 100 percent.”