More than 500 beverage entrepreneurs and business leaders will convene this coming week at BevNET Winter 2014 held Dec. 7 to 9 in Santa Monica, Calif. Featured among the distinguished faculty at this leading conference for entrepreneurship and innovation will be Eric Schnell, founder and CEO of MetaBrand, and MetaBrand Chief Advisory Officer Debbie Wildrick.
Both Schnell and Wildrick are highly regarded industry veterans, as well as sales, marketing and product development experts in the $110-billion market for natural and organic foods, dietary supplements and related health products. Through MetaBrand, a full-service natural and organic product development company—and now the company’s investment arm, MetaBrand Capital—their work focuses on helping food and beverage entrepreneurs realize their product and business aspirations and objectives.
At BevNET Live, Eric Schnell will present perspectives on social impact investing in the food and beverage industry on Tuesday, Dec. 9, along with Todd Woloson, cofounder of Izze and managing director of GreenMont Capital Partners, and Brent Collins, cofounder and chief volunteer of Slow Money SoCal.
Debbie Wildrick will lead BevNET’s Food & Beverage University on Sunday, Dec. 7. Her presentation as part of “Beverages 101” will focus on helping entrepreneurs evaluate outsourcing vs. in-house management. Beverages 101 is BevNET’s signature introduction to the beverage business, offering valuable information geared toward early-stage entrepreneurs and industry newcomers, including critical introductory lessons on product development, branding, legal considerations, sales and marketing, supply chain management, routes to market and financing.
Healthy beverage pioneer—with a mission
As the cofounder of Steaz, Eric Schnell helped pioneer the organic soda, iced tea and energy drink markets. He is the recipient of the natural products industry’s 2007 “Socially Responsible Business Award,” presented by New Hope Natural Media, as well as three-time winner of BevNET’s “Best Product of the Year Award.” Prior to Steaz, Eric began his career in the natural products industry as a National Brand Manager for Country Life Vitamins, directing five brands and over 1,000 SKUs globally. He also served as President of Long Life Tea, tripling the company’s revenue before its eventual sale to Kikkoman. With MetaBrand, Schnell leads efforts in serving food and beverage manufacturers from product formulation to market. In Fall 2014, Eric established MetaBrand Capital, a socially conscious, private equity fund investing in emerging natural, organic and specialty food and beverage companies. MetaBrand Capital recently invested $5.75 million in Runa, a brand leader in the organic, ready-to-drink tea category.
Mainstream retail and business strategy expertise
Debbie Wildrick brings more than 30 years of mainstream and specialty retail and consumer packaged goods experience to BevNET’s speaker lineup. In addition to her current role as MetaBrand’s chief advisory officer, Debbie served as a senior director at 7-Eleven, where she was responsible for 40 percent of all beverage, snack and grocery sales for over 5,500 stores. Her career also includes senior sales and management positions with Tropicana Juices (PepsiCo), Sundance Juice Sparklers (Stroh), The FRS Co., and most recently as CEO of Bazi Inc., a publicly held dietary supplements company.
MetaBrand also will be featured as a main sponsor partner of this year’s BevNET Live Winter 2014. “MetaBrand is proud and excited to serve as a sponsor partner of BevNET Winter 2014. It’s a great organization that allows entrepreneurs in the beverage industry to get up close and personal with investors and existing, established brands,” said Schnell.