Eric Schnell, creator of the Steaz brand ready-to-drink organic teas, has left the business he co-founded, the Healthy Beverage Company (HBC), after eight years of product innovation. Schnell helped introduce the first organic tea-based soda in 2002, and, as president of HBC, he developed several different product rollouts. His exit from HBC comes after a restructuring in the company’s management following the 2008 purchase of a majority ownership stake in the company by Swiss private-equity group Inventages, the investment arm of global food giant Nestle. Inventages has also invested in organic tea producer Honest Tea, which posted record growth and a vastly expanded distributor base after sealing $12 million in equity financing from Inventages, Stonyfield Farm and several beverage distributors in February 2007.
Last year, Inventages gained majority ownership of organic catering and café chain Organic To Go with a $5 million investment. With the investment came a shake-up in Organic To Go management, and the eventual release of the company’s CEO, Jason Brown, after a customer service snafu.
NBJ Bottom Line
T savvy entrepreneur ought to pick carefully when it comes to partnering with investment groups, especially if he or she is in it for the long run. Though some are happy just to build a brand and sell it, those with a long-term stake in the companies they create are best off finding financial partners with congruent philosophies and visions toward the future. NBJ will provide an intensive rundown of the ins and outs of finance and investment in the nutrition industry in its 2010 Finance & Investment Issue, which prints in August. To order or become a subscriber, please visit the NBJ subscription page.
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