MetaBrand Capital, a “conscious capital” private equity fund and the new investment pillar of MetaBrand—a full-service firm providing product formulation, outsourced operations, and sales and marketing services to natural, organic and nutritional food and beverage brands—announces a $5.75 million investment in Brooklyn, N.Y.-based Runa LLC, supporting the growth of the natural, “healthy energy” food and beverage category utilizing the Amazonian guayusa tree-leaf.
Taking the Triple-Bottom Line approach to corporate social responsibility one step further, MetaBrand founder and longtime natural products entrepreneur Eric Schnell embraces the “Quadruple Bottom-Line,” a socially and environmentally aware business philosophy dedicated to People, Planet, Profit—and Purpose. Through the MetaBrand Capital fund, the company will primarily focus on growth capital investments in the food, beverage, nutrition and natural and organic product industries with strategic partners that embody and embrace a similar socially conscious business approach.
“This is the first major investment for MetaBrand Capital,” says Schnell. “Runa represents all the criteria that we see in the Quadruple Bottom-line business model. MetaBrand has previously partnered with Runa in helping to pioneer the ‘healthy energy’ beverage category, and this strategic partnership allowed us to see that Runa truly is a perfect example of what a conscious capital investor cares about—fair trade, organic and natural, socially responsible with a strong moral obligation to give back. We absolutely believe in Runa’s authentic story, vision and potential for the brand. The investment was the natural progression of our commitment to their mission.”
Other notable investors joined MetaBrand Capital in the round, including Mark Rampolla, founder of Zico; and Brian Krumrei, managing director, TSG Consumer Partners; plus investors from the music and entertainment industry including Jon Fishman, drummer for the band Phish, and Coran Capshaw, founder of artist management company Red Light Management. Nick Giannuzzi, attorney, The Giannuzzi Group, LLP, represented Runa in the deal.
Guayusa, cousin to yerba mate, leads ‘healthy energy’ beverages
Runa, cofounded in 2009 by college classmates Tyler Gage and Dan MacCombie, is a privately held company that sells beverages made from guayusa (pronounced “gwhy-you-sa”) leaves. Guayusa is a native Amazonian super-leaf with as much caffeine as a cup of coffee and double the polyphenols of leading green tea products. Unlike traditional teas, guayusa has no tannins, so it tastes surprisingly smooth and naturally sweet. Indigenous peoples in the Ecuadorian Amazon have brewed guayusa like tea for thousands of years as an essential part of what makes them “Runa”—fully alive.
With a mission to improve the livelihoods of indigenous farmers in the Amazon, Runa’s founders believe that consumers everywhere can benefit from the bounty of the rainforest without destroying it, starting with the people who live there. Runa works directly with more than 3,000 indigenous farming families who are proud to see guayusa shared around the world. These families are Runa’s partners in a Fair Trade relationship, and by organically growing guayusa in traditional forest gardens they help protect the rainforest.
“We’re anticipating strong multi-category growth of the guayusa ingredient, and we’re truly excited to work with the powerhouse MetaBrand team in our efforts to become a leading brand and ingredient platform in the organic, specialty and conventional markets,” says Gage. “With this new investment, we plan to increase our support of the distributors and retailers that have helped us build our brand so far, and go deeper in key markets where Runa is growing. We are committed to being focused and targeted with our sales growth, and are excited to educate more consumers about the benefits of guayusa and the spirit of the Runa brand.”
“Runa has successfully pioneered and established a clear market demand for guayusa as a unique ingredient,” says Debbie Wildrick, MetaBrand chief advisory officer. “The company has emerged as one of the fastest growing certified organic and natural ready-to-drink brands in the U.S., and we see the opportunity for guayusa as an ingredient to have useful applications in a range of healthy products—from beverages to dietary supplements. We see guayusa as the next green tea trend, and look forward to helping Runa define clear sales and distribution strategies across food, drug, mass and convenience store channels.”