The company recently announced that its USDA certified-organic sports drinks are available in all Mariano’s locations throughout Chicagoland, and Earth Fare stores across the Mid-Atlantic, South and Midwest. KRā is also distributed in select Whole Foods, Hy-Vee, local grocery stores and through Amazon.com.
The expansion more than doubles the previous retail footprint, KRā co-founder Sarah Hardgrove-Koleno told FoodNavigator-USA. The company is focused on premium/ upscale retail outlets. “Mariano’s is our sweet spot,” she said. “It’s the perfect retailer for us, but we’re also looking to expand our geographic footprint and get into other retailers. We’d love to be in Jewel-Osco, we’d love to be in Costco, and those are targeting for the future.”
The company has four skus: fruit punch, lemon, berry, and orange, which Hardgrove-Koleno says are intentionally straightforward and recognizable. Each flavor is comprised of seven basic and organic ingredients: filtered water, organic cane sugar, organic juice concentrate, organic lemon juice concentrate, natural flavors, organic fruit and vegetable juice for color, and sea salt.
“We do have ideas for additional SKUs and sizes, but the next 12 months will be focused on the existing four flavors,” she said.
Support from athletes
The feedback from consumers to date has been fantastic, she said. The company recently sponsored a half-marathon in Chicago (The F^3 Half Marathon), and runners were provided with the drink at the finishing line. “Everybody loved it and we had a lot of people asking where they could get it,” said Hardgrove-Koleno. The company has participated in many athletic events, from soccer to lacrosse to running to get face-to-face with the consumer and athletes of all ages.
This includes professional athletes, and the company also recently announced a team of new professional athlete investors for the brand, including Glenn Robinson III of the Indiana Pacers, Israel Idonije, former Chicago Bears defensive end, Cameron Meredith, Chicago Bears wide receiver, Russell Canouse of D.C. United, and Portland Trailblazers’ Meyers Leonard.
In addition to the business potential of the brand, the athletic investors are also attracted by the company’s KRā for Play giveback program, which provides donations of sports equipment and funds for kids. The company has donated equipment and organic sports drinks to kids programs like After School Matters, and Leveling the Playing Field.
Cam Meredith, KRā athlete partner, stated: “I’m so proud of the fact that while working with this brand, we also get to give back to deserving kids. I can’t wait to work on more programming with KRā as they expand.”
KRā was founded in Chicago in 2015 by Hardgrove-Koleno, Dan Trainor, and Annie Hesser. Hardgrove-Koleno took her 20 years of law experience as partner at Jenner & Block along with Dan Trainor’s experience in the manufacturing industries and combined it with Hesser’s extensive background in marketing for major agencies like Foote, Cone & Belding to make an organic, clean-label sports hydration drink, which launched in early 2016.
“The way we differentiate is through taste, much less sugar, no artificial or chemical ingredients, and our brand is authentically organic,” she said. “Also, the KRā for Play aspect shows that we are trying to do good and that really differentiates us.”
Hear more from Hardgrove-Koleno at our live online beverage innovation event on February 21, where she will sit on our beverage trendwatching panel featuring:
- Greg Steltenpohl, co-founder and CEO, Califia Farms
- Sarah Hardgrove-Koleno, co-founder and CEO, KRā
- Gabe Nabors, director of marketing and category management, Mustard Seed Market
- Howard Telford, senior industry analyst, Euromonitor International
- Ryan Kaiser, partner, Amin Talati Upadhye
- Simon Thorneycroft, founder and CEO, Perspective Branding
Get the full details and register for the FREE to attend event HERE.