Tio Gazpacho hires VP, completes Series B: ‘2018 is going to be a huge year for us’

By Elaine Watson

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Tio gazpacho Soup

Drinkable soup brand Tio Gazpacho has made its first executive hire with the appointment of beverage industry veteran Matt Merson as VP general manager. FoodNavigator-USA caught up with founder Austin Allan at the Specialty Food Association’s Winter Fancy Food Show to learn what this means for the brand.

Merson - who most recently served as VP sales for Boxed Water following a stint at coconut water brand Zico, and has held leadership positions with Glaceau and Coca-Cola – will help take the brand into new channels and geographies, said Allan, who was speaking to us after raising an undisclosed sum in a Series B funding round supported by existing investors.

“Matt has experience building brands but also building categories, having worked with coconut water, energy drinks and sustainably packaged water, so he was the perfect candidate for Tio.”

Tio Gazpacho – which started on the east coast - recently secured listings in Whole Foods in California and is heading to southern California in the spring, as it reaps the benefits of partnerships with General Mills and Michelin-Starred Chef José Andrés, and woos a more mainstream audience with its new $4.99 price tag.

Lower price point has made the brand more accessible

The high pressure processed (HPP) treated brand, which launched in 2014 as an organic brand in 12oz bottles priced at around $7.99; has since switched to a 10oz bottle, moved from an organic to an ‘all natural’ positioning, and slashed its MRSP to $4.99, which instantly made it more accessible, said Allan.

“2018 is going to be a huge year for us. What’s great about this nascent category is that there are probably four or five really interesting and remarkable players and each has a slightly different perspective, so there is no true copycats…

“So there is a competitor with a function story, a competitor that has a nutrition story, and a competitor that shelf stable… so everyone has a different positioning. What we like to say is that we compete on flavor… our partner is ​[Michelin-Starred chef] José Andrés​​, who has a real culinary point of view…”

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A different conversation

The partnership with Andrés​​ – who contacted Allan shortly after news broke that General Mills’ 301 INC arm was the lead investor in a $1.25m funding round​​ ​into Tio Gazpacho in early 2016 – has also helped the brand move into the foodservice channel, and has enabled Allan to tap into Andrés’ sourcing network of produce suppliers, he said.

While it's been a slow burn - as drinkable soup is a new category for retailers and consumers to get their heads around - awareness is rising, he said.

“When we started, we were the only brand in the space and we were at a super-premium price point and a lot of people were saying that’s ridiculous, and no one’s going to buy that, and there’s no space my store…. And now it’s a different conversation.”

Tio Gazpacho soups

Tio Gazpacho​ – which can serve as a hearty mid-morning or afternoon snack/beverage or a meal replacement, especially at lunchtime – is sold in the produce section, the chilled grab & go beverage set, or by chilled soups [that require heating] and other fresh prepared items, or in some emerging fresh snacking sets.

Tio Gazpacho​​ uses high pressure processing (HPP), whereby foods or beverages are put into a high-pressure chamber that is flooded with cold water and pressurized to kill pathogens without heat. This enables the brand to produce products that tastes exactly like fresh gazpacho you’d make at home, with no preservatives or added flavors, and a shelf-life long enough to secure national distribution.

The soups come in six flavors: Clásico (vine-ripened tomato, green pepper, cucumber); Gazpacho Verde (kale, spinach, avocado, mint); Gazpacho de Sol (yellow tomato, yellow pepper, carrot); Rosado (watermelon, cilantro, cayenne); Maiz (corn, roasted poblano, lime); and Fresa (strawberry, basil, romaine).

Tio Gazpachp 2017 labels

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