Hapi Drinks scores $100,000 grant from PepsiCo’s incubator, but all participants walk away winners

By Elizabeth Crawford

- Last updated on GMT

Hapi Drinks scores $100,000 grant from PepsiCo’s incubator, but all participants walk away winners
While the sugar-free kids’ beverage company Hapi Drinks was the only one of the 10 startups in PepsiCo’s Nutrition Greenhouse North American’s inaugural class to receive the coveted $100,000 grant awarded by the accelerator, all of the participants – including the mentors – won something from the six-month program, according to a company executive.

“We went into this as a collaboration,”​ and as a result everyone learned from each other, Daniel Grubbs, managing director of PepsiCo Ventures Group, told FoodNavigator-USA.

“One of the big things we wanted going into this, and why we are doing this, is to open the market, open the industry, and open entrepreneurs up to each other by sharing our perspective as a company and as individuals at PepsiCo with these companies in terms of providing our guidance and council and perspective, but also for us to learn from and come closer to having that spirit of the entrepreneur,”​ he said.

He explained that the team behind Hapi Drinks epitomized the spirit of collaboration, which is one of the reasons they won the final grant. The team not only collaborated with their mentors from PepsiCo, but also with other members of the cohort as well – sharing knowledge and being open to feedback.

PepsiCo also awarded the grant based on how Hapi Drinks used the initial $20,000 that the accelerator gave each participating company in the program, how far it progressed overall and its ability to work with other organizations and individuals in the marketplace, Grubbs said.

“They exceeded all of those elements and we are super excited to award them the grant,”​ Grubbs added.

Lessons learned by participating startups

But as he mentioned, Hapi is not the only winner from the program.

During the program, all of the participating companies​ were able to “solve for something personal or solve for something they thought was missing in the market place or make a more sustainable set of solutions,”​ Grubbs said.

In particular, he noted, PepsiCo mentors and other participants helped the companies fine-tune the messaging about their missions and what inspired them so that a broader set of consumers could better relate to the brands.

“There is this idea that a lot [the entrepreneurs] developed their products or brands from a place of a real personal mission, and they needed to learn how to communicate that mission in a way that translalted to a broader market place,”​ Grubbs explained. “Each of the companies were taking lessons from each other as to how do I make sure this gets across in a very simple way on package or in social media so that the personal mission or genesis of the product or company can be easily understood by someone who is taking three seconds at shelf or online.”

They also learned how to prioritize who to target, including consumers, channels and retailers, he said. As a result, collectively, all 10 companies in the program increased their average revenue 200% through the six-month program.

Take-aways for PepsiCo

The mentors from PepsiCo, who hold leadership positions across the company, also “came away with this sense of inspiration,”​ Grubbs said.

“We heard how [the program] was a good reminder of how to stay innovative, how to find and try to push for certain strategic risks in their decisions, how to operate with less, how to think and make sure to remember to think about consumer, and how, whatever the product is, that it is living in their lives,”​ Grubbs said.

An unexpected benefit of the program was that it also helped break down silos within PepsiCo because the mentors were able to get to know each other and build connections across brands and businesses, he added.

“In any job it is easy to get locked into what you are doing and so this is a great program to also make sure we are all stepping back and finding those ways to connect and share internally,”​ he said.

An evolving program

As PepsiCo closes the door on this first chapter of its Nutrition Greenhouse North American program it is looking for ways to improve the program for the next cohort.

“There are a lot of dynamics around how to continue to enhance the program for the companies, for our mentors as well … to make sure the next version and cohort continues to be an enhanced aspect,”​ Grubb said, adding, “there will be more to come in the very short term.”

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