"There's this whitespace opportunity in the energy drink market for more natural products and ZOA is certainly leading the pack," Jennifer Palmer, CEO of Gerber Finance, told FoodNavigator-USA.
"They're definitely active in innovation and continuing to grow and that's where our money will be used," said Palmer.
With zero grams of sugar, B vitamins, Branched-Chain Amino Acids, functional ingredients such as camu camu berries and acerola cherries, and caffeine from green tea and green unroasted coffee beans, ZOA is a positioned as a better-for-you option in $30bn energy drink category.
Through its Naturally Gerber Finance division, which has funded dozens of food and beverage brands including Humm Kombucha, Cerebelly, and Om Mushroom Superfood, Gerber will provide ZOA with debt financing (rather than equity funding) to fuel the ZOA Energy brand and support its future growth ambitions including new product innovation and increased distribution.
ZOA 2022 targets: 'This is an important year'
ZOA Energy was created by actor and former professional wrestler Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson in 2021, gaining attention from Molson Coors, which had been making moves beyond alcohol into non-alcoholic emerging beverage categories. Molson Coors took a minority stake in ZOA last year and signed an exclusive distribution deal to launch the better-for-you energy drink into retail.
According to Molson Coors, ZOA has become a top 15 energy drink brand less than a year from launch, generating revenues of $3.4m for the four weeks ended Oct. 31, 2021, according to IRI multi-outlet and convenience store data.
ZOA began the year with two new zero-sugar flavor launches with a 12-ounce product launch slated for later this year (targeting female consumers), and has ambitious distribution targets of reaching 70,000 retail locations by the end of 2022, including 22,000 new locations in the first quarter.
“This is an important year. It’s the first full year of ZOA’s existence,” said Ron Worrell, senior portfolio manager for ZOA in a blog post. “We came into 2021 midstream, but this year we’re looking to get on the shelf quickly and really build awareness of the brand.”