Brennan spent 32 years leading national retail sales in the US for the Coca-Cola Company and Coca-Cola Enterprises where he oversaw a $8bn beverage portfolio. After connecting with Lemon Perfect CEO and founder Yanni Hufnagel, Brennan joined the Lemon Perfect board in April 2021.
“I was a very active operating advisor, and I was actually going on sales calls and getting the brand in some of the largest retailers,” Brennan told FoodNavigator-USA, who at the time had just retired from his career at Coca-Cola, but with some persistence from Hufnagel agreed to come out of retirement to join the brand’s leadership team.
“Jim is a best-in-industry sales executive and passionate people leader whose experience is unsurpassed. His sales strategy will drive revenue and profit while accelerating Lemon Perfect’s rise toward its goal of becoming the number one brand in the multibillion-dollar enhanced water category by market share,” commented Lemon Perfect CEO and founder Yanni Hufnagel.
'What really sealed the deal for me was the Lemon Perfect product'
So what was compelling enough for Brennan to leave a stress-free life of retirement and re-enter the beverage industry? According to him, it was the about the quality and market differentiation of the product and the potential he saw to further scale the brand.
“What really sealed the deal for me was the Lemon Perfect product. We have a product that not only has what people are looking for [in terms of nutrition credentials], but it also tastes great. And I think that's where the rubber meets the road,” Brennan said.
Unlike sports drinks which are associated with specific consumption occasions (such as after a sweaty session at the gym) and with a bit more flavor excitement than plain bottled water (the brand's flavor lineup includes dragon fruit mango and blueberry açaí), Lemon Perfect markets itself as a refreshing, convenient, hydrating beverage option that can be consumed at all hours of the day and has wide appeal with adults and kids, noted Brennan.
The brand has also attracted some star power with a recent $31m Series A funding round led by celebrity Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, which brought the brand’s total valuation to over $100m since launching in 2019.
Made with fresh squeezed triple-filtered juice from organic lemons and sweetened with a combination of stevia and organic erythritol, the product fills a market need for a refreshing and hydrating enhanced water option with attractive health credentials including 0g of sugar, 5 calories per bottle, and a 100% daily serving of vitamin C, said Brennan who in his decades-long beverage career has yet to see another product like it.
“The taste profile is what brings it over to the top for me. I've been on many brands over the years, and I've never tasted a zero sugar product that really doesn't have the aftertaste and that you have the ability when it's chilled to chug it down,” he said.
* IRi Total MULO YTD Period Ending June 26, 2022
‘In 2021 we quadrupled our revenue’
As Lemon Perfect’s new president and chief revenue officer, Brennan said the brand is poised to continue its already explosive track record as it finds footing in new channels and continues to build out its sales team.
“In 2021 we quadrupled our revenue and our plan this year is to deliver at least two and a half times on that again this year,” he said.
“Up to this point, we're primarily in large format grocery stores and as we move to 2023 and 2024 we'll expand our package offerings and expansion into other channels as well.”
Already present in a number of retail outlets within the grocery channel, Brennan said an immediate focus for the company is to build its distribution in c-store and foodservice channels where the brand can spur further consumer trial as an on-the-go refreshing single-serve beverage option.
“They're the areas where we see a lot of growth and expansion in the next few years,” he said.
Within its current retail footprint where Lemon Perfect is sold in multipacks, Brennan noted a consumer willingness to buy multiple bottles and multiple flavors at a time.
“We have a number of our retail partners selling 12-pack variety packs now, and we have a 15 pack and in Costco and look to expand that in the future,” he said.
For some consumers and households, Lemon Perfect is now a routine weekly purchase, he said.
“We’re seeing a 50% increase in velocities week-over-week as people try the product and come back for repeat purchases."