Wildwonder expands sparkling beverage line with Raspberry Lychee flavor, prepares for funding search

By Ryan Daily

- Last updated on GMT

Image Credit: wildwonder
Image Credit: wildwonder

Related tags Gut health functional beverage Expo west

Pro- and prebiotic sparkling drink brand wildwonder released a Raspberry Lychee flavor and is preparing to seek out additional funding to help grow the retail footprint of the Asian heritage-inspired beverage, company founder and CEO Rosa Li told FoodNavigator-USA.

“We do offer a healthy soda alternative, but we don't go after the traditional soda flavors. There [are] enough people doing that, and enough options out there. But we bring a different perspective into the space with cultural and botanical influences. ... The first ingredient in every flavor is fresh fruits, herbs, and botanicals, and that is really inspired by Eastern herbal wisdom.”

'It’s grandma's herbal wisdom with the concept of a very fresh California produce stand'

After years of working in the finance world, Li turned to the beverage world nearly 10 years ago with her first brand Rosali Tea, and in 2020 launched wildwonder. Each wildwonder beverage contains​ 6g of sugar, chicory root inulin and live probiotics (Bacillus subtilis) for prebiotic and probiotic benefits.

Li came up with the idea of wildwonder when she was trying to improve her health by improving her gut health. In doing so, she started brewing herbal tonics, inspired by her Chinese grandmother's recipes, and infused them with California farmstand fruits.

Available on the brand’s website, Amazon and coming to select retailers soon, the Raspberry Lychee flavor blends Western and Eastern flavors and has a fruit and botanical component, Li said. This flavor will be showcased at the brand’s Natural Products Expo West booths (booth #N449 and #5760). 

“The herbal element [in Raspberry Lychee] is actually a honeysuckle tea, and my grandmother used to brew that for me growing up. Honeysuckle is actually a very popular ingredient in Chinese Medicine. There's a lot of history. ... It’s really a taste of America's melting pot. It's East meets West — it’s grandma's herbal wisdom with the concept of a very fresh California produce stand.”

When it comes to future flavor releases, wildwonder will stick to culturally-inspired beverages and stay away from the traditional soda flavors, which are popular in the gut-health soda category​, Li noted.   

"We also want to make sure we're not just going after trends, and especially not fads. We want to stay true to our brand. We want to be authentic, and we want to stay in our lane, which is why we really haven't gone after cola or Dr. Pepper flavors."

From Google to the travel retailers: Wildwonder finds untapped market opportunities

Wildwonder continues to build a profitable business with $10m in annual revenues. The brand has achieved this by efficiently deploying capital — focusing distribution first in California before expanding nationwide — and building a redundant supply chain, which helped it grow even during the COVID pandemic. 

The company also found success by expanding its distribution in lesser tapped channels, including travel and office headquarters for some of the world's largest tech companies, including Netflix, Google, and Facebook’s parent company Meta. Wildwonder’s business-to-business sales accounted for approximately a third of its overall revenues.  

“Retail has always been very expensive. It's really hard to win in retail if you don't have a lot of marketing budget and brand awareness. We don't have a lot of marketing budget. So how do we create awareness? It’s really by finding channels that tend to be overlooked channels.” 

Li added, “We're stocked at Google [offices], and Google — especially in California — has a huge presence. We have a ton of customers coming to us, saying ‘Hey, I found your product in the office working, where can I buy it,’ and that helps to drive awareness and drive velocity. As opposed to retail where you have to pay a lot of marketing dollars to be on the shelf to generate turns, we get paid by Google, and we don't have to do marketing. They're doing the marketing for us.” 

'Every investor has focused on profitability, but this is not really new to me'

Li is preparing to raise ventural-capital funding to support the company’s retail distribution plans. Given her background in finance, Li has managed to run an efficient business, but she admits that it might not be enough to raise the amount she needs to grow her brand.

“The world has changed now, given market conditions in the past few years. Every investor has focused on profitability, but this is not really new to me. We've consistently been focused on making sure we're spending capital efficiently and effectively," such as by focusing regionally in the first few years.

Li added the funding environment has historically been challenging for women-owned and BIPOC-led companies. However, she hopes more investors will take a “leap of faith” on women- and minority-owned brands like wildwonder, she added.

"If you look at the funding environment, women in general get less funding. Minorities get less funding. I can't say with confidence that I'll be able to raise the same amount of money that some of these bigger brands have raised simply based on statistics. ... Two percent of all venture funding goes to women, and even less than that go to minority women.”

She added, “I'm being realistic and running the company in a different way with a purpose of not running out of cash, making sure that we can really truly achieve our mission of building a bigger platform to bring these got healthy and heritage inspiring ingredients to the masses."

                                                                                                                                       

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