Flashing back to arts and crafts projects from childhood, a common instruction from parents and teachers was to “use what you have.” Shaun Roberts took that concept a step further when he developed KonaRed juices.
“We took this fruit out of the waste stream,” says the chief executive officer of KonaRed Corp., Koloa, Hawaii. “The coffee farmers were previously discarding the fruit after they split it to get the coffee beans out. Coffee beans are actually the seeds of a red, cherry-sized fruit.”
Roberts founded the company in 2008 — originally named Sandwich Isles Trading Co. Inc. — with the plan to produce health and wellness products that offer the benefits of coffee fruit from Kona, Hawaii, to an international consumer marketplace, he notes. “Coffee fruit is a hotbed of nutrients that provide healthy, plant-based antioxidant activity, including scientifically studied coffee phenolic acids, trigonelline, essential monosaccharides and other beneficial phytochemicals,” Roberts explains.
Now operating as KonaRed Corp., the company went public in October 2013.
Sourcing its coffee fruit solely from the Big Island of Hawaii, KonaRed utilizes CoffeeBerry coffee fruit technology, a proprietary set of agricultural and industrial processes, and a line of unique ingredients that captures the potent nutrition inherent in coffee fruit owned by Momence, Ill.-based FutureCeuticals.
Roberts notes that the companies began working together following a patent lawsuit that took place between 2012 and 2013. “During productive discussions with FutureCeuticals, it became apparent that there were obvious synergies available to KonaRed if we worked together,” he says.
Since the formation of this partnership, KonaRed and Futureceuticals have been working together to develop more coffee fruit products utilizing this technology. “The CoffeeBerry coffee fruit intellectual property opens up limitless opportunities for us, and I have no doubt that we’re now a far stronger company than we were before,” Roberts explains.
KonaRed already has seen the “fruits” of this partnership through its juice line and its newest product: Coconut Water. Featuring a blend of coffee fruit and coconut water, KonaRed Coconut Water joins the company’s other two juices: Original and Organic Green Tea.
“We use a truly meaningful dose of coffee fruit in every beverage we produce,” Roberts says. “We meticulously developed our coffee fruit extract and believe that being true to the ingredient is the key to producing a product that not only tastes great but is also functional and brings real benefits to our customers.”
Getting the word out
Adding to its relationship with FutureCeuticals, KonaRed also reached out to Splash Beverage Group (SBG), Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., in late 2013 to assist in expanding its distribution presence.
“We thought the brand was at the front end of a new space in healthy beverages,” says SBG President Kevin McClafferty. “Our company is being developed with complementary brands. Hawaiian CoffeeBerry coffee fruit is at the top of the antioxidant scale, and acai is recognized in that category as well. We thought there was a nice marriage there. We also take the ‘partnership’ business seriously. Shaun and Dana Roberts and the team are genuine people that are into the brand. We feed off of that energy.”
Recently, the companies announced that their partnership is expanding beyond distribution to include a sales and marketing agreement.
Roberts also notes that SBG’s “shared resource” concept of distribution, marketing, logistics, retailers and ultimately retail sales growth complements the company’s experience and knowledge.
SBG’s McClafferty adds that this expanded partnership will add more “feet on the street” and will assist KonaRed’s brand awareness and ultimately a national rollout.
That relationship seems to be working out. Currently KonaRed juices are available in select Whole Foods Market, Kroger, Safeway, Sprouts, Walmart, and 7-Eleven stores as well as other retail outlets throughout the United States and Canada. In April, through its partnership with SBG and Nevada distributor Southern Wine & Spirits, it announced that Original and Organic Green Tea will be carried by more than 20 SpeeDee Marts throughout the state.
KonaRed also is working to add more distributors to its team. “We are currently in contract negotiations with over 40 [direct-store-distribution] partners across the U.S.,” Roberts says. “We are also interviewing potential partners in Japan, Korea, Vietnam and China. We expect to expand locations with the national chains we are currently selling in.”
And when it comes to the future, KonaRed anticipates this growing network of distributors will continue. “Our plan includes a significant increase in our distribution footprint and retail penetration, ultimately leading the general expansion of the coffee fruit category,” Roberts says.