Food Entrepreneur - May 10, 2022 - 6

Beverage startups bring new flavors
and functions to formulations
our years ago, Alessandro Roco
observed a wave of watershed moments
marking the rising influence
of Asian popular culture in the United
States. The success of the film " Crazy Rich
Asians. " The popularity of Korean skin
care, also known as K-Beauty. A smattering
of regional Asian restaurant openings
in his native New York City.
" I wondered if there was something
I could contribute to the conversation, "
said Mr. Roco, a Filipino-American. " At
the time, I was working at an apparel
startup, and our fridges were stocked
with LaCroix, as well as other branded
and private label sparkling water brands.
Our office manager would order the same
lemon, lime, grapefruit flavors. "
Then an aspiring entrepreneur with
prior stints in nuclear engineering and investment
banking, he began developing a
line of sparkling waters showcasing Asian
fruits such as calamansi lime, lychee and
alphonso mango " that for decades have
been masked by added sugars. " He debuted
the brand Sanzo the following year.
" I founded Sanzo because there was
such a stark divide between the clean,
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natural formulas that you see across the
board in mainstream supermarkets and
the high-quality, beloved Asian flavors
that represent more than half of the
world's population, " Mr. Roco said.
Emerging brands are stretching the
boundaries of the $415 billion non-alcoholic
beverage market, introducing new
flavors and functional benefits to a range
of ready-to-drink offerings in recent years.
Concepts quenching consumer curiosity
include cactus waters, botanical tonics
and gut-healthy colas, typically formulated
with less sugar than conventional
refreshments. And while Coca-Cola, Pepsi
and Red Bull remain the top brands, numerous
new entrants are pouring into the
category, backed by high-profile investors.
In late April, Lemon Perfect, a maker
of beverages based on cold-pressed organic
lemons, raised $31 million in Series
A financing, led by singer, songwriter
and actor Beyoncé Knowles-Carter. Functional
soda brand Olipop in February
raised $30 million in a Series B funding
round at a $200 million valuation, with
participation from celebrity investors,
including the Jonas Brothers and actors
Mindy Kaling and Gwyneth Paltrow.
And earlier this year, Sanzo raised
$10 million in a Series A financing round
that included former Coca-Cola Co. executive
Francisco Crespo and actor Simu Liu,
who starred in Marvel Studios' " Shang-Chi
and The Legend of The Ten Rings. " The
funds will be used to support new retail
partnerships and marketing programs and
hire additional team members, Mr. Roco
Today, Sanzo products may be purchased
at Panda Express, Sprouts Farmers
Market, Whole Foods Market and select
Target stores. The beverages are formulated
with fruit and no added sugar, artificial
flavors or preservatives. The latest addition
to the lineup is yuzu ginger.
This past March, Sanzo introduced
special-edition cans inspired by " Turning
Red, " a film by The Walt Disney Co. and
Pixar Animation Studios. Previously, the
brand partnered with Disney's Marvel
Studios for its theatrical release of ShangChi.
Both opportunities boosted online
sales and expanded brand awareness, Mr.
Roco said.
" It's gotten a lot of the big national
retailers knocking, " he said.
Sanzo's pacts with Disney were
May 10, 2022

Food Entrepreneur - May 10, 2022

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Food Entrepreneur - May 10, 2022 - 1
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