REBBL, the plant-based beverage company, has closed $10 million in Series D funding led by Boulder Investment Group Reprise (BIGR). The oversubscribed round also includes Powerplant Ventures, Blueberry Ventures, Annie's founder John Foraker, CircleUp and others. This brings the company's total financing to $14 million.
Founded in 2012, the Berkeley, Calif. startup is part of the growing functional beverage category. REBBL, an acronym for roots, extracts, bark, berries and leaves, makes organic coconut milk-based beverages that exploit the benefits of adaptogenic herbs like ashawagahnda, ginseng, maca and turmeric.
Utilized in Chinese and South American medicine for centuries, adaptogens have been gaining popularity in the U.S. for their ability to counteract the adverse effects of stress by adapting to an individual's physical needs and normalizing imbalances.
"Adaptogens are the antidote to the modern world, because we are in fight or flight all day," said Palo Hawken, co-founder and chief innovation officer, REBBL. "We felt like there was a lot of potential to bring them out of the shadows of health counterculture and right into the front and center of the average person's mind."
As consumers have become more health conscious, the demand for beverages with benefits has been on the rise. The overall global functional and fortified beverage market retail value was $92 billion in 2015, according to Euromonitor.
This latest round of funding will allow REBBL to capitalize on the market opportunity and introduce more Americans to its product. "We need to invest in marketing," said Sheryl O'Loughlin, CEO, REBBL. "What little we have done, we have seen such a great response, both at the field marketing level and with social media."
Despite minimal investment spent educating customers about its brand, the company managed to double its revenue in 2016 and secured its spot as the number one functional beverage sold in natural grocery stores, according to market research firm SPINS.
Currently, its products are sold in over 2,500 stores nationwide, but the company will be looking to expand its geographic footprint - albeit cautiously. "We have hardly touched the East Coast," said O'Loughlin. "We are investing in it, but we are going to go at a pace that we are comfortable with."
But REBBL's mission is much bigger than achieving ubiquity.
It originally arrived at using super herbs as a way to support people who have been victims of forced labor. Born out of Not For Sale, a non-profit with the mission to eradicate modern-day slavery around the world, the organization built REBBL as a self-sustaining business that would source ingredients from the Peruvian Amazon to improve the local community.
In addition to paying fair prices for the herbs used in its beverages, REBBL donates 2.5 percent of its net revenue to Not For Sale to support regions of the world that are vulnerable to exploitation and human trafficking.
"A lot of companies look for a cause," said David Batstone, founder and president, Not For Sale. "REBBL is a cause that looked for a company."