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Athletic Brewing CEO on its $50m influx from Keurig Dr Pepper: ‘Time to invest in growth’

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By Kendra Clark | Senior Reporter

November 10, 2022 | 6 min read

The move could supercharge growth for the zero-ABV beer maker.

Athletic beer cans

Athletic Brewing is gearing up for serious growth / Athletic Brewing

Keurig Dr Pepper, the beverage giant that owns brands including 7 Up, Snapple and Swiss Miss hot chocolate, today announced it is investing $50m in Athletic Brewing Company, the US’s top non-alcoholic craft beer maker.

The move will position Keurig Dr Pepper as a leading investor in the company, alongside others including TRB Advisors and Alliance Consumer Growth. The company will secure a seat on the brewer’s board of directors as part of the deal; other details about the agreement have not been disclosed.

The investment is one indicator among many that the outlook is bright for the low- and zero-ABV beverage category, which has seen impressive growth over the last few years as consumers dabble in the ‘sober-curious’ movement. Year-to-date, sales of non-alcoholic beer are up 20% in 2022, per data from NielsenIQ.

Athletic Brewing is especially well-poised within the non-alcoholic beer space, being the largest craft brewer in the category with a 55% market share. It’s also proving that it can compete with its alcoholic counterparts; last year, it was among the top 30 craft brewers in the US by sales volume. It’s on track to perform even better this year – in fact, by August, it had already surpassed its 2021 sales numbers, catapulting it into the top 20 craft brewers.

Despite the strides the beer maker has made, its flagship offering, the Run Wild IPA, has just 17% distribution penetration in the US market. The brewer’s founder and chief executive Bill Shufelt believes that the new investment from Keurig Dr Pepper will help raise the tide. “Our partnership with Keurig Dr Pepper is all about further expanding Athletic Brewing’s presence in the non-alcoholic beer market, which is one of the most exciting segments in the adult beverage category,” says Shufelt, who calls the company “collaborative, innovative and fast-moving.”

And for Shufelt, the investment is more than a lump of cash; it’s an opportunity to tap into Keurig Dr Pepper’s vast resources to supercharge growth. “With their investment, we gain not only a capital partner but also a trusted advisor that can really show us what the road ahead looks like within scaled beverage manufacturing. We’re excited to look to them for advice on anything from supply chain logistics and finance to marketing and more,” he explains.

The founder also says that Athletic and Keurig “share a lot of common values and goals.”

To date, Athletic has raised some $173.5m throughout five funding rounds. Not only has it secured buy-in from private equity sources and now industry heavyweight Keurig Dr Pepper, but it’s also enjoyed celebrity endorsements from the likes of tennis icon Naomi Osaka and supermodel Karlie Kloss. In September, NFL star JJ Watt and entrepreneur David Chang – both of whom were early investors in the beer maker – starred in a new Athletic Brewing ad campaign.

Now the momentum is driving Athletic toward the next big thing. Shufelt says he’s eyeing opportunities for market expansion both domestically and abroad. “It’s time to invest in category and team growth, and begin pushing toward profitability,” says Shufelt.

And the team at Keurig Dr Pepper is confident that Shufelt’s team has what it takes. “Athletic Brewing is a winning brand in a rapidly-growing beverage segment,” said the company’s executive chairman Bob Gamgort in a statement today. “Our investment reflects our interest and ability to move into exciting white spaces, including in the blurring of the alcoholic and non-alcoholic categories.”

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