So, you’ve got an awesome idea for a beverage. You’ve made a few test batches at home, your friends think it’s amazing, and now you’re ready to scale it up. Let’s talk about what’s next with Matt Matros.
Important Initial Considerations
What’s the package structure?
You might not think it, but this seemingly minimal decision will factor in to the trajectory of your business because it determines how the product is manufactured and which pasteurization step you employ.
What claims do you want to make on your package?
The claims you want to make will also determine how you put the product in the bottle (or can).
What’s the manufacturing process?
This goes without saying - but you’ll need to know what manufacturing type you need so that you can focus your co-packer search. The good news is that you can easily turn to what’s on the market for answers to this.
Different types of pasteurization and processing techniques
- Hot-Fill: Specifically refers to how the product is put in to the vessel - it’s put in while hot! And this temperature is what kills pathogens and keeps the product safe. (e.g.Chameleon Cold Brew)
- Cold-Fill: As the name implies, the product is put in to the vessel while cold. Because of this, there is usually some sort of food safety ingredient or process that’s considered by the FDA as the “kill step.” (e.g. LIMITLESS Lightly Caffeinated Sparkling Water)
- Re-tort: Usually referred to keeping dairy or other highly sensitive ingredients food safe in glass or soup-cans. (e.g. Starbucks Bottled Frappucino)
- Aseptic: Initially this referred to all finished products put in to paper packaging like Tetra-Pak or other boxes, but it’s expanded to other packaging structures and usually involves some sort of dairy or alt-milk component.. (e.g.: Almond Breeze Almond Milk)
- Tunnel Pasteurized: Whenever there is something living in the can (usually food or juice bits), the product will go through this process. (e.g.: Spindrift)
Manufacturing and Packaging
- MOQ: Minimum order quantity. This will be used by co-packers as well as the suppliers of packaging materials.
- Pressure-Sensitive: A type of label that gets applied on the line right to the bottle.
- Overwrap: How some aseptic and hot-fill packaging is applied - a shrink sleeve over a plastic bottle. Think Body Armor or STOK Cold Brew.
- Closure: What you or I would call “the lid.”
- Process Authority: Usually a food scientist, this person or firm determines the final processing steps and formula. A Flavor House can provide this service as well as any beverage formulator.
Outreach to Manufacturers
You need them more than they need you
Don’t forget, they already have a stream of paying customers and you likely don't have a manufacturer.
Nothing Is Proprietary
Of course you’ll want to execute NDAs once you start sharing formulas, but this is mostly to give you comfort. Anything can be figured out by people who want to know. Even Coke’s formula is only protected by a vault and not a patent!
Be Easy To Work With
The manufacturer will work with you if you make their life easy. Make sure all of your materials and ingredients are onsite and easy for them to access.
No “Turn Key” Solution Exists
There isn’t a “kombucha guy” or a “juice gal” that you can go to that sells you everything. You’ll need a formula, ingredients suppliers, packaging suppliers and steps to make the product. The manufacturer just takes orders from you.
Product Formulation is controversial
I am not a believer that a product formulator needs to be used unless the product you are dreaming of is highly technical or really hasn’t been done before. But if it’s simply just a tweak of something already existing on the marketplace, then a flavor house can likely help you with the final formula.
Don’t be intimidated by MOQs
Triangulate your MOQs. An initial order quantity of 200,000 labels per flavor might look intimidating, but it doesn't mean you need to run 200,000 finished bottles! And 200,000 labels might only cost you $10,000 or so, which isn’t such a scary number.
Packaging Brokers Exist
I was surprised to learn that “packaging brokers” like Gamer Packaging exist. But packaging brokers help you manage your cash flow and help you get an audience with large packaging suppliers which might not otherwise talk to you.
A little more about Matt
He is one of America’s leading consumer-focused entrepreneurs, having founded and successfully exited two businesses since 2009. Matt is the founder of PROTEIN BAR & KITCHEN®, a wildly popular chain of healthy fast-casual restaurants with locations in Chicagoland, Washington D.C. and Denver. In 2013, Matt sold PROTEIN BAR & KITCHEN® to private equity firm L Catterton.
Matt also founded LIMITLESS®, an innovative beverage company whose caffeinated sparkling water can be found nationwide in Walmart stores as well as thousands of other retailers. He sold LIMITLESS® to Keurig Dr Pepper in early 2020.