Cure, a functional hydration brand, is entering a new phase of its growth that includes nearly quadrupling its retail footprint beginning in 2021, rounding out its leadership team, and closing $5.6 million in Series A financing.
It’s been a hot minute since TechCrunch signed on to the brand — almost three years, actually — which is carving out a unique niche in the $10 billion functional drink mix market that founder and CEO, Lauren Picasso , told TechCrunch that it has “exploded” in the last 12 months.
Picasso attributes much of that to consumer behavior toward greener products, including the ease of using powders instead of ready-to-drink liquids, which weigh more to ship and have more packaging.
Hydration isn’t a new concept (who can forget The Right Stuff?), but consumers looking for healthier options have, in turn, created a more competitive landscape in recent years.
Picasso touts Cure as the “only electrolyte brand founded by women” and views its biggest competitor as Liquid IV, which was acquired by Unilever in 2020. He also said that “legacy players are doing very well as many new players have entered the market” in the past years. Some of those other functional drink startups are also backed by companies. For example, Hydrant, also in hydration, Olipop and Poppi in the soda space, and The Ryl Company in the tea space.
To further differentiate itself from the plethora of hydration options, Cure underwent a rebrand in 2022 to focus more on its ingredients. For example, it uses powdered coconut water and Himalayan pink salt, while other drink mix companies use cane sugar, dextrose, high fructose corn syrup and synthetic and artificial ingredients, Picasso said.
“We wanted to rebrand and better communicate our clean, plant-based ingredients,” Picasso added. “We think we’re just as effective as products like Liquid IV, but we’re using much better ingredients. There is a very clear point of differentiation, and that is why we end up attracting consumers that are very different from any of our competitors. Our product tends to skew women, which is quite unique, and they tend to be a very active and health conscious consumer.”
Since its launch in 2019, Cure has grown, on average, 230% each year in revenue and will expand its retail footprint from 4,000 stores in 2021 to 15,000 in 2023, Picasso said.
The company’s products are already at CVS and Walgreens, but will now also be at retailers including Sprouts, Albertsons, Kroger, Stop & Shop, Wegmans and HEB. In total, there are nine flavors, four of them new: lime and orange launched in 2022 and lemonade and kiwi strawberry this year.
While Cure is accelerating its retail presence, it continues to have around 60% e-commerce penetration, and in Q1 2023 it outpaced prior-year quarter growth by 121%, and all with just nine employees at the time. full time, said Picasso. .
Having secured $2.6 million in seed funding in 2020, Cure’s $5.6 million Series A funds, which closed in March, give the company $8.2 million in total venture capital. With the new capital, the company is now valued at $22 million, which Picasso says is more than double the valuation of Cure’s previous round.
Serie A was planned, with Picasso noting that “this is going to be our last round. From now on, we will work towards profitability, with the goal of being profitable by early 2024.”
Lerer Hippeau, who led the seed round for Cure, returns to lead the new investment, joining a group of new and existing investors including Valedor Partners, Simple Food Ventures, Great Oaks Venture Capital, Joyance Partners, Silas Capital and Kim Clijsters. .
Cure intends to invest the new capital in faster retail expansion, growing its leadership team, acquiring new customers and developing new products, including a bulk jar option that subscriber customers have been requesting.
Regarding its leadership team, the company recently hired Laura Kendrick, former director of marketing for SmartyPants, and Stacey Gillespie, former vice president of innovation for Gaia Herbs, to help scale distribution and overall revenue.
Cure has had success with influencer marketing, amassing 700 influencers as part of its ambassador program, but Picasso brought on Kendrick “to really help scale the brand,” while Gillespie will lead the company’s product development advancement and expansion to other functional categories. for example energy and health.
“We were looking for someone to scale all these different marketing channels and really drive the brand strategy going forward,” Picasso said. “Meanwhile, Stacey is an industry veteran who has brought 1,500 new products to market in her career.”
To that end, Cure’s products have hit the shelves of several new retailers in the past four months, while doubling their presence at CVS at the same time. He is now working on some new products to be released next year, Picasso said.
“We have a lot of retail expansion planned, so the next couple of years will be all about executing in those doors and creating a marketing playbook to be successful in stores,” he added.