ROARganic Evolution: 5 Questions With ROAR Drinks CEO Roly Nesi

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ROAR Organic

As a coconut-water based sport performance drink, ROAR has commanded attention in new-age beverages with its aggressive attempt to redefine sports drinks based on the preferences of millennials and off-the-chain marketing such as the category never had seen.

The brand has shaken up a half-century-old category with intense flavors and a coconut-water base, youth-oriented packaging, a school-distribution gambit, a tie-in with a popular Disney franchise, and a marketing endorsement by star pro football receiver Odell Beckham, who even got to name his own SKU of ROAR: OBJXIII.

Since we last checked in the brand has expanded with a new line of certified-organic beverages, an innovation in the sports-drink space. “It’s organic coconut water infused with B vitamins, only 10 calories, non-GMO and vegan and soy-free,” ROAR Founder and CEO Roly Nesi told brandchannel. “It’s not even about what’s in your drink anymore; it’s about what isn’t in it. We’ve focused on making this cool, authentic and credible. You’re not getting organic fruit punch.”

Nesi talked with brandchannel about the latest for his fast-growing brand, which has hit nearly $10 million in annual sales, and rattled cages at Gatorade and other sports-drink brands, after just a few years in business.

ROAR Drinks CEO Roly Nesi

bc: How’s ROAR been doing since we last chatted?

Roly Nesi: It’s surreal sometimes to think about where it is. Seven months ago, if you’d told me you’d have an organic line and one you just did on the Avengers with Walt Disney, that would be crazy. The pace of innovation and growth is breakneck. Every product we have out there is selling like crazy.

bc: Why do you think that is? The sports drink segment was mature long before ROAR arrived.

Nesi: Our original line was traditional. though coconut-water infused. But it was not a sports brand in the traditional sense. We’re trying to create a lifestyle brand, to be the Monster of the category. We came out with something driven by fashion and footwear culture rather than driven by the sports-drink market. We wanted young kids and products that go with them in their life cycles.

Kids want something that tastes good. Health isn’t what we push; what makes ROAR successful is we have crazy bottles with labels inspired by the hottest shoes this year. It’s attitude. It’s generational. It’s not something their parents are drinking or has been done done before.

And it’s truly owned by a young guy like me, which gives it authenticity. It’s been done before in energy drinks but not in a category like this. We’re not the norm in our category. At first, people didin’t know where to put us. As the premium isotonic world has emerged, we’ve been there as the young, cool one.

bc: Why invest in an organic line of sports drinks?

Nesi: It’s never been done before. The world has turned away from New York Sports Clubs and has turned to SoulCycle and women are not buying jeans any more but athleisure wear. Consumers are willing to embrace unique products with a mission as well as a functional benefit, but not being mass-owned by Coke or Pepsi.

In Whole Foods you won’t find an organic sports drink. Honest Sport is the most recent attempt in Whole Foods (and) Honest Tea is owned by Coca-Cola. It’s high calorie and high sugar. It’s not a millennial product; it’s just an organic version of a high sugar drink. The only way we would consider organic was to do it as if we’re Lululemon; what it needs to feel is like a pair of board shorts wrapped around a bottle.

We focused on a very experiential package. A lot of the stuff in the organic space has been driven by fruit and white-label, and looks like everyone’s product has been designed by the same person. We wanted this thing to feel very earthy and natural and feel like a pair of yoga pants. The label is made of 100 percent post-consumer recycled paper.

bc: How woudl you describe ROAR’s vibe?

Nesi: It’s no longer just a sports drink. It’s got a softer, little more of an all-inclusive vibe to it, and one thing we’ve seen a lot with our target customer … is a millennial, predominantly female but hyper-focused, 18 to 25 years old, eco-conscious and health conscious.

The term “sports drink” and the branding associated with it is a little off-putting to them if they’re drinking kombucha and Califia Farms almond milk. ROAR needs to fit into that person’s purse—not just the function but the vibe of the brand. We’re all about vibes.

bc: Are you still with Odell Bekcham?

Nesi: We still have the Odell flavor in our lineup. He’s in our traditional, not organic, line. The attitude of our base brand, he embodies that perfectly. It’s in your face and style-minded. That’s kind of what ROAR is, and organic isn’t much of a departure. It’s all about expressing yourself and being unique.


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