USA: Largest non-alcoholic craft brewery attracts new well-known lead investor

Athletic Brewing Company, the leading US beverage company that specializes in manufacturing non-alcoholic craft beer using only natural ingredients, has found a new lead investor. Keurig Dr Pepper (KDP) announced today to have bought a minority stake in the Stratford, Connecticut, based brewer.

The USD 50 million investment is part of a USD 75 million fund-raising round and provides KDP with an equity stake in Athletic Brewing that is comparable to other lead investors, namely TRB Advisors and Alliance Consumer Growth.  KDP will have a seat on the company's Board of Directors. Further terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Athletic Brewing was founded in 2017 by Bill Shufelt and John Walker to combine their “two core loves - a love for an active, healthy lifestyle and a love for great beer.” From the beginning the company only produced non-alcoholic beers, “allowing healthy, active adults to enjoy healthy substitutes for alcohol,” hence the brewery's name.

The concept was well received and the company has attracted many famous backers like Pro football stars J.J. Watt and Justin Tuck, cyclist Lance Armstrong, Momofuku restaurateur David Chang, and TOMS founder Blake Mycoskie.

In about three years’ time, Athletic Brewing has outgrown its 12,000 barrel capacity at its Connecticut brewery on the east coast and has opened a new 150,000-barrel brewery in San Diego, California on the west coasts. Last year it closed a new USD 50 million funding round to fuel a major investment in a larger east coast brewery.

Today, Athletic Brewing is a top-20 U.S. craft brewer, according to Nielsen and was ranked as the 26th fastest-growing private company in America by Inc. Magazine. It was also named to Time Magazine's"100 Most Influential Companies" list.

Non-alcoholic beer in the U.S. grew almost 20% in retail dollars over the past year, with the craft segment, where Athletic Brewing holds a 55% market share, far outpacing total category growth. The category jumped to about USD 670 million in sales in 2021. Athletic Brewing has a lineup of more than 40 brews.

"We're thrilled to welcome Keurig Dr Pepper as an investor and strategic partner," Shufelt said. "Their team brings a tremendous amount of expertise and truly embraces our mission of brewing great-tasting non-alcoholic beers that are fit for all times.  This investment will enable Athletic Brewing to further accelerate our growth across North America."

"Athletic Brewing is a winning brand in a rapidly growing beverage segment. Our investment reflects our interest and ability to move into exciting white spaces, including in the blurring of the alcoholic and non-alcoholic categories" said Keurig Dr Pepper Executive Chairman Bob Gamgort. "We look forward to partnering with the Athletic Brewing team to help them scale the business."

KDP owns among others the other nonalcoholic brands Dr. Pepper, 7up, Canada Dry, Snapple and Green Mountain. This new investment is the company’s  second foray into the dealcoholized beverage category, after a deal to acquire a nonalcoholic cocktail brand called Atypique this summer.

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