Insider Ep. 84: The Fastest Growing Brand In This Category Was Also The Most Patient One

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This week, we’re joined by Jamba Dunn, the founder and CEO of Rowdy Mermaid Kombucha. Founded in 2013, Rowdy Mermaid has emerged as the fastest growing brand in the kombucha category, according to SPINS data sourced by the company, and achieved national distribution in 2019. Despite its rapid growth, Rowdy Mermaid, which has deep roots in its backyard of the Rocky Mountains, has long embraced a patient and thoughtful approach to expansion, and, until recently, avoided venture capital funding in favor of independent management and oversight.

As part of our conversation, Dunn spoke about how he’s reconciled the duality of Rowdy Mermaid’s current trajectory and its long-term business strategy, the brand’s function-forward approach to formulation and new product development, why he eventually decided to align with a private equity firm and how his role as and definition of CEO has changed over the years.

Show notes:

0:34: The Bundesliga Is Coming Back. Brands Are Giving Back. Hardcore Music Never Left. -- The episode opens with most of the hosts expressing excitement at the impending return of German soccer and praise for food and beverage brands lending support to those in need during the crisis. They also chatted about how a heavy metal-themed canned water brand has taken a non-traditional approach to music production and why it’s promoting skateboarding in the kitchen.

13:08: Jamba Dunn, Founder/CEO, Rowdy Mermaid Kombucha -- Within an expansive interview with Taste Radio editor Ray Latif, Dunn spoke about the inspiration behind Rowdy Mermaid, the company’s shift from a taproom business to a focus on packaged products and how his interest in New Nordic cuisine formed the basis for the brand’s ingredient strategy. He also discussed Rowdy Mermaid’s gradual expansion beyond the Rocky Mountain region, whether he had to reevaluate the company’s mission and value system in the shift from a small to a large company and why he was impressed with investment partner Allen Karp’s choice of attire in their first meeting. Later, he spoke about challenges in scaling capacity and output, his clever acronym for “CEO” and his belief that “an entrepreneur is the only person who would work 80 hours a week to keep from working 40.”

Brands in this episode: Rowdy Mermaid Kombucha, Liquid Death, Upwell Beverages, Little West, Vybes, Better Booch, Vive Organic, Dona, Good Mylk, MUSH, Joolies, Chromatic Coffee, Partners Coffee, Elm Coffee Roasters, Humblemaker Coffee Co., Groundwork Coffee, Harvst, Stonewall Kitchen, TCHO, Fine & Raw, Peekaboo Organics, Argania Butter

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