The idea for Aloe Gloe began with a knock to the head.
No, not a metaphorical, a-thought-hit-me brainstorm. Instead, company co-founder Danny Stepper was struck in the head by a surfboard in the ocean off Manhattan Beach, Calif.
“My forehead was literally split open when the side of the board hit me in the face,” Stepper said.
He didn’t want to end up with a scar. After stitching him up, Stepper’s doctor recommended not only applying aloe but also drinking an aloe beverage. That sparked an “a-ha moment” that eventually led to the creation of Aloe Gloe, which has been in retail outlets for about four years.
Today, Aloe Gloe announced that the Venturing & Emerging Brands unit of Coca-Cola has obtained a minority equity stake in the up-and-coming California company. Aloe Gloe is the latest brand to join the VEB portfolio, which has already brought Honest Tea, Zico coconut water, Suja juices and many others into the Coca-Cola family.
Aloe Gloe is part of L.A. Libations, which was founded by Stepper, Pat Bolden and Dino Sarti. The three first met while working as merchandisers for Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE), formerly the largest Coca-Cola bottler in the United States.
After nearly 40 combined years in the beverage business, the three reunited to found L.A. Libations, an incubator for emerging beverages.
“Before Aloe Gloe, we were a sales machine,” Bolden said. “After Aloe Gloe, we realized we were a brand creation engine.”
In the beginning, they quickly learned that creating and launching a beverage was a tough task. “You’d think that being in the beverage business all our lives would really help,” said Sarti, who serves as Aloe Gloe’s CEO. “But I’d always been in sales. This was the first time we had to create a formula, find sources for bottles, caps, labels – everything that goes into a beverage. We started with a blank page. We had to learn to produce, warehouse and ship.”
Stepper and Sarti were both passionate about developing a new aloe water beverage. While Stepper learned about the product from his surfing injury, Sarti was motivated by changes he was making in his personal life.
Sarti was once an overweight couch potato. Then he altered his diet, started reading food and beverage labels and excised regularly. He lost 85 pounds and went on to become a four-time Ironman finisher.
Their goal with Aloe Gloe was to make an all-natural, certified organic, low-calorie product.
The work dates to 2011. Aloe Gloe occupied their time on nights and weekends for more than a year, all while still handling other people’s beverages Monday through Friday.
Their research revealed a growing market. At the time, aloe vera beverages were largely marketed as a “juice” and were sold as a novelty from Asia. Sarti said most aloe drinks had a lot of calories and were very sweet.
“We couldn’t find a product that we felt was ‘right,’ so we decided there had to be a better way,” Stepper said.
Once Aloe Gloe was developed and commercialized, they used L.A. Libations to introduce the brand in 2012. “Our product has proven its concept in certain markets,” Sarti said. “Now we’re diligently scaling it with Coca-Cola Refreshments as our national, direct-store-delivery partner.”
Coca-Cola Refreshments saw an opportunity to distribute the product in Southern California and the New York area. Aloe Gloe now has a major presence in those regions. It is also available in 20,000 stores nationwide, from Sprouts, Kroger, Safeway to independent grocers, convenience stores and on-premise locations.
Sarti said VEB and Coca-Cola are important to the future prospects for Aloe Gloe. “VEB has proven that it can help determine how and when brands can be built,” he said. “The Coca-Cola system is also really best-in-class and can reach consumers like no other distributor. Putting those two capabilities together is very powerful.”
About Aloe Gloe
Aloe Gloe is certified organic, non-GMO, kosher, gluten free and is available in four flavors: Crisp Aloe, Coconut, Lemonade and White Grape.
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