ATLANTA – Jim Brennan, former CEO of Coca-Cola, brings nearly three decades of experience to Lemon Perfect, a fast-growing brand of lemon-flavored water. The beverage industry veteran has been named president and chief revenue officer of the Atlanta-based startup.
Brennan joined Lemon Perfect as a board member and strategy advisor last year after completing 32 years of various sales roles at Coca-Cola and Coca-Cola Enterprises. Most recently, he served as Executive Vice President of National Retail, where he led full customer management and vision for strategic selling to major national retail clients across multiple business channels. He was responsible for an $8 billion beverage portfolio.
Mr. Brennan said he believed his full-time roles were completed after retiring from Coca-Cola in late 2020. He then met Yanni Hoffnagel, founder and CEO of Lemon Perfect.
Mr. Hufnagel launched the brand in 2017. Its enhanced water is free of sugar, artificial flavors and sweeteners. It contains electrolytes from potassium as well as antioxidants such as vitamin C. Varieties include original lemon, pineapple, coconut, strawberry, passion fruit, peach, raspberry, dragon fruit, mango, cranberry, and star kiwi.
Powered by organic, cold-pressed lemons, the drink offers a host of benefits around heart health, digestive support, and immune defense, along with increased metabolism, collagen synthesis, stress relief, skin purification, and fresh breath, according to the company.
“I have always had a passion for working with a small brand and expanding its reach,” said Mr. Brennan. “The product itself is phenomenal. It’s a sugar-free, great-tasting drink with healthy hydration credentials. That’s what really captivated me.”
Lemon flavored water has been distributing since Mr. Brennan joined as a consultant last spring. With his help, Lemon Perfect quadrupled its business in 2021. The company, which recently raised $31 million in a Series 1 funding round titled Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, aims to expand to more than 40,000 distribution points by the end of 2022.
“From a brick-and-mortar standpoint, we focused on the large form of building volume,” said Mr. Brennan. We’ve gone from about 15% ACV in April 2021 to about 65% ACV in June. We’ve made great progress in the distribution perspective across that ACV environment.”
He added that the brand will shift its focus to convenient retail and food service channels throughout 2023 and 2024.
Lemon Perfect also delivers its drinks directly to the consumer through its e-commerce platform. Brennan predicts that online business will diminish over time as the brand continues to expand into physical locations.
“The online platform serves the purpose of building awareness and experience over time,” he said. “We will also invest in brand marketing and additional content through social and other media.”
Brennan’s long-term goal is to grow Lemon Perfect into the #1 brand in the multi-billion dollar enhanced water category by market share. The brand was the fastest growing in this category over the 52 weeks ended June 26, 2022, according to data from IRI.
“There’s a lot of confusion going on across the categories, whether it’s sports drinks, sodas and other water or hydration type products,” said Mr. Brennan. “Ultimately, this obfuscation leads to a huge opportunity in terms of where we can go.”