With a compelling back-story and big name players, Adina is a perfect test case for sustainable entrepreneurship 2.0. Co-founded by Greg Steltenpohl, founder of Odwalla, and Senegalese businesswoman Magatte Wade-Marchan in 2006, this young beverage company garners a lot of attention. It was surprising then, when it was hard to make heads or tails of the company.
Adina for Life. Are they a natural juice company promoting international recipes or focused on fair trade coffee? Or is it herbal elixirs? Adina is in the midst of redefining itself.
Wade-Marchan approached Steltenpohl with a pitch to market drinks based on international, indigenous recipes. She landed a dinner meeting with a man who took a company from his backyard to a $181 million dollar sale to Coca Cola, and his wife, Dominique Leveuf, who would become Director of Creative Services and a willing investor. With Wade-Marchan’s expertise in sourcing from Africa, Steltenphol’s commitment to sustainability, and Leveuf’s business background, many believed Adina was poised to upset the natural beverage industry.
Today, Wade-Marchan is no longer involved in the company. Steltenphol remains Chairman, and Leveuf a key investor. Steltenphol now works alongside several industry veterans, including Interim CEO John Bello, formerly of SoBe beverages (who also received a lofty price for the company he built, selling SoBe for $370 million to PepsiCo).
To understand Adina in its current state we spoke to Chief Marketing Officer Bruce Burke.
Burke explained the current leadership. In addition to his management role, Bello, a general partner in Sherbrooke Capital is an investor in the company. According to Burke, Adina is now cleaning up the product portfolio and recreating the brand identity. And no, the company is not abandoning its California roots and relocating to the Northeast.
Apparently we weren’t the only one’s confused. It’s been said that the company was founded around an idea rather than a product. Steltenpohl’s been quoted saying that approach left the company without focus while Adina tested multiple products that weren’t fully executed. The early products, according to Burke, “didn’t have pull and velocity to make the company profitable and sustainable.”
At present, Adina offers three different beverage lines: a natural energy drink, organic and fair trade coffee, and new herbal elixirs. The original Senegalese hibiscus recipe that inspired the company’s founding has been discontinued, along with a myriad of other juices and teas. Their site continues to advertise a confusing array of products.
At one point, Adina was “striving to build a brand that addresses social issues.” Their founding mission was to “create the magical experience of connecting people beyond borders by providing healthy, exotic and delicious beverages, original music, and lifestyle products infused by the spirit of world cultures. A music tab on their site reflects that old aim to incorporate world beats into their messaging. As for the virtual fair trade boutique supposedly in the works? Burke had never even heard of it. Apparently a new website is under construction.
Adina is openly in transition, which makes it difficult to hold them accountable to their founding values. Their stated goals were to work with community-based cooperatives and collectives, small-scale family farmers, use certified organic ingredients, and fair trade ingredients (wherever possible). At present, they’ve determined that organic milk is prohibitively expensive for their coffee line and according to Burke, there are no fair trade vendors of herbal extracts. Yet the elixirs are at the center of Adina’s rebranding efforts.
Efforts in good corporate citizenship have continued under the new management. The company has partnered with TransFair to support local events. They have a fleet of electric cars they use for delivery and a school bus that runs on waste vegetable oil. Steltenphol has said, “At the end of the day, it didn’t make sense to us to have a clean, green product like Adina and deliver it in a dirty way. We’re just looking for some consistency and trying to do our little part.”
Despite Burke’s assurance that Adina is totally transparent, their metrics are unclear. When asked about how the company defines sustainability, Burke said that there’s no regimented checklist and the Adina makes decisions on a choice-by-choice basis. While stressing that Adina goes the extra mile, he allowed that, “We’re a manufacturing company at the end of the day and anybody manufacturing is creating a carbon footprint.”
Adina has always wanted widespread distribution. The natural channel, notes Burke, is too limited. He promises that Adina is on the verge of something new and different.
After Steltenphol’s sale of and then departure from Odwalla, many people are watching Adina’s transformation closely. To some, it’s a culture issue. Beverage Spectrum magazine writes, “Bello’s style is in your face, while Adina has long been about laid back San Francisco hippie multiculturalism. How will that jibe…”
Burke suggests we follow them on twitter to see how they progress. We will. It’s sure to be a case study on corporate growth and LOHAS marketing.
Readers, where have you seen Adina? How did you identify the brand? What changes have you noticed?