Jonas Brothers’ Big Bet On Savory Snacks, Rob’s Backstage Popcorn, Raises $7 Million From Hollywood A-Listers


Rob’s Backstage Popcorn, the viral savory snacking brand co-launched by healthy food and beverage incubator The Naked Market and The Jonas Brothers, has amassed $7 million in a recent series A round led by Norwegian DJ Kygo’s venture firm, Palm Tree Crew.

Additional participating investors in this financing round include global snacking powerhouse Hershey, United Talent Agency’s investing arm UTA Ventures, as well as actress Priyanka Chopra Jonas, songwriter Ryan Tedder, Groot Hospitality’s owner David Grutman, actress Mindy Kaling, former NFL cornerback Joe Haden, and actor Glen Powell.

The newly raised capital is expected to propel the company’s continued expansion across key retail chains nationwide, including Walmart
, Kroger
, Albertsons
, Sam’s Club, while the team anticipates a potential brand extension in the near future, I was told during an exclusive interview recently.

The original sweet and salty flavor of Rob’s Backstage Popcorn was formulated by Rob Garbowsky, the father of Jonas Brothers’ former bass guitarist and the band’s current manager Greg Garbowsky. About a decade ago when Nick Jonas was visiting the Garbowsky’s, he fell in love with their family treat presented in a brown bag, and recalled how the popcorn has become a “backstage staple” for their concerts over the years. As such, the taste profile — the company calls “somewhere between movie theater popcorn and kettle corn” using a one-of-a-kind seasoning, and packaging remain well preserved when it officially entered the market in 2021.

However, it took months for The Jonas Brothers to convince Garbowsky to turn his recipe into a brand. “We started brainstorming the idea during COVID and reached out to The Naked Market,” the San Francisco-based holding company that Jonas now describes as their extended family. He said: “We don’t just slab our name on [Rob’s] and send it off to consumers. It’s personal to us, and close to our family and friends. The biggest differentiator for the brand is that we’re approaching it as co-founders with a lot of care.”

Rob’s Backstage Popcorn has recently added two additional SKUs: a Classic Barbecue flavor through collaboration with artist and TV personality Kelly Clarkson, and an Indian Spice Mix that honors the cultural heritage of Jonas’ partner Priyanka. All products are plant-based, gluten-free and non-GMO, and contain 16 servings in each 4 oz bag. We’re really a flavor-forward popcorn that also happens to fall into the better-for-you bucket, with an added layer of goodness surrounding the brand,” Jonas told me.

Retail-First Strategy With Authentic Celebrity Backing

Harrison Fugman, who co-founded The Naked Market, alongside Alex Kost and Tim Marbach, said: “Within 12 months since launching [Rob’s], we’ve gone into 8,000 stores. Our core focus is to continue scaling the brand via retail-first strategy, and complimenting that with new ways to enhance that unique Rob’s experiences.”

“We’ve achieved it through a variety of ways, whether it’d be Instagram Reels competition, in which participants catch popcorn with their mouths to win a Tesla, to fun engagement with the Jonas Brothers at their MGM residency in Las Vegas,” Fugman added. The Naked Market, which previously raised $33.62 million (PitchBook data) of series A1 venture funding led by Integrated Capital in 2021, has been using an internal database aggregator “The Machine” at the outset to identify high-growth sectors, and it’s able to launch market-ready products within months, an earlier report showed.

Popcorn is a multibillion-dollar category globally that anticipates a 11.2% CAGR between 2022 and 2030. Notable transactions recently include Hershey’s $1.6 billion deal with Amplify Snack Brands in 2017, Conagra’s acquisition of Angie’s Artisan Treats during the same year, and Grupo Bimbo’s acquisition of Popcornopolis in 2021. Weaving together this high-consumption, trendy snack with an authentic celebrity story is the secret sauce for Rob’s Backstage Popcorn to win the market, Fugman said.

At a time when a growing number of celebrities and influencers are flocking to the consumer products industry by leveraging their fan base, Jonas stressed how pivotal it still is to remain relevant and genuine to his target audience.

“There hasn’t been a truly disruptive brand in the salty snacks category, specifically popcorn,” Jonas said. “I think it’s really an exciting moment with a number of brands that have that celebrity partnerships across multiple categories that are working really well in both DTC and retail, such as spirits. The timing couldn’t be better for us. We are not approaching it as CPG entrepreneurs, but as people who are creating an experience for our fans and beyond.”


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