Keurig Dr Pepper to distribute Runa Clean Energy drink

Runa hopes to build itself into the country’s top natural energy drink — and this partnership could help expedite that goal. Runa immediately gains access to Keurig Dr Pepper’s extensive distribution network. For AMI, working with Keurig Dr Pepper is a familiar one: the soda, water, tea and coffee giant already is a distributor of its Vita Coco coconut water beverage.

The U.S. energy drink category is expected to hit $20 billion by 2021, Runa said. It noted in a statement that the sector is “one of the only remaining traditional beverage categories that has yet to be disrupted by a nationally positioned brand.” Demand for energy drinks and functional beverages continues to increase, but there is still some uncertainty about where the segment is heading. This leaves opportunity for Runa and other upstarts to potentially disrupt the space.

Runa said its products may appeal to consumers searching for energy drinks that are plant-based, low in sugar and contain natural ingredients — popular trends among consumers today.

Runa’s products are different than others in the sector because its source of caffeine is a natural plant — the guayusa — which is a type of holly tree native to Ecuador and other areas of the Amazon rainforest. The leaves are said to have an energizing effect like coffee and tea, but with a slower and more sustainable release and without the caffeine buzz and subsequent crash.

Tea made from guayusa leaves reportedly boosts energy, aids concentration and contains twice as many antioxidants as green tea — so millennials and others with hectic lifestyles may appreciate those in a naturally sourced beverage.

A uniquely positioned product such as Runa could help bolster Keurig Dr Pepper since the beverage giant already has the conventional Venom Energy drink in its portfolio, along with a national distribution network and in-store expertise. AMI, meanwhile, has marketing experience and a proven sales record, Rodger Collins, president of direct store delivery for Keurig Dr Pepper, said in the release. The combined skills could make Runa’s national launch a lucrative one.

Keurig Dr Pepper could be looking to further rebuild after it lost a distribution deal with Fiji Water this past fall following the $18.9-billion merger of Keurig Green Mountain and Dr Pepper Snapple Group. Last October, it announced a partnership with Danone to sell, distribute and merchandise evian water across the U.S. to accelerate the brand’s growth. A month earlier, it purchased Core Nutrition for $525 million to gain access to its premium, nutrient-enhanced bottled water and USDA-certified fruit-enhanced “hydration” beverage.

Should this distribution deal succeed, Keurig Dr Pepper could consider purchasing Runa. ​With health attributes of its own, Runa could be marketed by Keurig Dr Pepper as a way to tap into consumer demand for better-for-you products — challenging Red Bull and Monster.