The worlds of professional sports, music and business coalesced this week, as a new entrant into the beverage market cashed in on the booming demand for sports drinks.
MatchaBar, a Brooklyn-based cafe that offers up drinks made from matcha — an antioxidant-rich green tea popular in Japan and gaining a foothold in the U.S. — closed an $8 million funding round that included bold-faced names like Denver Broncos linebacker Von Miller, and record producer DJ Diplo. Hip hop star Drake is known to be a big fan of the brand, and last year invested his own money in MatchaBar.
The company, which uses ready-to-drink bottles that hold a ceremonial-grade tea sourced from a family farm in Nishio, Japan, launched their first energy beverage called "Hustle" this week. The marketing campaign included an online game where consumers can gift friends a a can of "Hustle," which will be available at retailers such as Whole Foods, Key Food and Food Town.
Launched by brothers Graham and Max Fortgang in 2014, MatchaBar beverages are gaining popularity amid a consumer shift away from sodas and other sugary drinks, especially among health conscious millennials.
Growing up, the brothers spent time at their aunt's house in Vermont and fell in love with the concept of an ice cream shop. They used the model as inspiration to build a community rather than just a product.
Fast forward several years, and MatchaBar's product has just crossed the 1 million sold mark.
"When MatchaBar opened, it was the first matcha cafe in the country. We found matcha by chance looking for an alternative to our caffeinated consumption," co-Founder Graham Fortgang told CNBC in an interview.
"It was a tough cycle, there were ups, there were downs," Fortgang said, adding that he was looking to disrupt the current market of energy drinks, some of which are less than beneficial to consumers' health.
"I got to a point where I decided I don't like the way these products made me feel in a world where I can go to Sweetgreen for a salad, go to Equinox or a Pilates class instead of lifting dumbbells," he added.