Plant-based beverage brand Koia has received funding from musician The Weeknd, actor and comedian Kevin Hart, and a number of other A-list investors across the music, sports, and entertainment industries. The investor roster includes professional athletes Kyler Murray (NFL quarterback), Ryan O’Reilly (NHL hockey player), Josh Bell (MLB baseball player); young artists and executives including Cordae (music artist), Internet Money (music producer), and Pink Sweats (music artist); and others.
The cultural icons have invested in Koia to support its mission of making nutritious plant-based foods more accessible and convenient for all with its ready-to-drink plant-based protein drinks. The new capital will help support product innovation and retail expansion and Koia’s vision of making plant-based, low-sugar options available everywhere.
“As we continue to build this company and break ground in the beverage industry, we are thrilled for this incredibly talented and diverse group of investors to be part of our Koia family,” Chris Hunter, Koia co-founder and CEO, said in a statement. “Their voices and perspectives are meaningful in the conversation around health and nutrition, and they share our collective passion for creating better access to health.”
Bringing vegan protein to underserved communities
Last year, Koia partnered with professional basketball player and vegan Chris Paul—who currently plays point guard for the Phoenix Suns and is also an investor in Koia—to bring its plant-based shakes to underserved communities, starting with the campuses of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). Under the new partnership, Paul introduced a Koia vending machine filled with its nutrition-packed, plant-based beverages at HBCUs that Paul has relationships with. The vegan vending machine initiative is only one of the collaborative efforts planned between Paul and Koia.
Paul also purchased 50,000 units of Koia’s Straw-nana Dream Smoothie flavor and donated them to GoPuff, a platform that offers a variety of consumer products for quick delivery nationwide. Paul joined GoPuff last year to help the platform diversify its plant-based offerings, particularly those made by Black- and Brown-owned businesses.
“After working closely with Koia for the past several months, I can see how committed they are to building a successful business and helping people lead healthier lives,” Paul said in a statement. “With this new round of investors and friends joining the Koia Krew, we have even more potential to create opportunity and access for underserved communities.”
Bringing plant-based nutrition to the frontline
In 2020, just as the world was turned upside down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Koia launched its Koia Kares program to support healthcare and frontline workers battling the pandemic. The brand was scheduled to launch two new vegan shake flavors (Keto Cookies ‘n Cream and Protein Chocolate Peanut Butter) prior to the pandemic and pivoted to use its inventory to serve those in need, donating more than 14,000 of its vegan nutrition drinks. Through its partnership with Founders Give, an organization utilizing the food and beverage industry, the brand supplied 4,464 bottles to New York City healthcare workers.
“Our brave and dedicated healthcare professionals are working around the clock. Tired, worn down, and no time to take care of themselves, they need a lifeline and someone to care for them too, which is why it was important we did our part by offering fast, easy, and convenient nutrition,” Koia co-founder and CEO Chris Hunter told VegNews at the time. “Koia and other companies like us are uniquely positioned to offer health and wellness resources to people. It only made sense [that] we use those resources in the areas it was needed most.”
Vegan keto smoothies
Co-founded in 2016 by Hunter (who also founded adult beverage brand Four Loko and Not Your Father’s Rootbeer), Koia offers three lines of vegan beverages: Koia Protein, Koia Smoothies, and Koia Keto. The new funding marks a significant milestone in Koia’s journey as the brand celebrates a record-setting year of nearly $60 million in retail sales with 35 million bottles sold, rounding out 100 percent year-over-year growth and a 400 percent increase in sales within the past three years.
In 2019, Koia debuted its line of vegan keto smoothies in Cake Batter, Chocolate Brownie, and Caramel Crème flavors exclusively at Whole Foods Market. The Koia Keto line features low-sugar, high-fat smoothies crafted specifically for those following a ketogenic (“keto”) diet who aim to consume 80 percent of their daily calories from fat, which they typically source from meat and dairy products—an issue that Koia tackles with its vegan smoothies. Now, the brand offers expanded flavors in its keto and protein lines, along with a fruit-based smoothie line, in 17,000 stores across the US, including Whole Foods, Target, Walmart, Gopuff, and 7-Eleven.
“Koia is a dope, healthy plant-based drink that just so happens to taste incredible,” rap artist Cordae said in a statement. “I love the product and use it on a daily basis, so the opportunity to become an early investor was a no brainer.”
For more on celebrity investments, read:
Post Malone Leads $2.3 Million Investment in New Vegan Burger Brand
Jay-Z Helps Vegan Cheese Brand Misha’s Raise $3 Million
Rihanna Invests in Vegan Cookie Company