Haus, an aperitif company that tried to find a buyer last year after investor funding dried up, now has one.
The Naked Market, founded by Harrison Fugman and Alex Kost, has acquired certain assets of the low-alcohol (alcohol by volume) beverage company from CPG Holding Co. Rosemary and Grapefruit Jalapeño.
Helena Price Hambrecht and then-husband Woody Hambrecht launched Haus in 2019, and it quickly grew with millennials looking for beverages with all-natural ingredients, fun flavors, and direct-to-consumer delivery.
When asked about the sale, Price Hambrecht told TechCrunch via email, “I am very happy to see the brand live on. I will always be incredibly proud of what we have built and look forward to seeing what the new owners do with it in this next chapter.”
Fugman and Kost told TechCrunch that they were not familiar with the Hambrechts prior to the purchase. The opportunity to grab selected Haus consumer-facing assets, including the brand and intellectual property, arose from their experience in the space with brands such as Rob’s Backstage Popcorn and Flock Foods, and their own history as Haus customers.
“Given our background as foodies and operators in the food and beverage world, we were admirers of the brand and company Helena and Woody created,” said Fugman. “We considered Haus to be one of the most iconic brands built in the industry over the past decade. Very few brands had an impact on the industry and consumers.”
While the global beverage market is huge, it’s also a bit of a small world. Both Haus and The Naked Market share a mutual investor, Great Oaks Venture Capital, though Fugman noted that the VC firm was not involved in the acquisition.
How Haus lost his buzz
By 2022, the company will reach $10 million in sales and have a national distribution deal. It also attracted venture investors, raising $17 million rolling SAFE notes from a group that included Homebrew, Haystack Ventures, Coatue, Shrug Capital and Worklife Ventures.
However, Haus was not immune to pandemic challenges, including supply chain issues and word of mouth not growing as intended.
“It was difficult to build the company I wanted to build during the pandemic, as we were building a social product,” Price Hambrecht told TechCrunch at the time. “We didn’t have people coming together, we didn’t have natural word of mouth. We were a purely digital growth brand at the time, great for acquisition, but not great for monitoring long-term behavior.
Price Hambrecht documented the company’s journey on Twitter, and in August, after no additional investor capital came in, he told his followers that Haus would go through a process called Assignment for Benefit of Creditors, an alternative to bankruptcy, where assets are placed in a trust for the purpose of liquidation or benefit to pay off debts. What remains goes back to the debtor.
In November, Price informed Hambrecht that the sale had not led to a buyer, tweet, “Today, the banker in charge of the Haus sales process has informed me that the auction has ended and the company has not sold. Frankly, I didn’t expect this. He said this was as much of a surprise to him as it was to me.”
Meanwhile, financial terms of the acquisition of Haus assets have not been disclosed, but an interesting part of the deal includes plans by The Naked Market to return 5% of the company to former Haus employees, founders and investors through a structured program . Usually it’s investors who get priority, and Fugman and Kost said this move is meant to show appreciation to those who worked hard to build Haus.
“The Haus community has really been one of the main pillars of the brand, and this is our tribute to continuing that community,” Kost said in an interview. “We thought this was a gesture to continue that spirit as we look at Haus 2.0.”
As part of that new chapter, Fugman and Kost enlisted Sonoma winemaker Micah Wirth, whose LinkedIn profile said he had been Haus’ general manager since January, to continue to lead the winemaking and R&D efforts. The aperitifs will continue to be sold online, and future plans include bringing Haus into new categories within the food and beverage space by the end of the year.
Fugman and Kost say they ultimately want to continue the community, product quality and transparency aspects that Haus started four years ago.
“We plan to take these core principles and build upon them as we continue to scale Haus’ core hero SKUs and expand them into a new category,” said Fugman. “We have incredible respect and admiration for the product Helena created and have decided to bring it back to the market.”