The team behind More Labs (formerly 82 Labs) is every bit as ambitious as its scientifically engineered products. It’s no surprise then that their supplements, meant to dispatch daily stressors, are created by problem solvers who are ‘in the business of outsmarting themselves,’ as described on their website.
Backed by science and extensive research, More Labs has recently rebranded and announced its launch into retail after months of successfully building an online community of thirsty consumers.
“There’s so much data available to learn about our consumer that we’ve spent the past year testing and revising until we arrived at the right product that meets the needs of our consumers,” More Labs’ new Head of Retail Josh Groff told ForceBrands. “It’s a reverse engineered beverage company in a lot of ways in that we started online. It’s a point of difference that makes it really exciting to come to mass market retail because we now have a product that’s been perfected based on actual data and consumer feedback.”
Groff brings more than a decade of experience in the beverage industry in sales, marketing, and finance, to his new role. Formerly the VP Sales at Brew Dr. Kombucha, Groff has worked at several smaller brands that were poised for growth, and is skilled at building brands in the CPG space on a national and international scale.
We caught up with Groff and the team’s Head of Marketing and Brand, Cary Lin, who has led marketing for growth stage companies across the beverage, consumer goods, and beauty industries. Prior to More Labs, Lin was the Senior Brand Manager at The Honest Company and worked at P&G, managing growth for brands across direct-to-consumer (DTC) and retail channels. Read on as Groff and Lin discuss More Labs, its recent rebrand, and its journey to retail.
Q: Earlier this month, you announced a complete rebrand of both the company and product. What was the inspiration behind this decision?
A: When we started Morning Recovery, we always had a somewhat hidden parent entity called 82 Labs. Part of the intent behind this rebrand and pivot to More Labs is that we have this theory that we can apply the approach that we took to building a new category with More Labs using science to other categories and functional areas that are consumers care about as well. We let our community tell us where the gaps and the needs are in their lives and we want to be able to create new, interesting solutions for them outside of our first hero product. The move to More Labs also puts us under an umbrella brand that helps establish and build trust among our consumers so that they know what they’re getting from a product when they see the badge of More Labs on the label. More simply, it’s a more aligned way to create a whole portfolio of credible products as opposed to going to market on a one-product platform.
Q: When was the turning point when you realized you were ready to launch into retail?
A: The turning point for us came after we received a lot of early inbound demand from various distributors and retailers before we were even ready. We always want to move quickly to respond to consumer demand and we think retail is really important because DTC brands don’t have the ability to be at the point of consumption or point of impulse. The move to expand our presence into retail is allowing us to be everywhere our customers are to complement and to accelerate the high growth we’ve had in DTC today – we’ve sold over 2 million bottles to date, which is impressive for a beverage brand that’s sold exclusively online. Launching into retail is a natural way to get in front of consumers.
Q: Where does Morning Recovery fit into the retail landscape?
A: Based on early testing, we see a lot of potential in our brand being successfully sold in any kind of place where consumers are at the point of purchase with alcohol. We’re going to focus on c-stores, liquor stores, and big box liquor/wine-type locations to start. We’ve already had proven success with a 60-store test we did in 7/11 in Chicago. We’re the most profitable product in the store per square inch and are outselling energy shots. Based on those tests alone, we know that the consumer is there. We’re disruptive in that we’re doing something atypical to what traditional beverage companies do, that go from natural, to conventional, to mass drug and c-store, and then build an online presence.
Q: How have you approached retail partnerships and how critical have they been to the success of More Labs’ expansion into retail?
A: When some of the initial news broke about our expansion into retail, there was a lot of inbound interest, much of which came from distribution. We’ve spent a lot of time building our distribution relationships and currently have a few big partnerships that have led to retail. We’re working with Total Wine in several areas and DBI Beverage – one of the biggest distributors in Northern California. They were so pleased with the velocity and repeat purchase of our product that they recently moved us from one warehouse in San Francisco to all nine in their Northern California network. Once we have continuous coverage in Northern California, it will allow us to go back to the larger chains that need full regional coverage like Safeway, 7/11, or CVS. We have a few big authorizations in the works that we’ll be announcing in the next few months.
Looking back, some of the earliest, more brand-focused partnerships we established were with Urban Outfitters and Revolve. There’s not a lot of high volume there but it was really important for us in the beginning to partner with like-minded companies that were invested in the consumable beauty space. Our products were showing up next to many of the most credible brands in health and wellness in a category adjacent to ours. We’re very grateful for those relationships and partnerships.
Q: What does the next level of growth look like in retail?
A: We’re going to be really calculated in how we grow. We’re making sure we’re a mile deep, and an inch wide. We’re staying hyper-focused in the next year on our core markets, which are California, Chicago, and the upper Midwest. We want to continue to build great relationships with our distributors so that the retailers will start to call other people on our behalf. We really want to continue to do a phenomenal job with what we already have in place and grow those chains. Eventually, the next evolution for us in retail is mass drug with CVS, Walgreen’s, Duane Reade, and then conventional.
Q: What has been your marketing strategy? How have you been educating consumers on the benefits of Morning Recovery and how it stands out from others in the category?
A: Our marketing strategy is rooted in trust, credibility, and education. Education is a necessary area for us to invest in because our category is a space people don’t fully understand yet. We’ve committed almost a quarter million dollars in research funds to our partners at the University of Southern California School of Pharmacy, where some of our patent-pending technology was inspired. We leverage our investment in science to really cut through the noise and educate our consumers. We’ll have known we’ve succeeded when we’ve become part of people’s lives and daily routines. Our marketing strategy also focuses on creating more experiences where we can have in-store education to complement our high growth in retail at 7/11.
Q: What excites you most about the future of the company?
A: We have a small but incredibly diverse, thoughtful, smart, and driven group. We’re a cohesive team with a lot of horsepower underneath the hood, which is incredibly exciting when you consider all that we’re able to accomplish together. Even though the category isn’t new, Morning Recovery is a disruptor. At the end of the day, it’s a product that works and we have the unique opportunity as a disruptor to change consumer behavior. There are a lot of competitors that have come before us, but we believe our promise is unparalleled, and that’s incredibly exciting.
Q: And finally, because ForceBrands builds the teams that build the brands, what’s the team culture like at More Labs?
A: We value our people – people who are sharp and agile problem solvers who share a passion for our mission. We have people on our team who come from the biggest names in tech, beverage, CPG, as well as operations. We welcome diversity and different perspectives because our customer base is equally diverse. We want to honor that in everything we do. Our Co-Founder and CEO Sisun Lee has hired people who were the right cultural fit before they even had a position at the company. He looks for the right talent and the right problem-solving mindset first and will then build a role from there. Our culture is incredibly inquisitive and is largely defined by ensuring the right people are joining the team.
The introduction of our new packaging is a great example of how collaborative and visionary our team is. Our new bottle is made from bio-friendly plastic with an increased rigidly and an aluminum top. Our manufacturer told us that it couldn’t be done, and that if it was to be made, it would take three years to complete. Our team did it in less than one year. Without that problem-solving tenacity, we wouldn’t have achieved that. It’s reflective of our team’s mentality, which is fun to watch. And of course, we like to have fun, too.
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