These Entrepreneur Brothers Ditched Coffee for Matcha and Built a Multimillion-Dollar Drink Brand

These Entrepreneur Brothers Ditched Coffee for Matcha and Built a Multimillion-Dollar Drink Brand

MatchaBar has sold more than a million bottles and says it's the seventh-best-selling tea at Whole Foods. The brothers recently announced they closed an $8 million Series A funding round led by DJ and producer Diplo and NFL MVP Von Miller. Entrepreneur spoke with the brothers at one of their New York City locations in May. First, sell the category, not just yourself/your brand. What is a big one in your industry? How do you create a matcha culture in this country where there once was none? Matcha has broken through the cultural landscape and been accepted as a stable in the beverage world. The most effective marketing tactic has been investing in growing a genuine community with partners that truly care about the brand and mission to bring matcha to the people. Over the past four years we have done that through building communities at our cafes, activations at music and tech conferences around the country and, of course, on the social landscape. Without our community behind us, we are nothing.

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These Entrepreneur Brothers Ditched Coffee for Matcha and Built a Multimillion-Dollar Drink Brand

Editor’s Note: In this ongoing column, The Digest, Entrepreneur.com News Director Stephen J. Bronner speaks with food entrepreneurs and executives to see what it took to get their products into the mouths of customers.

Brothers Max and Graham Fortgang say they were caught in the “New York hustle,” drinking three espressos and an energy drink a day just to keep up.

“We found ourselves in a vicious cycle of ups and downs,” Graham says. “We felt like there was this fantasy about your morning cup — that simply wasn’t measuring up to the reality.”

Their search for a better source of energy led them to matcha — the powdered form of green tea leaves — which not only helped them stay ahead, but inspired the opening of matcha-drink cafe MatchaBar in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn in 2014, with matcha sourced directly from a family farm in Japan.

Related: This Beverage Entrepreneur Got His Start by Simply Asking a Big Company to Let Him Sell Their Products

The business has grown rapidly since. The brand now has two locations in New York City and another in Los Angeles and products — flavored matcha drinks in bottles and cans — in more than 1,000 stores across the country. MatchaBar has sold more than a million bottles and says it’s the seventh-best-selling tea at Whole Foods. The company anticipates growth of more than 300 percent from 2017 to 2018.

The brothers recently announced they closed an $8 million Series A funding round led by DJ and producer Diplo and NFL MVP Von Miller. (Drake took part in an earlier funding round.) MatchaBar recently launched a sparkling energy drink, Hustle, that the brothers expect to double their retail footprint.

Entrepreneur spoke with the brothers at one of their New York City locations in May. You can watch that interview here:

In a follow-up interview, Graham provided more insight on the company’s progress as well as shed light on what’s driving its success.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

How did you land your first big distribution deal, and what can entrepreneurs learn from it?

It was a very passionate pitch to the CEO of a local distributor in New York. At the time,…

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