Joe Serventi is the new global CEO at Hippeas.
Chickpea puff brand Hippeas has given its clearest indication yet that it is lining itself up for a potential future selloff.
The snacking upstart, which launched in July 2016 with Starbucks, has delivered immense performance in a very short space of time: currently, the brand is available in nearly 100,000 retail locations and is witnessing triple-digit growth compared to the same period last year.
Its latest move – the promotion of Joe Serventi to global CEO – is a clear and powerful statement of intent. Serventi, who has 20 years’ experience at some of the food industry’s most promising – and ultimately lucrative – small brands, has led each of his most recent employers into a high-profile sale.
He was one of the first recruits at Glacéau Vitaminwater, which was turning over $350 million a year by the time that Coca-Cola announced plans to acquire it in 2007. Today, it is one of Coke’s 21 billion-dollar brands and delivered volume growth of 6% in its home market, North America, last year.
Serventi then joined Pirate Brands, the natural snack food company that owned brands including Pirate’s Booty, the puffed rice and corn snack. As vice-president of corporate development, Serventi oversaw the revitalisation of a stagnant snack brand and eventually helped it to quadruple sales, before B&G Foods announced that it would acquire the company in June 2013.
His most recent role – essentially in the same position at chocolate brand BarkTHINS – culminated in a high-profile selloff to US chocolate giant Hershey in April 2016. At the time, Hershey CEO Michele Buck called BarkTHINS “a great addition” to the company’s portfolio, praising its use of simple ingredients and fair-trade cocoa.
Serventi had left each of the three companies mentioned within 12 months of agreeing a sale. He joined his current employers as general manager last year.
Clearly, Hippeas’ health credentials and bold brand identity would make it a good fit for a company like PepsiCo, which has spent much of the past few years completely reinventing its product mix. In 2006, Pepsi’s ‘fun-for-you’ portfolio – that is to say its non-health focused brands – was about 70% larger than its good-for-you and better-for-you portfolios. By the end of 2017, they were nearly equal in size.
As part of the shake up, Hippeas founder Livio Bisterzo will remain as the company’s president. It said that Bisterzo – who is confident of turning Hippeas into a $100 million brand in the next three years – would continue to be active across brand marketing, innovation and the company’s charitable work.
Bisterzo himself is no stranger to building a company: a self-styled serial entrepreneur, he has a track record of starting successful businesses within the hospitality, lifestyle, food and beverage spaces – including Kyoku men’s grooming and super juice Little Miracles.
So perhaps his trust in Joe Serventi, who is clearly a strong addition to Hippeas, should be seen as an indicator of where he wants to take the business.
Bisterzo said: “When Joe joined Hippeas last year, we knew he would play a key role in driving the brand forward, rapidly increasing distribution and building out an industry leading team. His strategic leadership and brand building expertise has helped the US business achieve incredible success over the past 18 months. Joe has proven he can lead the Hippeas brand and his promotion to global CEO is a natural progression. I am very excited to see him help Hippeas and the entire team reach its full potential in the snack food category.”
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2022
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