Bend, Ore., – July 21, 2022 – Altitude Functional Beverages was started in the fall of 2020 in Bend, OR to make functional ingredients accessible and delicious. We sat down with Thomas Angel, founder, to learn more about how they started, their successes, and their future plans.
EDCO: Tell us more about Altitude Functional Beverages.
Thomas: It began when we noticed the majority of functional ingredients like hemp derived CBD, chaga, turmeric, l-theanine, and many other supplements were only available in powders and tinctures. So we set out to incorporate these ingredients into routine-based beverages and make them taste, well, not so healthy. We are a small, family-run business consisting of myself, my wife (Laura Melagarejo), my brother (Alex), my sister (Sarah), and my mom (Molly). We have an additional seven part-time employees that help with everything from market support, sales, and social media. Our products are currently available in about 500 stores in 13 states.
EDCO: Tell us about your product line. What is in the pipeline?
Thomas: We launched with our first product – The Everything Coffee Latte – in May of 2020 with the hope that it would resonate with customers. It did so much so that we expanded the line with a Matcha Green Tea and a Chai Black Tea latte in early 2022 to capture the demographic of customers that wanted all the CBD, mushrooms, and turmeric with something other than coffee. The addition of the matcha and chai completed our Sunrise Vibes line of superfood, oat milk lattes designed to give you everything you need to start your day right.
Most recently we added a new line of sparkling white tea nootropic mocktails to introduce our evening line of functional beverages – Sunset Vibes. In addition to the organic white tea, we pack each can with 20mg of hemp CBD, cordyceps, GABA, L-Theanine, and 5-HTP. The GABA and L-theanine are amino acids designed to help calm and relax while the 5-HTP helps to release serotonin to create a euphoric feeling without being intoxicated. The Sunset Vibes line provides consumers with a better non-alcoholic option when seeking a social beverage that not only gives you the look and taste of a cocktail but also the feeling one is seeking from alcohol without the negative side-effects (dehydration, impairment, etc.). The line consists of three naturally sweetened flavors – Paloma (Ruby Grapefruit and Basil), Blue Hawaiian (Pineapple and Curacao), and the Mountain Mule (Spicy Ginger and Lime).
EDCO: Who is your ideal client (size, location, etc.)? How do they find you?
Thomas: Our ideal client is anyone seeking a better beverage that not only provides benefits but also tastes great! Since we choose to have our beverages in a ready-to-drink can, we see a lot of consumers have active lifestyles and are looking for a beverage to take on the go. While we do our best to be at markets, concerts, races, and other events to promote our products, a lot of our customers find our products on the shelves of our incredible retail partners like Food4Less, Market of Choice, Newport Avenue Market, and many more!
EDCO: Why operate a business in Central Oregon?
Thomas: We moved to Bend to start Altitude in the fall of 2020. Beside the 300 days of sunshine and incredible outdoor activities, it is a great startup incubator – especially for food and beverage. The business community has been incredibly generous in giving us ample advice, time, and resources. From individuals like Paul Evers at Riff to Gary Bracelin with Bend Outdoor Worx to the entire team at EDCO (special shout out to Heidi Hausner, Erin Reilly, Don Myll, Jon Stark, and Deanne Buck), we have had ample support in navigating the multiple obstacles to start a beverage company. While Central Oregon doesn’t have the plethora of resources like Portland, Seattle, or San Francisco, we are convinced the quality of the resources in Central Oregon are exactly what Altitude needs to succeed.
EDCO: Do you have a time of challenge you’d like to share? If so, did you pivot? What was the outcome? What did you learn?
Thomas: There are too many challenges to count! That being said, our company was built off an initial pivot. We originally only wanted to produce cold brew coffee with hemp CBD in a can and nothing else. We did a quick production run for consumer testing in November 2020. The product tasted incredible, but we learned two major lessons:
1. Cold Chain products are incredibly expensive to distribute and scale.
2. Consumers were buying cold brew at their local coffee shop or making it at home.
When they were buying cold brew in a can it was almost always a latte with a little sweetness and/or flavor. As Colombians, we were so insistent on the “purity” of our coffee but at the same time we were drinking a daily mix of cold brew, oat milk, CBD, turmeric, functional mushrooms, and agave, which became our launch product. The major lesson here is to stay flexible and listen to what consumers are telling you. Every once in a while, consumers don’t know what they want. The other 99% of the time, they will tell exactly what they want. You just have to listen!
EDCO: What does your future look like? What is your year vision? What is your five-year vision?
Thomas: We see a future where hemp CBD is treated like any other supplement, just as we do. It is unclear when the FDA is going to provide safe consumption guidance on hemp CBD but it is likely in the next few years. We have seen significant progress at a state and local level since the fall of 2020 in terms of clear guidance on hemp CBD in food and beverage – most notably AB 45 in California. We welcome more regulation to ensure safe products are being made and consumed. Once this happens, the market forecast will grow nearly 5x from $3B in 2026 to $14B with FDA guidance. At the same time, we welcome the opportunity in the next 1-5 years to build Altitude as one of the first brands to pair hemp CBD with a full stack of functional ingredients that seamlessly integrate into your existing beverage routine.
EDCO: Any recent news stories you’d like to share with us?
Thomas: Our acceptance into the PIE Consumer accelerator class is a great story to share! We were connected to Mitch Daugherty, of Built Oregon, through Gary Bracelin, who we met while attending one of our first EDCO PubTalks in November 2021!!
EDCO: How do you support EDCO and why?
Thomas: We are very grateful for our partnership with EDCO. Our only regret is that we didn’t join sooner. Since EDCO provides us with so much support we try to return the favor by sharing the experiences we have had with any business owners and entrepreneurs we have the pleasure of meeting in Central Oregon and beyond!