Bob Nakasone Joins First Beverage Ventures

Martín Caballero

First Beverage Group has found a second generation for its equity arm.

Following the departures of Nantucket Nectars co-founder Tom First and former Glaceau executive Jason Camillos last year, the firm’s fund, First Beverage Ventures, has brought on a pair of investment professionals and a seasoned industry operator to manage its investment portfolio.

The latest hire was announced on Thursday, when First Beverage Group founder Bill Anderson revealed that Bob Nakasone would be joining as a managing director. Nakasone’s experience in beverage sales and operations is expected to complement the firm’s other recent hires, who come with more traditional investment backgrounds. In late November, the firm announced the appointments of Kristen Bareuther as managing director and Kyle Wheeler as managing partner and head of investment activities.

Nakasone, meanwhile, arrives after a stint as vice president of sales at probiotic beverage brand KeVita, helping the company achieve over $100 million in retail sales prior to its acquisition by PepsiCo in November.

Los Angeles-based First Beverage Group makes strategic investments and partnerships with emerging beverage brands. Its portfolio companies include Health-Ade, Project Juice, Essentia, Q Drinks and Juicero.

In an interview with BevNET, Nakasone said that the impetus for the move came after he was introduced to Anderson.

“We just had a great conversation and we hit it off as two passionate beverage guys talking about the industry,” Nakasone said. “At the time it was more of just a conversation, then as KeVita started to head towards a successful exit and that seemed imminent, Bill and I reconnected and the timing worked out great.”

Prior to joining KeVita in 2015, Nakasone spent 17 years at Pepsi, including a tenure as Senior Director of Business Development at the Naked Emerging Brands (NEB) division, during which he worked with brands like Izze, ONE Coconut Water and Naked Juice.

“Bob embodies a real passion for our industry and a thoughtful commitment to the growth of emerging brands, together with a deep and professional set of operational skills,” said Anderson in a press release. “I know that he will create real value across many areas for our portfolio companies and bring them a high level of industry intelligence and experience from his nearly 20 years in the industry. Bob is an excellent addition to our team and our dynamic, entrepreneurial culture at First Beverage.”

Speaking about how his past work will translate into his new role, Nakasone mentioned being able to help companies make decisions on questions of investment prioritization, talent hires and supply chain optimization, among others.

“The capital piece is obviously critical to it, but it’s about helping them manage growth which, in a great way, is being measured and talked about in multiples, as opposed to percentage growth,” he said. “Whether it is at the board level, CEO level or functional leadership level, I think I’ll be working in all three of those.”