FRUITBELT LLC is a Sawyer, Michigan company in the heart of the Fruitbelt: a region in western Michigan whose unique geographic and climactic features make it ideal for fruit cultivation. We intend to develop, market and distribute a line of novel tart-sweet sparkling sodas made with fresh–pressed apple juice and other varietal fruits, sweetened with honey and spiked with an extract of native botanicals. We have completed our initial product development work and trial runs, sourced production and supply partners, and are preparing to complete our first production run in mid to late summer. Our first two flavors are Sour Cherry Zing (spiked with ginger juice) and Tart Apple Dream (with lime and a hint of caraway). Each flavor contains approximately 25% juice. Money raised here will help us complete our first production run.

Our soda is built on heirloom apples and other botanicals native to the Fruitbelt. To bring out the intricacies of each flavor, we have chosen to create an extract the old-fashioned way: distilling over 25 varieties of heirloom apples sourced locally, layered with a range of native orchard botanicals possessing aromatic, healthful and symbolic properties. Each ingredient has significance: propolis, a precious and fragrant element belonging to the hive, is a shout-out to the bees; aronia (chokeberry), a dark berry native to the Midwest, is enjoying a resurgence of popularity due to its hardiness and myriad health benefits; while chicory and dandelion (also native to our region) offer health benefits, lend complexity to the taste and aroma, and round out the flavor of the drink. While most soda companies use flavors, we will never use them in order to enhance the actual essence of the juices themselves. Fruitbelt sodas let the tartness shine through as nature intended.

We will develop a family of flavors combining tart native fruits such as currants, cranberries and blackberries, with apple. In response to an emerging concern over sugar consumption, we've built our drink to be in the mid-calorie range (aided by the use of an intensive sweetener -- monk fruit juice -- in addition to honey), and chosen a smaller format (10 oz) bottle with resealable cap.

Our product requires a specific manufacturing process so as to preserve authentic flavor, avoid fermentation and introduce carbonation. In Maine, we have found an apple orchard familiar with cutting edge pasteurization techniques which also possesses the necessary equipment and certification to press the apples and bottle the soda on site. The trial run in June produced approximately 1,000 bottles of soda which we can use to introduce the drink to potential investors and retail customers.

We'll begin by selling locally, both direct to the end customer and wholesale to local restaurants, breweries, wineries and specialty groceries, and expand regionally. Our aim is to grow demand, increase production and evolve into more sophisticated distribution channels. Initially, we will self-distribute to retail outlets. In addition to conventional advertising, we'll invent seasonal traditions that evoke an appreciation of the place, its seasons, history and shared cultural memory. We'll partner with chefs/bartenders to pair our drinks with slow food and drink, and tell our story through social media, radio, flashmob picnics, Fruitbelt Socials and other happenings.

We'd like our soda not only to be a delicious and innovative drink, but to inspire people to know and care about heirloom apples: to appreciate their unique historical character and range of flavor and their importance to biodiversity, sustainability and fruit cultivation, and commit to taking new actions for the sake of a viable future.

1424715509 photo
Michele Gazzolo, Co-founder and CEO

Financial Summary

Previous Fundraise Summary

Security Type Convertible Note
Investor Eligibility All Investors
Minimum Investment $500
Interest Rate 8.00%
Term 2 years

Q&A

What is your competitive advantage?

A lower calorie natural fruit soda that is flavored with a proprietary extract of native botanicals.  No preservatives, artificial flavorings or colorants.

Provide us with some background on your products and services.

A lower calorie natural fruit soda that is flavored with a proprietary extract of native botanicals and in a 10 oz bottle.  No preservatives, artificial flavorings or colorants.  We will be selling by the case and provide 4 pack holders for retailers.  Our suggested retail price for our premium product is $3.50.

What is your product development timeline?

Our co-packer will be completing a trial run on our first 2 flavors in September 2015.  We expect our first production run to occur in October 2015.  We plan to add additional flavors in 2016 and beyond.

Team

1424715509 photo

Michele Gazzolo

Co-founder and CEO

Michele Gazzolo is a natural merchant who grew up working at her family's pharmaceutical distribution company in Chicago, among boxes, jars, forklifts, shelves and telephones. A former retail store owner, she is skilled in marketing/PR and excels at anticipating trends, envisioning possibility, inventing and orchestrating games. Most recently she was instrumental in capital formation, team formation and strategy for a clean tech software startup now entering commercialization. When not slicing apples or dicing prose, she enjoys walking on moors and merrymaking with friends. BA, Williams; MA, U of Chicago and UIC.

1426265932 beth profile

Beth Denton

Co-founder, Soda Muse and Orchard Liaison

Beth Denton, food-grower and hands-on educator, delights in exploring obscure fruit varieties and conducting culinary and botanical experiments in kitchen and garden. In two years she has taught herself mixology, chemistry, how to use a carbonation stone to make tiny bubbles, and how to build poetic, aromatic

and delectable sodas out of regional ingredients. Beth's imagination, tenacity and indefatigable curiosity make work seem like the best kind of adventure. When not making soda, Beth enjoys learning about business and flying kites.

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William Noll

Co-founder and Chief of Operations

Will Noll has finance and supply chain experience across a variety of industries, including consumer packaged goods. He excels at setting up systems to orchestrate production, contain costs and coordinate action. BA, Michigan State, MBA Carnegie Mellon.

About Fruitbelt (Note)

Entity Type LLC
State Organized Michigan
Website

Headquarters

Company Updates

Fruitbelt is in the House

November 11, 2017

Fruitbelt: Q3 2017 Report

Summary

Fruitbelt has experienced steady growth since July, fueled by our expanding placement at Whole Foods Market — 12 locations across MI, IN and IL — adding a minimum of 2 doors each month. We have expanded distribution, augmented our sales force and seen continued sales with an average of 4 cases/month in each retail location. Our demo program is building brand awareness and adding considerable lift to the already increasing sales velocities.
The addition of 4-packs contribute to velocity and brand awareness.

Details

Sales
Brokers
Since July we have deepened our relationship with nationwide brokerage Elohi Strategic Advisors, whose introductions to distribution and retail partners have met with positive reception.
Within the Natural Channel, Elohi broker Chris Matthews has facilitated our entry into Whole Foods and kept a careful eye on Fruitbelt’s in-store presence, cultivating relationships with grocery managers & ensuring Fruitbelt stays on the shelves, while continuing to identify and pursue other retailers in the Natural Channel, including but not limited to Giant Eagle.
Distribution
Fortune Fish & Gourmet continues to be our main distributor in the Midwest, delivering to Whole Foods Market and other independent accounts.
Discussions are underway with Tradecraft, a nationwide distributor specializing in the coffee/café channel as well as other foodservice accounts and Cherry Capital, a Michigan-based distributor focussing on Michigan-made products.
Elohi has secured interest from Houston’s, a re-distributor based in the west and southwest who re-sells to 1,300 distributors, mostly in the foodservice channel. We look to roll out this partnership in January 2018 with orders ranging from several pallets to full truckloads.
Team Structure
We are interviewing Mark Delbridge — who brings a background in natural/organic sales across multiple channels — to join as Director of Sales and an equity partner in the business.
We recently orchestrated a sales drive focusing on a select independent retailers serviced by Fortune Fish & Gourmet in the Chicago area, which has resulted in 40% new orders in the first 2 weeks.
We have brought on Stefanie Garcia, a business strategy consultant with 15+ years’ experience in retail, sales and product procurement to assist in the creation of an overall strategic plan, which includes identifying new areas of growth opportunity.
Forecast
The numbers garnered at Whole Foods not only allow us to be considered for regional expansion (a total of 61 stores), but provide a strong indication of our potential viability in other retail settings, both independent and specialty chain.
We are solidifying our sales goals and strategy for 2018, aiming for a 7-10x increase in sales from 2017, and focusing on expansion throughout the Midwest and other regions we’ve identified as being receptive to our product. We plan to strengthen our brand presence by a multi-channel approach: integrating upscale health and specialty grocery, foodservice (cafes, hotels, distilleries) and institutional (office, university, hospital, airport etc) accounts, and positioning Fruitbelt as a healthy mixer.

Marketing
Our 4-packs arrived in August, allowing us to offer distributors the possibility of increasing sales velocity and building brand awareness. As a result we are seeing customers buy in multiples such as 3 or 4x4-packs at a time, particularly at demos, and retailers are using the 4-packs for display in the mixer section, on the dry soda shelf, and in produce.

Capital Strategy
Having financed this past years’ operations with convertible debt raised from a small group of angel investors, we are preparing for our first seed capital raise in Q1 of 2018, with a goal of $250,000 to finance sales, successive production runs and in-store marketing and promotion, and being evaluated for a possible revenue-share raise through LocalStake. We’ve been approached by Circle-Up — an online investment platform — as a potential capital partner, and several other venture funds focussing on food and sustainability.

Our sodas in their very own bottles

September 11, 2015

#prototype

Tastings and other Events

September 2, 2015

This weekend we will host three soda tastings: Friday Sept. 4 at Cafe Gulistan at 13581 Red Arrow Highway in
Harbert, MI from 5:30-8, Saturday Sept. 5 from 12-4 east of the old Sawyer Fire Station in Sawyer, MI, and cocktails
Sunday Sept. 6 from 5-7 at Catherine Doll Clothing, 5844 Sawyer Road in Sawyer, MI. If you are anywhere nearby,
we hope you'll join us!

Our drinks will be also be featured in a signature cocktail at the annual Chikaming Open Lands Annual Barn Benefit on
Saturday, Sept. 19, and in an upcoming edition of Edible Michiana.

Pictures from our recent test run in Maine!!!

June 12, 2015

We just returned from a trip to an orchard in Maine to make our first batch of soda!
For anyone near Sawyer, MI, once the cases land here we'd be delighted to meet
and share a taste...

Login to our Localstake page to see the rest of the pictures.

Discussion

No comments yet.Be the first to get the conversation going.

Company Updates

Fruitbelt is in the House

November 11, 2017

Fruitbelt: Q3 2017 Report

Summary

Fruitbelt has experienced steady growth since July, fueled by our expanding placement at Whole Foods Market — 12 locations across MI, IN and IL — adding a minimum of 2 doors each month. We have expanded distribution, augmented our sales force and seen continued sales with an average of 4 cases/month in each retail location. Our demo program is building brand awareness and adding considerable lift to the already increasing sales velocities.
The addition of 4-packs contribute to velocity and brand awareness.

Details

Sales
Brokers
Since July we have deepened our relationship with nationwide brokerage Elohi Strategic Advisors, whose introductions to distribution and retail partners have met with positive reception.
Within the Natural Channel, Elohi broker Chris Matthews has facilitated our entry into Whole Foods and kept a careful eye on Fruitbelt’s in-store presence, cultivating relationships with grocery managers & ensuring Fruitbelt stays on the shelves, while continuing to identify and pursue other retailers in the Natural Channel, including but not limited to Giant Eagle.
Distribution
Fortune Fish & Gourmet continues to be our main distributor in the Midwest, delivering to Whole Foods Market and other independent accounts.
Discussions are underway with Tradecraft, a nationwide distributor specializing in the coffee/café channel as well as other foodservice accounts and Cherry Capital, a Michigan-based distributor focussing on Michigan-made products.
Elohi has secured interest from Houston’s, a re-distributor based in the west and southwest who re-sells to 1,300 distributors, mostly in the foodservice channel. We look to roll out this partnership in January 2018 with orders ranging from several pallets to full truckloads.
Team Structure
We are interviewing Mark Delbridge — who brings a background in natural/organic sales across multiple channels — to join as Director of Sales and an equity partner in the business.
We recently orchestrated a sales drive focusing on a select independent retailers serviced by Fortune Fish & Gourmet in the Chicago area, which has resulted in 40% new orders in the first 2 weeks.
We have brought on Stefanie Garcia, a business strategy consultant with 15+ years’ experience in retail, sales and product procurement to assist in the creation of an overall strategic plan, which includes identifying new areas of growth opportunity.
Forecast
The numbers garnered at Whole Foods not only allow us to be considered for regional expansion (a total of 61 stores), but provide a strong indication of our potential viability in other retail settings, both independent and specialty chain.
We are solidifying our sales goals and strategy for 2018, aiming for a 7-10x increase in sales from 2017, and focusing on expansion throughout the Midwest and other regions we’ve identified as being receptive to our product. We plan to strengthen our brand presence by a multi-channel approach: integrating upscale health and specialty grocery, foodservice (cafes, hotels, distilleries) and institutional (office, university, hospital, airport etc) accounts, and positioning Fruitbelt as a healthy mixer.

Marketing
Our 4-packs arrived in August, allowing us to offer distributors the possibility of increasing sales velocity and building brand awareness. As a result we are seeing customers buy in multiples such as 3 or 4x4-packs at a time, particularly at demos, and retailers are using the 4-packs for display in the mixer section, on the dry soda shelf, and in produce.

Capital Strategy
Having financed this past years’ operations with convertible debt raised from a small group of angel investors, we are preparing for our first seed capital raise in Q1 of 2018, with a goal of $250,000 to finance sales, successive production runs and in-store marketing and promotion, and being evaluated for a possible revenue-share raise through LocalStake. We’ve been approached by Circle-Up — an online investment platform — as a potential capital partner, and several other venture funds focussing on food and sustainability.

Our sodas in their very own bottles

September 11, 2015

#prototype

Tastings and other Events

September 2, 2015

This weekend we will host three soda tastings: Friday Sept. 4 at Cafe Gulistan at 13581 Red Arrow Highway in
Harbert, MI from 5:30-8, Saturday Sept. 5 from 12-4 east of the old Sawyer Fire Station in Sawyer, MI, and cocktails
Sunday Sept. 6 from 5-7 at Catherine Doll Clothing, 5844 Sawyer Road in Sawyer, MI. If you are anywhere nearby,
we hope you'll join us!

Our drinks will be also be featured in a signature cocktail at the annual Chikaming Open Lands Annual Barn Benefit on
Saturday, Sept. 19, and in an upcoming edition of Edible Michiana.

Pictures from our recent test run in Maine!!!

June 12, 2015

We just returned from a trip to an orchard in Maine to make our first batch of soda!
For anyone near Sawyer, MI, once the cases land here we'd be delighted to meet
and share a taste...

Login to our Localstake page to see the rest of the pictures.

Discussion

No comments yet.Be the first to get the conversation going.
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