Dirty Lemon parent Iris Nova will fund and distribute third-party beverages

Iris Nova, the Coca-Cola-backed startup that creates Dirty Lemon beverages, is announcing plans to spend $100 million over the next three to five years to expand its offerings.

Founder and CEO Zak Normandin said the money will go towards launching new beverage brands developed internally at Iris Nova, as well as investing in beverages created by other companies, which will then distributed via the Iris Nova platform.

“This is the way for us to compete with the bigger beverage companies,” Normandin said.

He added that he’s open to working with both established companies and startups taking advantage of the shift away from “high calorie, high sugar beverages.” Either way, they’ll get access to the Iris Nova platform, which allows them to accept orders via text message, and to distribute their beverages next-day or same-day to every major U.S. market.

Normandin said that by linking the investment and the platform partnership, Iris Nova is forcing itself to be “highly selective” about which beverages will be part of the portfolio.

He also said the company won’t work with directly competing products — for example, he won’t partner with two different coconut water brands, but he would work with a coconut water brand and a sparkling water brand. In exchange, the brands have to commit to using Iris Nova as their only e-commerce platform, aside from Amazon.

Although Normandin brought up The Coca-Cola Company several times as a point of comparison (“I think that if Coke were to start today, it would do things exactly the way we are”), he also emphasized that he isn’t trying to turn Iris Nova itself into a consumer brand. There will be advantages for consumers who order across the Iris Nova portfolio — namely, they won’t have to reenter their payment and shipping information — but Normandin said, “I don’t think there will ever be an Iris Nova marketplace.”

The company said it will start adding new beverages to the platform on July 1. The goal, Normandin said, is to introduce 12 brands by the end of the year. He isn’t sure what the internal-external mix will be, but he said the company has already made two external investments, while also having a few beverage brands of its own ready to go, including the Tres Limón line of non-alcoholic apéritifs.

“What we think is that billion-dollar brands will not exist in the future,” he said. “I have no specific loyalty to Dirty Lemon as a brand. Our goal is to meet the needs of consumers right now. Eventually, if it goes away, that’s fine — we’ll create new selections for that same consumer group.”