Jun 21, 2022
It’s rare for an entrepreneurial food or beverage brand to generate a billion dollars in annual revenue. Yet that hasn’t kept ambitious founders from envisioning a 10-figure future for their companies. Yanni Hufnagel, the founder and CEO of Lemon Perfect, is one of those aspiring leaders, and based on the trajectory for his brand this far, he has a realistic shot.
Launched in 2018, Lemon Perfect markets a line of low-calorie, lemon-flavored water. Positioned as hydration beverages, the USDA certified organic drinks come in seven varieties each sweetened with a blend of erythritol and stevia and containing five calories per 12 oz. bottle.
Available nationwide at Publix, Kroger, Whole Foods and Ralph’s, Lemon Perfect anticipates over $60 million in sales and a retail footprint of over 40,000 doors by the end of 2022 as it expands into Costco, CVS, Walmart and Target. Earlier this year, the company closed on a $31 million Series A funding round that included a high-profile roster of celebrity investors headlined by music icon Beyoncé Knowles-Carter. The recent financing brought Lemon Perfect’s total funding to $42.2 million and a valuation of over $100 million.
In an interview featured in this episode, Hufnagel spoke about his overarching vision for Lemon Perfect, the parallels between coaching college basketball and running a beverage company, why nailing “the big decisions” has been critical to the brand’s development and how his perspective on gross margin has evolved. He also explained why Lemon Perfect has invested heavily in field sales, how he cultivated a culture of hustle and commitment and why he says that he’s never sold the brand to an investor.
0:42: Interview: Yanni Hufnagel, Founder & CEO, Lemon Perfect – Before diving into Lemon Perfect’s backstory, Hufnagel and Taste Radio editor Ray Latif chatted about the entrepreneur’s Instagram handle, his brief flirtation with investment banking and the origin of the brand’s name. Hufnagel also discussed the simplicity of Lemon Perfect’s ingredients, how he got up to speed in the beverage industry (hint: a certain podcast was key), his counterintuitive advice about gross margin for early-stage brands, why moving to a shelf-stable formulation was instrumental in the brand’s growth and why not hiring a CEO was one of the best decisions he’s made. Later, he explained why Lemon Perfect’s unit economics make it highly attractive to investors, his praise (and acronyms) for hard work and why “being great fiduciary of a capital” is a point of pride.