Hansen Natural Corporation History

2380 Railroad Street, Suite 101
Corona, California 92880-5471

Telephone: (909) 739-6200
Fax: (909) 739-6210

Public Company
Incorporated: 1990
Employees: 50
Sales: $53.87 million (1998)
Stock Exchanges: NASDAQ
Ticker Symbol: HANS
NAIC: 312111 Soft Drink Manufacturing

Company Perspectives:

The mission of Hansen Beverage Company is to satisfy consumers' needs for superior quality and great tasting, healthy natural beverages. Our beverages will be positioned as an upscale brand and will be marketed at a premium to competitive mainstream products. In fulfilling this mission, Hansen's will be guided by the following values: Superior Quality. Quality is the cornerstone of the Company's activities, and will never be compromised. Consumers should always be able to trust the superior quality and taste of our products, and have their families consume them with full confidence. Natural Beverages. Hansen's products will always be free of preservatives, artificial flavors and colors. They will also have minimal, if any, sodium and, in general, will be without added caffeine. Caffeine may be added to certain functional drinks, where caffeine may be useful, i.e. to help accelerate the metabolism by the body of certain nutrients. Our Customers. We are in business because of our customers. We are committed to establishing and maintaining a profitable partnership with our customers by providing high quality products, superior service, and effective promotional support for our brands. Continuous Quest for Excellence. We are determined to be the best, both as a company and as individuals. We will never be satisfied with our current performance--no matter how good it is--and will continually strive to seek improvement, unparalleled excellence in our products and new opportunities for business growth. Respect for the Individual. Our people are our most valued asset and are critical to our success; we will recognize and respect their rights, dignity, opinions and individuality. Our people will not tolerate mediocrity. Uncompromising Integrity. We set high ethical and moral standards. We will never engage in or support any act that is unethical, illegal or inappropriate. Continuous Growth. We continually strive for growth opportunities to expand our markets and our product range with new and, where possible, different beverages, without compromising the excellence of our existing operations. Key Dates:

Key Dates:

Hubert Hansen and sons begin selling juice in Los Angeles.
Founder's grandson Tim Hansen establishes fast-growing Hansen Foods, Inc.
Hansen Foods succumbs to debt load in Chapter 11.
Rodney Sacks and others acquire company, list Hansen Natural Corporation on NASDAQ.
After two years of losses, company again posts a profit.
"Functionals" line energizes Hansen's sales and share price.
Company relocates to Corona, California, from Anaheim.

Company History:

A descendant of a venerable California juice maker, Hansen Natural Corporation went from bankruptcy case to NASDAQ darling by focusing on innovation in the beverage marketplace. A new line of smoothies helped get the company regain profitability after some losses in the mid-1990s. Since then, Hansen Natural has pioneered the functional beverage category, the fastest growing segment of the industry, in the United States. All of Hansen Natural Corporation's operations were carried out through its sole subsidiary, Hansen Beverage Company.

A Sunny Beginning

"Hansen's Fruit and Vegetable Juices" first appeared in southern California in 1935. Assisted by his three sons, Hubert Hansen started the business in Los Angeles selling fresh, unpasteurized fruit juices. Hollywood film studios provided his first clients. That company became Hansen's Juices, later known as The Fresh Juice Company of California, Inc. The plant it opened in Los Angeles in 1946 was used until operations were moved to a new plant in Azusa, California in 1993.

This company's fresh juice line included orange, carrot, apple, strawberry, and banana juices, as well as blends. By this time, Hansen's Juices was firmly established in the West and was shipped to the East Coast and Hawaii as well. Some of its 35,000 gallons of juice produced per week was marketed by an Illinois company, and some was shipped overseas, reported the Los Angeles Times.

One of Hubert Hansen's grandsons, Tim Hansen, formed his own, separate fruit juice business in 1977: Hansen Foods, Inc. He obtained a license to use the family name as a trademark. The new company, also based in Los Angeles, specialized in pasteurized, shelf-stable juices, particularly apple. It was known for innovation in combining flavors as well as in marketing. Hansen Foods branched out into Hansen's Natural Sodas in 1978. These featured all natural ingredients.

Hansen's sales reached an estimated $50 million in the mid-1980s. Sales failed, however, to climb sufficiently to repay financing for a new factory, and the company filed for bankruptcy in 1988. California CoPackers Corporation (d/b/a/ Hansen Beverage Company), based in Hawaii, subsequently acquired the Hansen's brand name in January 1990.

Annual sales reached $13.7 million that year and rose to $17.1 million the next. Hansen, always known for using cans, introduced its first glass bottle in the summer of 1991. At this time, Harold C. Taber, Jr. was serving as president and CEO of the company, then based in Brea, California.

Hansen Natural Corporation Created in 1992

An investment group including Rodney Sacks, who would become CEO, bought the money-losing company on July 27, 1992. The investors felt that the brand's longevity and name recognition would be worth banking on and that its niche was just opening up in the market. Aside from Sacks, a corporate lawyer from South Africa, other new management talent included Taber, a 27-year Coca-Cola veteran. Investors included British industrialist Hilton H. Schlosberg, who became vice-chairman and president, and friends and family members. Hansen Natural Corporation went public at the same time, listing on NASDAQ. The company soon seemed to evidence a turnaround. Revenues reached $21.3 million in 1992.

Hansen employed about a dozen people at the time. Since Tropicana had acquired the Hansen factory in the bankruptcy, the company now outsourced most of its operations, even turning to flavor consultants for new formulations. Independent companies blended the drinks and shipped it to independent bottlers.

Pint-sized, bottled iced teas, lemonades, and juice drinks came out in the early 1990s. These competed in the "New Age" drink category, which also included alternatives to traditional cola drinks such as flavored water and iced tea. What defined the category was the public perception of these drinks as relatively healthy. Hansen's heritage was perceived as particularly healthy. Its labeling began to proclaim, for example, "California's original clear natural soda."

Industry leaders such as Coca-Cola and Pepsi fought for a share of this segment, the fastest growing part of the $50 billion a year soft drink market. Coca-Cola introduced Nordic Mist, and Pepsi offered Crystal Pepsi as an alternative. Snapple's drinks quickly came to dominate this $1 billion category. It sold $232 million worth of iced tea in 1992. Its advertising and marketing budget that year--$30 million--exceeded Hansen's total revenues, noted the Los Angeles Times. Some analysts, however, believed that Hansen's long-term interests were best served by a focus on keeping costs down. They felt that the company was less likely to "crash and burn" in the event of a price war. Hansen embarked on a major expansion into the Midwest in 1993, introducing a multiserve, 23-ounce glass bottle to its packaging mix.

New Age drinks were faddish and in July 1994 Hansen introduced a line specially branded to appeal to young consumers. Equator drinks initially debuted in Southern California. They came in 16-ounce cans (a 24-ounce version also was tried) wrapped in environmentally conscious imagery and copy. By not packaging the drinks in glass bottles, they could be sold in more locations, such as gyms and swimming pools where risk of breakage might be considered a hazard. To capture the loyalty of younger consumers, the traditional Hansen's brand, which was identified with older drinkers, was not featured on the packaging. The first flavors were Blue Raspberry Creation Iced Tea, Cosmic Mango Iced Tea, Black Cherry Eclipse Lemonade, Heavenly Strawberry Banana Juice Cocktail, and Guava Berry Earthshine Juice Cocktail. A portion of the proceeds from each can sold went to Earth Day USA.

A "Smoothie" Return to Profitability in 1996

Hansen Natural lost nearly $3 million in 1994 and 1995 ($1.4 million in the latter). The debut of its Smoothie drinks late in 1995 carried high hopes. They proved to be a lifesaver. In their first nine months on the shelves, the Smoothie line brought in one-third of the company's revenues; one in every five cases sold contained Smoothies. Hansen Natural was able to report income of $357,000 in 1996.

Smoothies were available in 11.5-ounce cans and 11.5-ounce glass bottles. Though inspired by the smoothies found in fresh juice bars, Hansen's were not formulated as thick so that they could be bottled. Some smoothies had herbal additives ginseng and taurine, a meat-derived amino acid featured in many Asian "energy" drinks. Radically redesigned packaging helped Hansen's products stand out on store shelves. Smoothies were sold in distinctive fluted bottles.

The smoothies were more than a new product. They signaled a new innovative spirit at the company, Sacks told the Business Press/California. Previous national product launches had failed since they were too similar to what Snapple already had in stores--that is, iced tea, lemonade, and juice cocktails.

Another shot in the arm, Hansen's "functionals" came out in early 1997. This category was defined as drinks bought primarily for health benefits. They typically included extra vitamins. This trend had already been established in Europe, where they first caught the attention of Sacks. Similar, often syrupy concoctions had been popular in Asia for more than 30 years and constituted a $3 billion market there.

Hansen's energy drinks were lightly carbonated. They were packaged in skinny 8.2-ounce cans, offering a more manageable serving for an energy drink. Each can retailed for about $2, whereas sodas cost 60 cents. They offered "an immediate boost whenever you need it the most." Part of the pitch was naming the drinks not for their flavoring, but for the benefits they touted. An anti-oxidant ("anti-ox") variety fought aging. Yet another pitched "stamina." Finally, "D-Stress" was intended to enable the drinker to relax.

Some wondered whether the U.S. Food and Drug Administration would eventually regulate this category more strictly, but since the drinks were marketed as food, not as drugs promising any specific medicinal benefits, they fell out of that agency's purview. Hansen labeled the amounts of different herbs and additives in its drinks to enhance its credibility and to advise people with allergies. Although the company always had avoided adding caffeine to its drinks, and even formulated its iced tea to be decaffeinated, it was added to some of the functional drinks for the purposes of stimulating metabolism.

Bullfighting in 1997 and Beyond

Hansen had ventured into Great Britain in 1994, but found the market unwelcoming. It also failed to differentiate its products sufficiently. Its subsidiary there, Hansen Beverage Company (UK) Limited, stopped operating at the end of 1997. Back home, Hansen faced some competition on its own turf from Red Bull, an Austrian company that virtually owned the $500 million European market for functional drinks. Speaking to a local newspaper, Sacks characterized Red Bull as a one-product company.

Another advantage credited to Hansen was that its drinks tasted comparatively good. The company also had an established distribution network. Hansen pitched its functional drinks heavily, giving out free samples and setting up literature centers in grocery stores. Convenience stores and liquor stores were among the first to sell the new beverage, but they were soon joined by a variety of retailers. The "new" Hansen received much praise from analysts for finding its own niche on the "cutting edge" rather than competing directly with the larger players.

In 1997, three-quarters of the company's sales came from California. The success of the functionals line helped Hansen sell more of its other products out of state. Earnings were $1.3 million on revenues of $43 million. The next year, functional drinks accounted for a quarter of Hansen's sales of $54 million, and the company's earnings doubled. Within a year of the introduction of the functionals line, the company's share price nearly quadrupled, to $6. The nutrient-enhanced beverage category of New Age drinks increased more than fourfold in 1998.

Hansen Natural relocated from Anaheim to Corona, California in January 1998. Its headquarters and warehouse shared a 65,000-square-foot building. It was developing the DynaJuice blended fruit drink, which contained 15 vitamins and minerals. This was first in a line of "Healthy Start" products for supermarket chains.

In April 1999, Brio Industries Inc. of British Columbia agreed to market Hansen's products throughout Canada. More than 18,000 venues were to be offered opportunities to sell the drinks. Because of the vastness of territory and its lack of name recognition up north, Hansen planned to introduce its products gradually there. The company had worked previously with a small Toronto-based distributor. As Canadian law forbade adding any type of vitamins to drinks, some reformulations were in order.

Revenues were expected to reach $64 million in 1999. Hansen had signed distribution agreements with Dr. Pepper and 7-Up and secured a national product introduction through 7-Eleven convenience stores. The company was planning to bring out a nutritional boxed drink for children as well as a "super smoothie." Also forthcoming were Signature Soda gourmet carbonated drinks made with cane sugar and clover honey. Sacks sought to differentiate the brand on nutrition, not taste. "What we're trying to do is sell people something that's honest--something that will do something for their bodies," he told one California business journal.

Principal Subsidiaries: Hansen Beverage Company.

Principal Competitors: Red Bull North America; Triarc Group; The Coca-Cola Company; PepsiCo, Inc.

Further Reading:

  • Ascenzi, Joseph, "Hansen Inks Deal To Pop into Canada," Business Press/California, April 26, 1999, p. 1.
  • ------, "Hansen Natural Squeezes Profits from Fruit-Based Health Drinks," Business Press/California, June 22, 1998, p. 17.
  • Berkman, Leslie, "Pick-Me-Up for the Bottom Line: Beverages That Claim To Energize (or Tranquilize) the Drinker Have Boosted Sales and Profits at Hansen Natural of Corona," Press-Enterprise, September 6, 1998, p. H1.
  • "Corona, California Beverage Maker Aims To Take `Energy' Drinks Nationwide," Press-Enterprise, September 6, 1998.
  • "Drinking to Your Health--Literally," Convenience Store News, July 12, 1999.
  • "Hansen Hoping for a Smoothie Ride," Orange County Register, May 5, 1996.
  • Jabbonsky, Larry, "What the Heck Is a New Age Beverage?," Beverage World, September 1991, p. 42.
  • Johnson, Greg, "Juice or Soda, Company's Assets Increasingly Liquid," Los Angeles Times, Bus. Sec., June 1, 1993, p. D8.
  • ------, "Liquid Assets: Hansen Natural Corp. in Anaheim Seeks To Expand Its Market," Los Angeles Times, Bus. Sec., May 28, 1993, p. D1.
  • Khermouch, Gerry, and Theresa Howard, "Herbal Elixirs Creating a Buzz, But May Also Awaken Feds, Execs Worry," Brandweek, November 2, 1998, pp. 8-9.
  • Sfiligoj, Eric, "Hansen's Branches Out Beyond California by Mixing Its Packages To Match All Tastes," Beverage World, September 30, 1993, p. 18.
  • ------, "It's Bad to Be a Fad, Figures Taber, So Hansen's Is No Age, Not New Age," Beverage World, December 31, 1994, p. 1.
  • ------, "Rail-ly Quick Change," Beverage World, October 1993, p. 80.
  • Trager, Cara, "Stirring Up Soft Drinks," Beverage World, September 1991, p. 48.

Source: International Directory of Company Histories, Vol. 31. St. James Press, 2000.