NEW ORLEANS – Big Easy Founder and CEO Austin Sherman announced that the New Orleans-based probiotic drinks manufacturer and bottler is expanding its production facility following its acquisition by leading Latin-America beverage producer Beliv. With the expansion, the company will retain 47 employees, and will create 50 new direct jobs. Louisiana Economic Development estimates the project will result in 119 indirect jobs, for a total of more than 160 jobs in Louisiana’s Southeast region.
The acquisition of Big Easy by Beliv, whose portfolio includes 28 beverage brands in 30 countries, will accelerate Big Easy’s growth and allow for an increase in production capabilities. Big Easy products can be found in Whole Foods Markets, The Fresh Market stores, Rouses Markets, Sprouts Farmers Markets and Publix.
“Louisiana has long been known for its contributions to the food and beverage world, and I’m excited to announce that this unique, New Orleans-made beverage line is expanding its operations,” said Gov. John Bel Edwards. “With this expansion, Big Easy will be able to connect their product to a wider audience. I am particularly proud to say that the company is committed to hiring from underemployed populations, sharing its economic success with the community.”
Big Easy Bucha was established by Sherman and fellow New Orleans entrepreneur Alexis Korman in 2014. The company plans to fill many of the 50 new jobs with participants of local job readiness programs, which connects chronically unemployed communities with job opportunities that offer meaningful work and living wages.
“With $700 and a dream, Alexis and I grew Big Easy from scratch — quite literally out of our studio apartment near Bourbon Street — expanding from just one product to over 20 healthy beverages that are sold nationwide,” said Sherman. “The opportunity to take these artisanal products born in New Orleans to the global stage with Beliv, while accelerating growth and walking our mission, is truly a dream come true, and proof of what is possible with passion and perseverance,”
In addition to kombucha – a natural probiotic tea – the company also produces wellness-focused juice shots, and recently debuted tepache, a prebiotic pineapple soda that is sold in 3,000 retail locations nationwide. The company’s production facility is located in the Gert Town neighborhood of New Orleans.
“The City of New Orleans is proud of Big Easy Bucha and its success as a bellwether company in the beverage industry, and as a product that is manufactured right here in our community,” said New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell. “As a city with an unparalleled culinary culture, we are actively cultivating the growth of our amazing entrepreneurs and businesses in our food, consumer packaged goods, and beverage industry and welcome Bucha and Beliv as members of the New Orleans family as we work to establish our City as a premier food and beverage industry hub.”
To secure Big Easy Bucha’s expansion in New Orleans, the state of Louisiana provided the company with a competitive incentive package that includes the services of LED FastStart, the No. 1 ranked state workforce development program in the country. The company is expected to utilize the state’s Quality Jobs program.
“This transaction highlights the vibrancy of the New Orleans entrepreneurial ecosystem,” said Abhay Patel, board member for Big Easy and a managing director with Lafayette Square Capital. “It is an incredible achievement by Austin and Alexis, and it is a terrific victory for our city and state. These are the types of opportunities that can attract institutional capital to our region.”
“Big Easy Bucha has grown like a SCOBY in a fresh batch of kombucha,” said Michael Hecht, President & CEO of Greater New Orleans, Inc. “From a small startup at Edible Enterprises in St. Charles Parish, Austin and Alexis have grown Big Easy to the point where this acquisition will give them a bigger workforce, international distribution, and the latest New Orleans food product to be enjoyed around the world.”
“Big Easy Bucha has been woven into the fabric of our New Orleans culture and economic framework for several years,” said Norman E. Barnum, IV, Interim President and CEO, New Orleans Business Alliance, “NOLABA’s Talent Partnership Team has worked closely with Austin Sherman and Big Easy Bucha. They have been a model employer in their actions of giving numerous community members a chance to compete for job opportunities that have enabled them to start a fresh career and life here at home. We are proud to be a partner with them and will embrace Beliv, knowing that each new partnership that is formed is an economic win for the City of New Orleans.”