Sonoma Cider Closes After Losing Investor Funding

David (left) and Robert Cordtz

After raising more than $6 million from investors over the last five years, Sonoma Cider has ceased operations at its production facility and taproom in Northern California, the Santa Rosa Press Democrat reported.

In a statement issued to the Press Democrat, Sonoma Cider co-founder and CEO David Cordtz said the Healdsburg-based maker of hard cider products “suddenly and without warning” lost its investor funding and closed as of March 28.

“To say that we are in shock is the understatement of the century,” he said.

As of press time, Cordtz, who co-founded the company with his son Robert in 2013, had not responded to messages from Brewbound.

According to Crunchbase, Sonoma Cider’s parent company, Sonoma Beverage Works, had raised about $6.2 million over the course of several funding rounds.

Sonoma had raised more than $3 million as part of an August 2015 raise via CircleUp, which helps connect early-stage consumer brands with accredited investors. As Brewbound’s sister site BevNET reported in July 2015, CircleUp launched the “Consumer Growth Fund” with $22 million in order to match contributions from other investors in select companies, including Sonoma Cider.

Prior to that raise, Sonoma Beverage Works secured $1 million from Sand Hill Angels as part of a Series A funding round in 2014. In 2013, the company also raised about $2.2 million from the R-Group and Bob Greenberg, who, according to LinkedIn, is a 5-year member of Sonoma Beverage Works board of directors and the former CMO of Panasonic. Boston-based Crimson Seed Capital and Southern California’s Tech Coast Angels also list Sonoma Cider as investments on their respective websites.

Despite those capital infusions, Sonoma Cider was forced to shutter its 5,500 sq. ft. taproom, restaurant and production facility in Healdsburg after just 17 months.

Under the Sonoma Beverage Works banner, the company also operated as a contract operation, offering services such as production and packaging of non-alcoholic beverages, wine and sparkling alcoholic beverages.

Last year, dollar sales of cider products totaled more than $392 million — down 3.1 percent, according to Chicago-based market research firm IRI Worldwide, which tracks category-wide sales trends at off-premise retailers. Meanwhile, volume sales declined 6.1 percent for the year in the firm’s multi-outlet and convenience (MULC) universe of stores (grocery, drug, club, dollar, mass-merchandiser and military).

However, those trends improved through the first eight weeks of 2018. Dollar sales of cider products are up 8.1 percent through February 25, according to IRI.

In a previous interview with The Press Democrat, Cordtz said Sonoma Cider produced 100,000 cases in 2016. He added that the company, which was founded in 2013 and employed 30 workers, was on pace to grow by 15 to 20 percent annually.

In November 2016, Sonoma cider announced a partnership with U.S. Beverage to manage its sales and wholesaler relationships in about 30 states.

And last November, the company launched the Ahoy Wines brand in 4-packs of aluminum cans.

Sonoma Cider participated in Brewbound’s Startup Brewery Challenge in 2013. At that time, David Cordtz said the company’s goal was to “build a national brand but positioned at the premium end.”

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