Funding / Startups

Baltimore-based Zest Tea raises $1M, eyes expansion in East Coast stores

The startup is looking to grow the canned offering of its caffeinated tea product.

Zest Tea cofounder James Fayal. (Courtesy photo)

Baltimore-based Zest Tea raised $1 million in new funding as it seeks to expand its caffeinated, flavored tea product into retail and convenience stores.
The funding round was co-led by the Lord Baltimore Capital Group and the Maryland Momentum Fund, which is the venture fund run by the University System of Maryland.Each of the leaders contributed $300,000, and the company also received backing from angel investors.
Based out of the Wicomico building near Pigtown, the company’s tea products have as much caffeine as a cup of coffee,  cofounder James Fayal has said.
The company debuted a canned tea product late last year, and is looking to expand in retail and convenience stores in the Mid-Atlantic and New York area.
“One of the biggest hurdles for new beverage companies is building a strong ground game to demo and merchandise the product on shelves in order to increase sell through,” Fayal, who is a Venture for America alum, said in a statement. The investment round, he said, “gives us the ammunition we need to compete against the well-capitalized incumbents in the tea and energy drink markets.”
ZestTea becomes the fourth company to receive investment from The Maryland Momentum Fund. USM seeks to provide funding to promising companies founded by students, faculty and graduates, and Fayal is an alum of the University of Maryland College Park. The fund also seeks a match from a separate investor
“Zest Tea’s new canned, ready-to-drink flavored teas are expanding into major distribution channels and were identified by 7-Eleven, one of the largest beverage retailers in the U.S., as an emerging brand to watch. The product is beautifully branded, and the founder, James Fayal, is one of the most impressive startup CEOs that we have encountered,” David Wise, director of the Maryland Momentum Fund, said in a statement.
Baltimore companies including MF Fire and Next Step Robotics have also received investment from the fund.


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