Food Entrepreneur SAN FRANSISCO — Nicole Dawes has made her way into the beverage aisle with her sparkling water brand Nixie.

Formerly the chief executive officer and founder of Late July Organic Snacks, Ms. Dawes is now CEO of Nixie.

Outdated, overly sugary drinks, and plastic-filled shelves prompted her to create a healthier drink with less packaging.

“For some reason when you walk into the beverage aisle it’s like we’re still stuck in the past,” she said. “It struck me that despite how far we’ve come, this aisle is still lagging behind the rest of the supermarket. We need to make products more sustainable and create a system that supports healthier people and a healthier planet.”

Making the switch and creating a new product was a risk Ms. Dawes was willing to take because of the strong team she already had in place from Late July.

“Going into my second business I had a huge advantage because I already had a team of leadership built in place and we all knew and trusted each other,” she said.

The beverage aisle features numerous brands of sparkling water, but Ms. Dawes believes her brand stands out amongst the rest because of its flavor.  

Nicole DawesNicole Dawes, chief executive officer of Nixie. Photo: Nixie

“We’re a flavor first company,” she said. “We’re seeing that in the results, too. We have places where one of our products would be the store’s No. 1 SKU, so we know it’s working, and people are responding to the way our products taste.”

Growing up, Ms. Dawes was raised in the food and beverage industry and was often found in her mother’s natural food store. By spending time in her mother’s store, she noticed consumers often times felt items in health food stores tasted bland and had boring packaging, thus creating a bad relationship with healthy food.

“People think natural foods have to be bland from the packaging and that you’re sacrificing taste to make a healthier lifestyle,” she said. “That’s something I’ve worked on my entire career to help change. We never want people to feel like they’re sacrificing. We want people to love a product and I think that’s why people are responding to our flavors because they love the way our products taste and they’re a healthier choice than other carbonated beverages.”

In 2003, she launched Late July Snacks, LLC. Snyder’s-Lance, Inc. acquired a stake in the business in 2014 and now the brand is a part of the Campbell Soup Co. following its acquisition of Snyder’s-Lance in 2018.

As a food entrepreneur, Ms. Dawes has faced not one but two economic challenges. First the 2008 and 2009 recession and now the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. She said experiencing these uncertain times has made her learn how to run a tight operation.

“A lot of new entrepreneurs don’t realize how important it is to get your business to profitability as quickly as possible,” she said. “If there’s ever a time to learn how to run a tight ship, it’s now. I think those lessons make you have a much stronger business, being forced to reconcile some of the choices you’re making and to tighten up your business without affecting important variables. Coming out of a recession will make you 10 times stronger had you not gone through that experience.”

Being part of an aisle that’s looking to make a difference in consumers’ everyday choices is something Ms. Dawes is proud of.

“It’s probably one of the most exciting things that’s happening in the grocery store right now is the transformation of the beverage aisle,” she said. “There’s a lot of brands that are going with healthier choices and helping get plastic out of that aisle. It’s very exciting to be a part of that and it’s exciting to be a part of the store that is really actively making a difference.” 

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