When Yanni Hufnagel, CEO and founder of Lemon Perfect, started his brand, he didn’t know that his hydrating lemon drink would go viral thanks to a social media post from pop star Beyoncé. Among the different flavors available for Lemon Perfect is the now-famous bottle of dragon fruit mango, located in her limo door in 2020. From there, the brand started to take off as a sensation.
But how did the pop star’s post build a relationship that would lead to Beyoncé Knowles-Carter investing in the brand? “She had posted a photo with it in her limo, and all of a sudden my phone blew up,” Yanni Hufnagel stated. “We came to learn that she was an authentic fan of the brand.” From this humble beginning, a strong relationship was born that would lead to investment as the Lemon Perfect brand continued to grow. A year after the famous photo, in 2021, one of the company’s investors visited the singer’s home and discovered the drink in her refrigerator.
From there, the process was easy according to Hufnagel. The investor helped build a bridge between Beyoncé and Lemon Perfect. The investor mentioned, “It is beyond my wildest dreams to have someone of her influence being a fan of the brand.” A recent announcement from the company confirmed that Beyoncé is a backer in the $31 million Series A alongside Trousdale Ventures, Beachwood Capital, Melitas Ventures, Goat Rodeo Capital, and NNS Capital.
Beyoncé is known for her discriminating and healthy taste. “I don’t typically enjoy drinks without added sugar, but Lemon Perfect is delicious,” said Knowles-Carter, continuing, “It was an easy decision to invest in something that not only tastes great and is healthy, but also, and most importantly, allows choosing a healthier lifestyle to be affordable and accessible to everyone.”
Lemon Perfect founder Yanni Hufnagel began the business in Atlanta in 2017 following his career as a University of Nevada, Reno college basketball coach. While coaching, he received a copy of a cookbook draft that focused on keto dieting and cruising. With a focus on reducing carbohydrates and sugar in the diet while increasing protein and fat, the cookbook included several recipes for lemon water, a sugar-free lemonade alternative that provided plenty of flavor without the excess sugar that many modern drinks are infamous for containing.
As a coach, Hufnagel saw many of his basketball players consuming Bai, a very low-sugar and low-carb drink that has also been popular with those on a keto diet. He began to wonder if lemon water could take the same approach in the market. With the diabetes epidemic running rampant, he felt that going after the enhanced water market in a new way could be a promising option, given that the drink sector is expected to see 9 percent annual growth for the next several years.
Following the growth seen after Beyoncé’s post went viral, Lemon Perfect now competes with Yanni Hufnagel’s original inspiration, Bai, as well as drinks such as hint and vitaminwater. The company also offers peach raspberry, blueberry acai, and lemon flavors. With zero sugar, artificial flavors, or sweeteners, the five-calorie drink supplements potassium and Vitamin C, providing a healthy alternative to sodas and teas that are traditionally sugar and corn syrup heavy.
“Nothing with our flavor and health profile is on the market today,” Hufnagel mentioned. “Our price point is at where a consumer anywhere and anytime can become a customer. It is very rare that you can have a total addressable market like we do.” With 25,000 distribution points including online and brick-and-mortar retailers, the brand is also poised for a Costco launch. With this growth forecast, Yanni Hufnagel expects business revenue to double in 2023 while also increasing its employee count from 38 to 70.
With today’s popular focus on health products that don’t compromise lifestyle and enjoyment, Hufnagel mentioned recently: “We want to be a disruptive player in a large category and want to put fuel on the fire. We felt like we were able to drive great execution, but still have room to grow and want to build a big margin story for tomorrow.” With influencers like Beyoncé, the future for Lemon Perfect is looking very promising indeed.