(Josh Canada and Megan Riggs)
By Joel Rubin
Driving through a heavily industrial area of Chesapeake, you would never guess what happens daily inside a massive warehouse just off Bainbridge Boulevard.
On the spacious floor are four sophisticated processing “lines,” each filling thousands of 12 or lesser ounce cans, from teas and spirits to seltzers, coffees and more. Stacked to the ceiling along the walls are the cans from beverage companies nationwide who have found Nidra Co-Packing, the brainchild of Virginia Beach entrepreneur Josh Canada, maybe better known in our area as co-founder of Back Bay Brewing and Tarnished Truth Distilling (the bourbon and gin maker in the old Cavalier Hotel).
Nidra is a “state of consciousness between waking and sleeping,” typically induced by guided meditation. And it’s a regular ritual for Josh and his 32-year-old girlfriend (and also Virginia Beach native) Megan Riggs, whose history may be even more intriguing. A Norfolk Christian High and UVA grad, Megan was not a happy camper a decade ago. From her website: “While working in LA for an online learning and translation company, she felt something was missing amidst her professional success as she faced daily anxiety and bouts of depression. After trying (and failing!) with the Western approach to medicine, Megan decided to head to Southeast Asia for healing.”
Living “minimally” in huts in Thailand, Megan found “peace and clarity,” and in 2017, she called her sister and said, “I’m coming home” to start a “cold-pressed juice business” featuring bits of pulp, dubbing the drink, Crunchy Carrot. Two years later, she had perfected her zero calorie, herbal water line, which today comes in seven varieties under the name Crunchy Hydration that Josh cans at Nidra, and Megan is selling in Kroger, Whole Foods, Wegman’s and more outlets, the brand’s reputation spreading mostly through word of mouth. (By the way, this is truly a woman owned and run enterprise. Kim Beachum is Megan’s co-founder. Newport News resident Heather Herring, who lived on a 36-foot sailboat for three years and owns Barefoot Gourmet catering, is COO. Leigh Mitchell is the marketing specialist.)
“Our drinks promote physical and mental health,” says Megan. “They relax you, improve gut health and overall uplift the soul and fuel the brain.” She credits 757 Accelerates that “connects promising startup founders with vetted mentors, investors, resources, and a lean startup education” with her success. “They really kick your butt. I love them.” But customers must like her formula. “We have five basic ingredients including goji berry, green tea, Himalayan salt and I-theanine, which promotes stress relief and cognition.”
Like the other beverage developers who call on Nidra, Megan gives Josh’s team the recipe, and they fill it, sourcing the elements, then blending and pasteurizing them with filtered Chesapeake water. “We have flavor experts in house to improve your concept, extensive supplier relationships and of course, we handle distribution,” says Canada. It’s soup to nuts, or in Megan’s case, “Functional Sparkling Water to Mouths.” Five or six times a day, semis pull up to Nidra’s loading docks to convey pallets and pallets of product to mostly east coast distribution centers. “We are growing fast as more companies become aware of our capabilities,” says Josh. “In fact we just purchased two more canning lines, which will increase our capacity eight-fold.”
When I arrived at Nidra to view the canning, a pair of New York drink creators were in the office, checking out Josh’s operation. “Our first client was from California,” says Josh. That was less than two years ago. Megan’s first sales in 2019 were at Lori Golding’s Old Beach Farmer’s Market. 109 Giant Food stores in three states and DC, will be among her next. “We’re talking to investors about taking Crunchy Hydration to the next level,” says Megan Riggs, a high energy CEO with an equally ambitious 42-year-old running mate, Josh Canada, who promotes his company as “Peace in Co-Packing.”
Perhaps you would not expect to find such harmony and tranquility in a big blue metal building brimming with water tanks, cans and flowing liquid. Credit the Nidra.