Deals: Coconut Water Competition Continues

As the end of the year approached, a major deal indicated that the race for coconut water supremacy was likely to continue into 2011 and beyond, as PepsiCo and co-investor Catterton Partners picked up a majority stake in O.N.E. (One Natural Experience).

With founder and CEO Rodrigo Veloso still in place after the deal, the company is expected to take further advantage of the Pepsi network. O.N.E. had begun easing into that network in some regions as part of its experience in the Pepsi Beverage Company’s “Learning Labs” program, where it was being experimented with in Southern California and Florida.

The deal was announced on Dec. 7, just a few days after it was revealed that competitor ZICO’s ties to the Coke system were also increasing, as the company has begun taking advantage of the Coke-owned Odwalla network as a delivery mechanism is several areas, and will start using Coke trucks in Southern California.

Meanwhile, Vita Coco appeared to have put some of the supply problems that plagued all three companies over the summer behind it as it prepares to begin moving into DPSG houses; in fact, company president Mike Kirban recently told BevNET that he expected to have supply locked down through 2014 and that he expected to lock down at least $100 million in sales in 2011.

While all three competitors say the category could be worth $1 billion down the road, there is still no brand that has hit nine figures, let alone ten. Chances are that they’ll keep shaking the coconut tree, however – with celebrity investors like record mogul Tommy Mottola putting money into O.N.E. and Madonna throwing cash into Vita Coco this year, and ZICO’s deal with former rapper and airline entrepreneur Jesse Itzler last year, there’s probably a lot of exciting ink yet to come for the category.

Also on the deal front: a linkup between GIVE Water maker Ben Lewis and Green Shoots, a specialty DSD distributor who is working to place brands like Columbia Gorge juices and new brand Kombucha Botanica in accounts like Whole Foods as a UNFI alternative. Lewis is now a shareholder and board member of Green Shoots along with founder Nat Noone; meanwhile, Green Shoots will distribute GIVE and help Lewis develop new products.