Longtime Coca-Cola Exec Said to Be New AQUAhydrate CEO


AQUAhydrate, the high-alkaline water brand backed by actors Mark Wahlberg and Sean Combs, among others, is said to have found its next CEO. Former Coca-Cola executive Hal Kravitz, who had been tapped to lead Glaceau following its acquisition by the cola giant in 2007, is expected to take on the role at the beginning of the year. The position had been vacant for over 18 months, and was last held by John Cochran, who left the company to become CEO of Ole Smoky Tennessee Moonshine.

News of Kravitz’ appointment was first reported by Beverage Digest and Beverage Business Insights in November, yet representatives for AQUAhydrate have declined to confirm the news. In an e-mail to BevNET, Kravitz said that it was “premature to speak about it.” He also referred inquiries to an AQUAhydrate representative.

A 30-year veteran of Coke, Kravitz most recently held a dual role as Senior VP of Franchise and Commercial Operations for the company’s glaceau division and Director of Customer Governance in Coca-Cola North America’s Franchise Relations Group, until May, 2013.

Following his departure, Kravitz joined a New York-based firm called Intercontinental Beverage Capital (IBC) as a managing director. The firm describes itself as one that combines “private-equity-style investing and advisory work,” to identify investment opportunities in the beverage and CPG space. The company operates its own fund and works with other capital investors seeking debt and equity positions in growing companies. IBC targets companies with revenue between $7.5 and $100 million and positive operating cash flow as well as “sustainable competitive advantages and significant market potential,” according to its website.

It is unknown if IBC has made a financial investment in AQUAhydrate, which underwent a re-launch in 2012, powered by high profile investments from Wahlberg and Combs, who reportedly hold a 40 percent stake in the company, combined. An affiliate of The Yucaipa Companies, which is headed by billionaire Ron Burkle, also holds a stake in AQUAhydrate, having made a $10 million investment in the brand in 2011.

Last year, Wahlberg and Combs were said to have played an integral role in business strategy and development of AQUAhydrate, with each personally meeting with retail executives to promote the brand and secure authorizations with grocers, including Safeway and Kroger. Combs even managed to wiggle AQUAhydrate into an ad for Fiat in which he offered a bottle to desert-weary travelers.

Since Cochran’s departure, AQUAhydrate has bolstered its leadership team, landing former Red Bull and Cytosport executive Greg McCauley as its executive vice president of sales and Chris Albee as the company’s vice president, production and logistics. Albee previously held roles with Amcor Rigid Plastics and Ten Media.

In January, AQUAhydrate plans to unveil a range of sales and distribution news as well as details of its business strategy for 2015, according to Nate Puksta, the company’s vice president of marketing. As for promotional efforts, Puksta, speaking at the 2014 National Association of Convenience Stores show, told BevNET that AQUAhydrate was gearing up for a national field marketing program as well as new advertising media that features both Wahlberg and Combs.