In a move that signals a large change in direction for the route to market for both Vitaminwater and Smartwater, Big Geyser, one of New York’s largest non-alcoholic beverage distributors, is cutting ties with Coca-Cola-owned Glaceau, which makes both brands.
Big Geyser COO Jerry Reda informed suppliers today via email, telling them that the distributor, which has been responsible for much of the success of Glaceau in New York, will cease to carry Glaceau products by March.
“We would like to share with everyone that we have asked the Coca Cola Company to purchase out our Glaceau contract as soon as possible. As of the close of business on March 1, 2015, we will no longer be selling Glaceau products,” the email reads.
Reda did not elaborate on the reasoning behind the company’s decision, but called the split “a very amicable departure.”
It’s a delicate situation because Big Geyser has other ties to Coke products: it has served in many respects as the sales and marketing incubator for products like Honest Tea, Zico, and Illy, all part of the parent company’s Venturing and Emerging Brands division. Additionally, Big Geyser took on New York’s distribution responsibility for Monster Energy Drinks in February of 2013; that company recently agreed to have Coke distribute it through much of the country in a partial ownership deal.
For its part, Big Geyser, the city’s largest independent nonalcoholic DSD shop, has been bringing on a number of high-profile, independent brands in the past couple of years, including some that conceivably compete for the same consumer as Glaceau brands. One key partnership is with Sparkling Ice, a non-caloric flavored, carbonated water that has been growing while Vitaminwater’s own share has been dropping, as well as with flavored still brand Hint. The loss of Smartwater is a harder part of the portfolio to replace; Big Geyser has alkaline water Essentia in place, but that brand is much smaller and Smartwater has been on a tear from a growth standpoint even as Vitaminwater has declined.