BevNET has learned that the Coca-Cola Company will invest $90 million in Suja as part of a deal that will give the soft drink giant a path to ownership of the fast-growing the juice maker in three years.
Reuters reported earlier today that Coke was near a deal for a partial stake in four-year-old Suja, which uses high pressure processing to retain taste and nutritional value in its products. Reuters put Suja’s valuation in the deal at $300 million.
The report does not cite any specific sources, noting only that “people familiar with the matter” had confirmed the deal but could not go on the record due to fiduciary concerns.
The beverage world has been rife with discussions concerning Suja’s status since early in the year, when CEO Jeff Church was a speaker at an annual meeting of Coke’s Venturing and Emerging Brands group.
While Church might have spoken with the VEB team, it’s Coke’s juice division that will be the eventual home for the brand, allowing it to fill distribution capacity made available through what has become an underperforming Odwalla line. Odwalla has a refrigerated distribution system, a necessity for delicate products like Suja, and can do direct-store delivery. Odwalla is part of Coke-owned Minute Maid.
Suja has key investment partners already in Boulder Brands Investment Group, ACG and Evolution Media Partners, as well as celebrities and industry insiders. Its most recent investment round infused $21 million into the company and brought on board actors like Leonardo DiCaprio and Jared Leto. Previous rounds have been for $16.5 million and $7.5 million.
The brand’s growth has accelerated in the past year with a shift into mainstream channels behind the Suja Essentials line. Church has said the brand expected to pass $40 million in sales this year.
The deal would put some energy into Coke’s premium juice business with a product that continues to sell at a high unit cost — around $9 per bottle — in high-end natural retailers like Whole Foods while also reaching into conventional and club chains as well.
Suja and Coke representatives were not immediately available for comment.