Sources: Report on Essentia Sale Premature

Red-hot alkaline water brand Essentia might be in a relationship with investment bank Credit Suisse, but it isn’t planning to look for a long-term partner yet.

Sources close to the situation confirmed to BevNET that the Seattle-based premium water brand has been working with Credit Suisse for more than a year, but that there is no official sales process underway.

Earlier today, CNBC reported that the company was exploring a potential sale auction — at a valuation in excess of $500 million. Nestle, Danone, PepsiCo and Anheuser-Busch InBev were named as potential bidders by CNBC.

When reached by phone, Essentia declined to comment on the story.

The notion of a potential sale of Essentia speaks to the speed with which the brand’s profile has risen in recent years, as well as the overall growth of premium water as a market sector. While founder Ken Uptain started the brand 20 years ago, in 1998, it’s only since 2014 that the company began to set its sights on becoming a national brand sold in mainstream retail accounts.

Essentia markets an ionized alkaline water with a pH of 9.5 or higher, which it claims can be twice as effective at rehydrating adults after exercise-induced dehydration than regular water. According to the company, Essentia had approximately $124 million in retail measured sales last year.

Meanwhile, sales of premium retail water — brands like Essentia, Core, Voss, Fiji, Aquahydrate, and Eternal Water — were the fastest-growing part of the bottled category, up 15 percent, or nearly $275 million last year, according to a recent presentation from Essentia at Future Smarts, a Wall Street beverage conference.

Backed by investors Castanea Partners and First Beverage Group, Essentia is the largest of the independent premium water brands being eyed by potential acquirers. Under pressure to produce at the premium end of the category, PepsiCo launched LIFE WTR in late 2016 as an attempt to keep pace with those independents and category leader Smartwater, owned by the Coca-Cola Co.