Coca-Cola Co. today announced it took a minority ownership position in BodyArmor, a seven-year-old line of premium sports performance and hydration beverages. Previous investors include retired NBA star Kobe Bryant and Dr Pepper Snapple Group, now Keurig Dr Pepper.
Analysts were calling the play an effort to combat the recent resurgence of PepsiCo product Gatorade while Coca-Cola's Powerade languishes. The size of the investment and ownership share were not specified, but the deal includes the possibility of Coke increasing its ownership stake over time – "a clear path to ownership," as Coca-Cola North America President Jim Dinkins put it.
BodyArmor will gain access to the expansive Coca-Cola bottling and distribution system. BodyArmor will continue to operate independently under the leadership of co-founder and chairman Mike Repole and his management team. Repole said, "The brand is on track to reach almost $400 million in retail sales this year."
Dr Pepper Snapple invested $20 million in the company in 2015 and boosted its ownership to 15.5 percent in 2016. Reuters news service, quoting an analyst, said BodyArmor has notified Keurig Dr Pepper that it is terminating at least the two parties' distribution agreement. Bryant, who first invested in BodyArmor in 2013, is now its third biggest shareholder, according to Reuters.
Repole also co-founded and incubated other brands, including Glacéau's Smartwater and Vitaminwater, which were bought by Coca-Cola in 2007 and have since become billion-dollar brands with global availability.