Commentary

Pepsi Adds At-Home Fizz With $3.2B SodaStream Purchase

PepsiCo is buying SodaStream, the Tel Aviv-based maker of kits that allow users to make sparkling flavored water at home using CO2 cylinders, for $3.2 billion in an all-cash deal announced this morning. 

“The deal gives PepsiCo a new line through which it can reach customers in their homes, rather than through stores. It comes as U.S. grocers are in a state of transformation, with 70% of shoppers expected to buy groceries online by 2025, according to Food Marketing Institute and Nielsen. Meantime, retailers are squeezing brands on price and giving increasing shelf-space to upstart and private label brands,” write CNBC’s Sara Eisen and Lauren Hirsch.

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“SodaStream manufactures a device that can carbonate drinks, including water, at home. The company also sells a number of flavors and syrups.… Its emphasis has been to promote healthier drinks, which … can be controlled for sugar and other additives,” Himanshu Goenka explains for International Business Times.

“Under outgoing chief executive Indra Nooyi, Pepsi has expanded far beyond its cola roots, into hummus, kombucha and other healthier products, although results have been mixed. The company has set a target for sales growth of nutritious products to outpace the rest of the portfolio by 2025,” writes Sa abira Chaudhuri for the Wall Street Journal. “Pepsi sells the Aquafina water brand in the U.S. and earlier this year launched a new brand of sparkling water called Bubly.”

The $144 per share offer “is a 32% premium to the 30-day volume weighted average share price of SodaStream, which earlier this month reported what it said was its ‘most successful quarter’ ever and its ninth consecutive quarter of double-digit revenue growth,” Beth Kowitt writes for Fortune.

“The deal is expected to close by January 2019, pending approval by regulators and SodaStream shareholders. SodaStream will be run as an independent division, and its current management team will remain intact -- a setup both parties said was essential in order for the Israeli company to maintain its entrepreneurial culture,” Kowitt adds.

SodaStream CEO Daniel Birnbaum’s “career in business starts with an MBA from Harvard and a BA from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. These qualifications, along with savvy style and intense networking skill, helped him get a job with Pillsbury. In 1995, he established Pillsbury Israel and became its CEO,” Julie Bell writes for Soda Sherpa.

“In 1999 he moved on to Nike Israel. He helped Nike establish its brand in Israel and become one of the most popular sporting goods brands there. He truly loved the company, but a great opportunity presented itself and in 2007 he decided to take on the challenge of resurrecting SodaStream’s popularity, accepting a position as CEO of SodaStream,” Bell continues.

“Daniel and his leadership team have built an extraordinary company that is offering consumers the ability to make great-tasting beverages while reducing the amount of waste generated. That focus is well-aligned with Performance with Purpose, our philosophy of making more nutritious products while limiting our environmental footprint,” PepsiCo’s Nooyi states in the release announcing the deal.

Although SodaStream has gathered much momentum under Birnbaum’s leadership -- even as sales of sugary bottled-and-canned sodas continue to fizzle -- it has a long history as a lesser player in the soda wars.

“Sodastream was originally founded in the U.K. in 1903 and went through various changes of ownership until it became a subsidiary of Cadbury Schweppes in 1985. In 1998, it was bought by Israeli firm Soda-Club, with its U.K. manufacturing plant in Peterborough closing in 2003,” the BBC reports.

“In early years it was marketed to Britain’s upper class, and was reportedly a favorite of the royal household. But home carbonation of tap water eventually took off and the company’s heyday came in the 1970s and 1980s, reaching 10 million U.K. homes, alongside a marketing catch phrase ‘Get Busy With the Fizzy,’” the WSJ’s Chaudhuri writes.

Indeed, this :30 spot from the ’80s suggests that the product had moved considerably down-market.

It has weathered some controversy in Israel in recent years.

“SodaStream had formerly been based in the West Bank settlement of Ma'aleh Adumim, and found itself a major target of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement,” writes Eran Azran for Haaretz.

“In 2016, bowing to the political pressure, the company moved its headquarters to Tel Aviv and its manufacturing operations to an industrial park by the Bedouin town of Rahat in southern Israel. It had to part ways with hundreds of Palestinian employees who lived in the West Bank and could not obtain permits to work in Israel, but wound up hiring hundreds of new employees, including from Rahat itself.”

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