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Soda maker is paying $20 million for 11.7% holding in startup headed by Mike Repole

By: Mike Esterl

Aug. 11, 2015

Dr Pepper Snapple Group Inc. DPS -0.13 % is paying $20 million for an 11.7% stake in BodyArmor, the sports drink startup headed by Vitaminwater co-founder Mike Repole and backed by a group of investors that includes NBA star Kobe Bryant.

The deal for closely held BA Sports Nutrition LLC helps soda maker Dr Pepper Snapple take aim at the faster-growing $7 billion U.S. sports drink market dominated for years by PepsiCo Inc. PEP -0.47 % ’s Gatorade and Coca-Cola Co. KO -0.48 % ’s Powerade. It also brings to Dr Pepper Snapple some star power. In addition to Mr. Bryant, BodyArmor’s other investors include National Football League quarterback Andrew Luck and Major League Baseball outfielder Mike Trout.

Mr. Repole has made a name for himself as a serial entrepreneur. After helping to cofound Energy Brands Inc., maker of Vitaminwater and Smartwater, he helped sell it to Coca-Cola for $4.1 billion in 2007. He was also chairman and a large shareholder in snack maker Pirate’s Booty, which was eventually sold to B&G Foods Inc. BGS -0.17 % for $200 million.

In 2012 Mr. Repole launched BodyArmor with Lance Collins, who founded Fuze Beverage LLC before the tea and energy drink maker was sold to Coca-Cola in 2007 for about $250 million.

The deal with Dr Pepper Snapple “gives us strength and muscle,’’ said Mr. Repole, who is the largest shareholder and will continue to run the company.

Dr Pepper Snapple has been distributing BodyArmor since 2013.

Mr. Repole said BodyArmor had about $30 million in retail sales last year but that sales are up 180% this year through August. He said the beverage is sold in about 25,000 stores and 40 states but should be available nationally in twice that many stores next year as Dr Pepper Snapple ramps up distribution.

Like Gatorade and Powerade, BodyArmor is rich in electrolytes to help with hydration. But the sports drink is lower in sodium, higher in potassium and uses coconut water. BodyArmor is also marketed as more natural than its larger rivals because it doesn’t use artificial colors like Gatorade or high-fructose corn syrup as a sweetener like Powerade.

NBA star Kobe Bryant is an investor in BodyArmor. Other investors in the sports drink maker include NFL quarterback Andrew Luck and MLB outfielder Mike Trout. PHOTO: DANNY MOLOSHOK/ASSOCIATED PRESS


PepsiCo’s Gatorade had a 77% share of the $6.81 billion U.S. sports drink market last year, according to data service Euromonitor International. Coca-Cola’s Powerade was a distant No. 2, with a 20% market share.

U.S. sports drink sales averaged 3.8% annual growth between 2009 and 2014, according to Euromonitor.

Dr Pepper Snapple is eager to diversify amid a decadelong downturn in U.S. soda-industry volumes. About 80% of the company’s volume comes from soda.

But the No. 3 U.S. soda maker by revenue behind Coke and PepsiCo has also said it’s not eager to buy companies outright even as it strikes distribution agreements with more beverage companies.

“To acquire them would be just too expensive and we’re not sure the right thing to do,’’ Marty Ellen, Dr Pepper Snapple’s chief financial officer, told analysts during a conference call last month.

BodyArmor was represented by The Giannuzzi Group.