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Essentia Water secures private equity investment

Beverage Industry Magazine:

Essentia Water LLC, Bothell, Wash., secured a private placement investment led by Castanea Partners, a Newton, Mass.-based private equity firm that owned Fuze Beverage prior to its sale to The Coca-Cola Co., Atlanta. First Beverage Ventures, the private equity arm of Los Angeles-based First Beverage Group, also participated in the investment. The amount of the transaction was not disclosed.

The investment will support Essentia Water as it expands its distribution network, sales force, brand activation and supply capabilities to compete in the mainstream marketplace, the company says. In particular, the brand is poised to gain ground in traditional grocery, convenience and other consumer retail outlets, it adds.

In addition to funding, Troy Stanfield, a partner at Castanea Partners, joined Essentia Water’s newly formed board of directors.

“We were looking for more than just funding,” said Ken Uptain, Essentia Water’s founder and chief executive officer, in a statement. “We wanted a value-added partnership that would take us through an accelerated growth phase without losing the authenticity that our brand has created since its initial launch in 1998. With this deal, now that is exactly what we have.”

During the 52 weeks ending June 15, Essentia Water experienced a 66 percent sales increase across conventional grocery, specialty and natural retail channels, compared with the prior-year period, according to Schaumburg, Ill.-based SPINS. Furthermore, Essentia Water is the No. 1-selling brand in the alkaline water segment and claims an approximately 40 percent market share, the beverage company says. At the close of 2013, Essentia Water marked 10 consecutive years of growth — with eight of those in the double digits — and it is on track to continue this growth in 2014, it adds.

“This is an exciting opportunity for us to invest in the beverage space again,” Stanfield said in a statement. “The team at Essentia has done an incredible job of positioning the company as a leading brand within the marketplace. Essentia’s steady progression and consistent performance make it an exciting brand with a bright future.”

Tom First, a partner at First Beverage Group and founder of Nantucket Nectars, which is now owned by Plano, Texas-based Dr Pepper Snapple Group, added in a statement: “Essentia’s growth has been explosive, and the brand is poised to become a powerful, healthy lifestyle brand. We are excited to add our relationships and brand development expertise to an already talented team at Essentia.”

In the past year, Essentia Water has rounded out its executive leadership team with the hiring of several key beverage industry veterans as well as added to its field sales and marketing teams. The company has added direct-store-delivery (DSD) distributors in New England and the Midwest to gain market penetration. Consumer marketing initiatives also were launched this summer in core markets, including event sponsorships and targeted sampling. Recently, Essentia Water kicked off its team of “Hydration Specialists” composed of health and fitness experts in specialties like yoga, Pilates and nutrition. Since its inception, Essentia Water has employed grassroots tactics to educate retailers and consumers  about the benefits of its high-pH alkaline, electrolyte-infused functional water. Word of mouth has played a key role in this endeavor, the company says. This new funding enables Essentia Water to build on proven strategies as it expands to new markets, it adds.