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By Matt Kempner, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Troy Warren for Hometown Hall #business-all


Sports drink move would tighten gap with PepsiCo’s Gatorade.

Coca-Cola easily laps Pepsi in the cola wars, but when it comes to sports drinks the Atlanta-based beverage giant’s Powerade wheezes far behind PepsiCo’s Gatorade.

Now, Coke is moving to close some of the gap by trying to buy a controlling stake in fast-growing BodyArmor, a sports drink poised to surpass Powerade.

Coke bought a minority stake in BodyArmor in 2018 and its affiliated bottlers began handling much of the drink’s distribution. The deal included a caveat allowing Coke to take a controlling stake in the New York-based business, and Coke said it notified the Federal Trade Commission this week it plans to take that step. Such a move could require antitrust approval.

Coke declined to comment Friday on details of its stake or the potential expansion.

Coke acquiring a controlling interest “is a distinct possibility,” but there are “other potential options for the future of the business,” BodyArmor Chairman Mike Repole said in a statement Friday.

BodyArmor has grown far faster than its two biggest competitors even as its drinks sell for a higher price, said Duane Stanford, editor and publisher of Beverage Digest, which first reported the news. Launched in 2011, the brand is pitched as a new generation sports drink with electrolytes, coconut water and vitamins but no artificial colors and little sodium.

BodyArmor’s U.S. sales in 2020 soared 41%, compared to a nearly 1% decline for Powerade and a more than 9% increase for Gatorade, according to Beverage Digest. Last year, the upstart captured 13% of dollar sales in the roughly $10 billion U.S. sports drink market. That was nearly as much as Powerade’s 15% share, though far less than Gatorade’s 70% hold.

BodyArmor was launched in part by Repole, a co-founder of the maker of Vitaminwater and Smartwater that Coke later purchased for $4.1 billion. NBA star Kobe Bryant, who passed away last year, was a major BodyArmor shareholder.

WHAT IT MEANS

Locking in control of BodyArmor would give Coke a bigger grip in one of the largest and most profitable drink segments where it competes, said Duane Stanford, editor and publisher of Beverage Digest.


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