Sweet Deal

Sweet Leaf Tea Co., the Austin-based maker of organic, all-natural, home-style iced teas, lemonades and other natural beverages, reported that Nestlé Waters North America has made a $15.6 million investment in the beverage company.

In addition, the company said Dan Costello, a Nestlé Waters North America executive will relocate to Austin, to become president of Sweet Leaf Tea, reporting to company founder and chief executive officer, Clayton Christopher. Nestlé Waters will also add two directors to Sweet Leaf Tea’s Board of Directors.

According to Christopher, who founded the company in 1998, the partnership will transform the company from a regional brand to one with full national distribution within 24 months. Currently, the company’s products are available in about 30% of US markets in natural stores like Whole Foods and grocery chains like Kroger and Safeway. In addition, the partnership will accelerate innovation and fund other growth initiatives.

“We are very enthusiastic about this investment from Nestlé Waters and believe we have found in them an ideal partner for growth,” said Christopher. “Not only do they have an unrivaled national network of distribution partners, which includes many of our existing partners, but they are as committed as we are to bringing quality and goodness to consumers in the most environmentally-conscious way possible. It’s an ideal strategic and cultural fit, which is important to us.”

The No. 1 bottled water company in the U.S., Nestlé Waters North America joins Catterton Partners, the nation’s leading private equity firm focused exclusively on the consumer industry, as investors in Sweet Leaf Tea. Catterton is the investment company behind Build-a-Bear Workshop, PF Chang’s China Bistro, Odwalla and Kettle Foods.

“This investment speaks volumes about our enthusiasm for the exceptional company Sweet Leaf has built, based on the principles of quality and all-natural goodness,” said Tim Brown, executive vice president of retail operations, Nestlé Waters North America.

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