Nestle Waters sells Sweet Leaf Tea and Tradewinds businesses to private equity

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19 Dec 2017 --- Private equity firm Fireman Capital Partners has partnered up with Dunn’s River Brands to create a new strategic beverage platform. As part of the venture, the companies have acquired the Sweet Leaf Tea and Tradewinds businesses from Nestle Waters North America. Dunn’s River Brands said Sweet Leaf Tea and Tradewinds are expected to serve as the base for additional acquisitions of smaller high-growth brands in the fast-growing ready-to-drink tea category.

Financial details of the deal have not been disclosed. The purchase agreements were signed yesterday and the transaction is expected to close before year end.

Click to EnlargeSweet Leaf Tea Co. was founded in 1998 and makes a variety of sweet teas, green teas, fruit teas, zero-calorie teas and lemonades. The company acquired Tradewinds Beverage Co., a maker of slow-brewed teas, in 2010. Nestle Waters North America acquired the companies in 2011.

“The Sweet Leaf Tea and Tradewinds brands represent a terrific foundation for the D.R.B. portfolio as consumer demand for specialty, local and functional beverage products continues to increase,” said Dan Fireman, managing partner of Fireman Capital Partners. “I am confident that F.C.P. and D.R.B.’s combined consumer and beverage sector expertise will position the D.R.B. platform for long-term growth and success.”

Kevin McClafferty, President and CEO of Dunn’s River Brands, said the partnership with Fireman Capital Partners will allow Dunn’s River Brands to draw on the private equity firm’s successful track record with consumer and beverage products.

Speaking to FoodIngredientsFirst, McClafferty said: “We have been fans of Sweet Leaf and Tradewinds for years. Both are strong legacy brands with loyal consumer bases and distribution. This is a great opportunity for us and we look forward to further expanding these great businesses.”

“RTD tea continues to grow with consumers across the board. We are grateful to both Nestlé Waters and Fireman Capital for their confidence and support,” he adds.

“Their current craft beer platform CANarchy and legacy juice brand, Evolution Fresh, make them the ideal partner for D.R.B. as we grow the Sweet Leaf Tea and Tradewinds brands,” McClafferty notes. “With F.C.P.’s support, we are well-positioned to attract world-class beverage brands and support the next generation of beverage companies.”

“We are excited to have the opportunity to add the Tradewinds and Sweet Leaf Tea businesses to the Dunn’s River Brands portfolio. The combined entities will form the new company The Sweet Leaf Tea Company. We believe these are very strong brands in their respective categories, and are looking forward to leaning into them with full marketing and sales support moving forward,” he says. 

In opting to sell Sweet Leaf Tea and Tradewinds, Nestle Waters North America signaled its continued shift in focus within its beverage platform. 

Fernando Merce, president and CEO of Nestle Waters North America said: “This transaction is part of our ongoing strategy to focus on strengthening our core business and drive performance through streamlined operations. “We took this difficult but important step to position us to further deliver upon our healthy hydration ambitions.”

By Elizabeth Green

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