Coca-Cola to Gulp Fuze Beverage

ATLANTA -- The Coca-Cola Co. here said yesterday that it has signed an agreement to buy fast-growing Fuze Beverage, LLC, manufacturer of Fuze enhanced juices and teas. Financial details of the transaction were not disclosed.

The deal, which is subject to regulatory clearance and certain other terms and conditions, includes all Fuze brands, including the Vitalize, Refresh, Tea, and Slenderize lines under the Fuze trademark; WaterPlus enhanced water products; and license rights to the NOS Energy Drink brands.

Fuze products feature colorful and artistic packaging and unique and complex flavor blends incorporating real juice, vitamins, and antioxidants, with no artificial preservatives or colors.

If approved, the transfer of ownership should occur during the first quarter of 2007, and Fuze will then operate as a standalone entity of Coca-Cola, the soft drink giant said.

"We believe the FUZE brands will be a strong complement to our beverage portfolio and an excellent addition to the Coca-Cola system," said Coca-Cola North America (CCNA) Sandy Douglas in a statement. "This is yet another example of how we are expanding our portfolio to meet the growing consumer demand for beverage variety and functionality through innovation, business partnerships, and acquisitions."

Other portfolio expansions for Coca-Cola include plans to launch a new line of premium ready-to-drink Caribou Coffee iced beverages this summer; a new line of premium indulgent beverages launched in partnership with Godiva Chocolatier, Godiva Belgian Blends, which were initially launched in the Northeast in August and have now rolled out to the Midwest and Southeast, with volume double original expectations; last summer's reformulation and restaging of Nestea ready-to- drink teas, followed by the launch of the new Gold Peak RTD tea by Beverage Partners Worldwide (North America), the company's 50/50 joint venture with Nestle, SA; and the November regional launch of calorie-burning Enviga, which will roll out nationally this month.

Twenty Coca-Cola bottlers currently distribute Fuze, and will continue to do so after the proposed acquisition, Coca-Cola said.
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