Coca-Cola Co. agreed to acquire the remaining stake that it doesn’t own in BodyArmor for US$5.6 billion in cash, giving the soft-drink giant full control of the sports-drink brand and more ammunition to take on market leader Gatorade. 

Coca-Cola, which already owns 15 per cent of BodyArmor, is buying the remainder from investors including co-founder and Chairman Mike Repole. Repole and his leadership team will remain in place and work with Coca-Cola on other parts of its still-beverage portfolio, the company said Monday.

Bloomberg News reported Oct. 28 that Coca-Cola was close to a deal to buy the remaining stake. 

BodyArmor’s sales have risen quickly after the drink was created in 2011. The brand has enjoyed the backing and marketing power of professional athletes including baseball’s Mike Trout, basketball’s James Harden and golf’s Dustin Johnson. 

Like rival PepsiCo Inc., Coca-Cola has been benefiting from consumers’ rising thirst for beverages as they return to public venues such as restaurants and stadiums. Coca-Cola in 2018 bought its minority stake in BodyArmor and at the time called it “one of the fastest-growing beverage trademarks in America.” 

The deal aims to accelerate sales in Coca-Cola’s hydration, sports and coffee segment. Case volume grew 6 per cent in that division last quarter, in line with carbonated products but behind the 12 per cent gain in nutrition, juice and dairy products. 

Coca-Cola’s primary sports drink, Powerade, is a distant competitor to PepsiCo’s market-leading Gatorade. Even combined with BodyArmor, the Coca-Cola products would have about 23 per cent of the sports-drink market, well behind Gatorade’s 68 per cent, according to Euromonitor.

Even so, Gatorade has struggled with sales as competitors chip away at the leading brand. PepsiCo Chief Executive Officer Ramon Laguarta said on a conference call in April that his company now is focused on making Gatorade more competitive after first turning around sales growth for the flagship Pepsi brand.  

In a Feb. 24 filing, Coca-Cola said it intended to exercise its option to acquire the remaining ownership interests in BodyArmor, and that the deal was subject to regulatory approval. With its 2018 investment, Atlanta-based Coca-Cola became the second-largest shareholder in BodyArmor behind Repole.

Coca-Cola shares were down 0.2 per cent to US$56.25 at 9:57 a.m. in New York. The stock was up 2.8 per cent this year through Oct. 29, trailing behind the 23 per cent rise of the S&P 500 index.