Is being a takeover target next for Nexba?

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 21st November 2018

Nexba founders Drew Bilbe and Troy Douglas

SURGING to scale-up from start-up, Australian drink maker Nexba is open to a distribution deal with one of the world’s beverage giants.

The no-sugar, nothing artificial soft drink maker booked a 156 per cent year-on-year increase in revenue in FY17/18, banking $10 million in gross sales the same year.

The busy bee has launched three new ranges in Australia in the past eight weeks – tonic water, kombucha, and probiotic water – at the time its sparkling water arrived on Sainsbury’s shelves in the UK.

Speaking to Australian Food News before travelling to London to scope a local manufacturer, Nexba co-founder and CEO Troy Douglas said the company was “totally open to a collaboration with a multi-national company for distribution”.

He was answering a question about Nexba presenting now as a takeover target for the likes of Coke or Pepsi.

MORE: How Nexba Beverages turned iced tea into a war on obesity

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Nexba from Australia sent Sainsbury’s 20 large shipping containers full of sparkling water flavours – watermelon, cucumber and mint, lemon and lime, and coconut and mango.

Mr Douglas will in the UK also be pressing home his products’ advantages as the one-litre sparkling water units hopefully charge through the checkouts of more than 500 Sainsbury’s stores.

If things go well, Nexba’s full range including its Naturally Sugar Free soft drinks, the tonic waters, kombucha and probiotics could be on offer in the UK next year.

‘Sugar is seen as the new tobacco’ 

The company is riding the anti-sugar wave, and consciousness about obesity and diabetes, catching the trend at a critical moment with a soft drink claiming the taste and mouthfeel of a sugary drink but without sugar or artificial ingredients.

Mr Douglas is forward in claiming a virtue for the company playing a part in tackling diabetes and obesity, and leads his pitch saying “sugar is seen as the new tobacco”, equating the health impact of sugary drinks to cigarettes.

Though at the same time the company trumpets concern for health and signals its virtue in fighting the scourge of sugar it commercially guards its proprietary Naturally Sweetener blend, its patented secret “sugar-free, nothing artificial” formula.

Mr Douglas said the UK soft drink levy, introduced in April this year, had already seen a rise in artificial substitutes as brands seek quick fixes to maintain ‘sweetness’.

“We believe all brands and food and beverage categories that are high sugar should seek to have Naturally Sugar Free alternatives that don’t compromise on taste and do not use artificial ingredients,” he said.

Now a household name at Coles and Woolworths Australia, as well as a range of other retail outlets, Nexba’s financial success and commitment to healthier living appealed to Sainsbury’s Future Brands initiative, which works with innovative, small suppliers to make distinct products available to their consumers at scale.

Sainsbury’s Head of Future Brands Rachel Eyre said Nexba was a natural fit for the dedicated, Future Brands team.

“Nexba is a distinctive brand with an innovative, great-tasting product for our consumers who are concerned about their sugar intake. Nexba provides another step towards making Sainsbury’s a home for truly unique brands,” said Ms Eyre.

Nexba’s ambitious growth and innovation agenda has already seen them expand beyond soft drinks to a flavoured sparkling water range and more recently a selection of tonics, kombuchas and other functional beverages have hit Australian supermarket shelves.