Does Starbucks Want In on the At-Home Beverage Market?

Rumors are once again surfacing about a possible acquisition of SodaStream. This time, Starbucks is reportedly looking to buy a stake in the home-carbonation company.

Apr 28, 2014 at 12:22PM

The at-home beverage market is starting to heat up, with some major companies looking to get in on the action. Keurig Green Mountain (NASDAQ:GMCR) has been in talks with prospective partners for some time, planning to release its Keurig Cold machine next year; Keurig Cold will be capable of producing soda and a range of noncarbonated beverages.

Now, rumors are surfacing that java giant Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX) is also looking to get in on this growing market, and is reportedly close to acquiring a 10% stake in SodaStream (NASDAQ:SODA). What would the advantages of such a deal be?

Getting fizzy with it
It's clear why major beverage companies want to get in on the at-home beverage market. It's growing very quickly and moreover has the potential to grow even more. Home carbonation, for instance, has a number of advantages. After you buy the machine, soda is cheaper to make than to buy, and it eliminates the need to lug around heavy bottles. It's quick, easy, and there are a wide variety of flavors.

Moreover, the market is underpenetrated in the U.S., with only 1% to 2% of households owning a home-carbonation system. In Europe, on the other hand, up to 25% of households in countries such as Sweden and Denmark have an at-home beverage machine. Moreover, Europe is growing faster than the U.S. market at the moment, with Western Europe having achieved 31% growth last year and 33% the year before that. As such, the potential for expansion in the United States remains wide open.

Follow the leader
Currently, the Israel-based SodaStream is the undisputed leader in the home-carbonation market, and this fact has not escaped the attention of coffee giant Starbucks. According to Israeli business newspaper Globes, Starbucks is in advanced talks with SodaStream over acquiring a 10% stake. The deal would value the company at around $1.1 billion, which is a premium of roughly 30% to the market price before the news hit. So far, neither company has commented on the rumors.

After the announcement of Keurig's partnership with Coca-Cola, analysts were expecting SodaStream to come up with a similar move, which may very well be a tie-up with Starbucks. For Starbucks, the deal would also make sense, as it fits with the company's strategy of moving beyond coffee.

Last year, Starbucks began experimenting with handcrafted carbonated drinks at certain Seattle locations, and it has several other soft-drink offerings that could benefit from SodaStream's customer base. For a large company looking to increase growth, moving into this new market could provide a new boost to its soft drink aspirations.

Unsurprisingly, Keurig Green Mountain was down on the news, as some investors feared that a more powerful SodaStream could prove to be a serious threat to the Keurig Cold system down the road. While Starbucks also has a limited partnership with Keurig for the distribution of its premium K-Cups, an actual stake in SodaStream would give the home-carbonation company a greater distribution platform and a range of new flavors as well as the possibility of joint marketing campaigns. In short, a win-win situation.

The bottom line
Rumors of a takeover of SodaStream by a major soft drink manufacturer have been floating around for some time. Now, it seems as if Starbucks is also looking to join the fray, reportedly in advanced talks to acquire a 10% stake. The move would make sense for Starbucks, which is looking for ways to sustain growth by moving away from coffee. For SodaStream, the backing of such a large player would also provide a number of advantages, although for now, the plans are unconfirmed.

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Daniel James has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Coca-Cola. The Motley Fool owns shares of Coca-Cola, SodaStream, and Starbucks and has the following options: long January 2016 $37 calls on Coca-Cola and short January 2016 $37 puts on Coca-Cola. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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