Healthy Beverage, Steaz gets $11M to fight Coke

  Newtown's Healthy Beverage Co., which markets Steaz-brand organic soft drinks, says it's raised $11 million from Inventages (global food giant Nestle's investment arm) and from Steaz's Canada distributor, Whitefish Group, Vancouver, so it can ramp up marketing.
  Healthy also said it hired former Unilever iced tea vp Jim DiPietro, Glaceau/Vitamin Water vp Mike Sharman, and Constar Int'l finance executive Linda Flagler.
  At the meeting where directors decided to seek outside help last fall, "we had two options: Did we want to be a nice family-run beverage business that grows slowly over the next two decades? Or did we want to take organic soft drinks mainstream, and give consumers a global alternative to Coke and Pepsi?" says cofounder Eric Schnell, who, with partner Steven Kessler, worked on Wall Street and for Country LifeVitamins (which owns Long Life Tea) in New York before marrying a Philadelphian and starting Healthy Beverage six years ago.
  The company plans to sell $14 million this year at Acme, Wegman's, Whole Foods, and independent stores, up from $6 million last year. Steaz costs more than plastic-bottle soda, but less than Red Bull and other premium-priced brands. The drinks are made by the Lion brewery in Wilkes-Barre, which switched cleaning, storage, maintenance and pesticide chemicals to qualify for a USDA Organic label, Schnell says.
  Healthy's office in a 220-year-old brick house cultivates a "Zen tea garden meets yoga studio" look that Schnell says he developed "growing up in an organic vegetarian hippie household" in Boston.