Greenberg: Will Coke Be the Second Coming of Green Mountain?
SAN DIEGO (TheStreet) -- Thisis a follow-up to my earlier piece on Coca-Cola's (KO - Get Report) stake in Green Mountain (GMCR - Get Report): Big discussion this morning on CNBC about whether a Keurig machine that dispenses soda is a game changer.
Well, we already know how that will likely play out: Just look at Sodastream (SODA - Get Report), which so far has cornered that market. As the first mover, it had a burst of growth, took households by storm and has since seen its growth slide. Notably, last quarter flavor growth virtually stalled, as soda sales in general have been declining -- a big issue for the likes of Coke, which is scrambling to jump-start growth.
As Coke CEO Muhtar Kent said in announcing the Green Mountain deal, Coke is looking for "creative partnerships" and Green Mountain certainly falls into that category.
Whether the Coke brand re-accelerates the drive for consumers to either add a cold Keurig to their counters or buy a new Keurig, which (if I were a betting man) would include hot and cold beverages, is anybody's guess. As Sodastream has already shown, the holiday market is always eager for something new, but Sodastream has already tapped that.
My friend and colleague Jim Cramer says this deal transforms Green Mountain from just being a coffee company into being a global soda company.
Reality: What this really is was an easy, no-lose deal for Coke to do. The actual future cost to Coke is unknown, but it may not really be much more than its cost of buying Green Mountain's stock, which, in effect, makes it a cheap call on the the possibility that this works out and on the shares of Green Mountain (which, by the way, has already paid off handsomely -- in paper that is).
Let's not forget several years ago Green Mountain did a hyped deal with Italian coffee maker Lavazza, as part of a partnership to develop an at-home espresso maker. Lavazza bought a slug of stock, the stock popped, Lavazza then sold most of its stock. After the stock fell, Lavazza bought more.
The product was launched but was a bust.
Green Mountain's cold product could very well be different, but it highlights how desperate Coke is to find a new way to reignite growth, and how vulnerable Green Mountain is if this doesn't work out as hyped, er, planned. Over and out.
-- Written by Herb Greenberg in San Diego