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Putting the ‘pop’ back into soda pop

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Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011

As reported in Israel21c:

At the dawn of the 20th century, the British royals were privy to a spiffy new system for infusing drinking water with carbon dioxide bubbles. It would take 53 years for SodaStream to reach commoners, and another 42 until it was acquired by an Israeli distributor and transformed into an international DIY product called Soda Club.

The brand really started to sparkle when it was taken over in 2007 by an Israeli entrepreneur with a Harvard Business School degree, and today the home carbonation system is sold by 40,000 stores in 41 countries. CEO Daniel Birnbaum tells ISRAEL21c that about four million households now have a SodaStream machine on the kitchen counter.

“We still have a long runway ahead of us,” says Birnbaum. “There are a lot more households out there.”

Jazzing up a blah brand

Birnbaum was perfectly happy at the helm of Nike Israel when fellow Harvard alum Yuval Cohen, managing director of Fortissimo Capital, asked him to check out a possible acquisition.

“When he told me it was Soda Club, I almost fell off my chair, because I thought the company was gone,” recalls Birnbaum, who had previously established Pillsbury Israel.

But after visiting the firm’s Airport City headquarters, he predicted that Soda Club was a sure investment. It had an existing sales base of close to $100 million in a product category that accounts for $230 billion of sales globally.

Making what he calls the quickest career decision of his life, Birnbaum left Nike and took on Soda Club, determined to push its envelope of potential. Because for all its modest success, the brand was as flat as week-old pop.

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