Coke reportedly may buy Honest Tea stake

ATLANTA Coka-cola is close to buying a stake in the boutique tea company Honest Beverages, a Bethesda, Md.-based maker of organic teas and juices under the brand Honest Teas, Beverage Digest reported, citing sources familiar with the matter.

Coke and Honest Beverages representatives could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

If the Honest move proves true, it could help Coke build up its noncarbonated offerings to better compete with rival Pepsi. Last year, Coke bought Fuze and Glaceau, the maker of Vitaminwater, to strengthen its portfolio in the growing energy drink and water categories.

Honest Tea, founded in 1998, had sales of $23 million in 2007 and has 52 employees. The brand’s teas and juices are sold at Kroger, Target and Whole Foods. The privately held company had total volume of just under 2 million 192-ounce cases in 2006, according to Beverage Digest.

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