Surprise Hits: Vitaminwater and the promise of Zen-like bliss


A decade or two ago, the idea of drinking "vitamin water" would have conjured up thoughts of swallowing a metallic-tasting dietetic -- essentially, drinking your vegetables. That's a far cry from being a soft drink refreshing enough to appeal to athletes and hip enough for a rap star to endorse. Or successful enough for the Coca-Cola Co. (KO) to purchase the start-up that invented it for more than $4 billion.

Therein lies the astonishing success of Glacéau (a.k.a. Energy Brands), a company founded in 1996 by J. Darius Bikoff in Queens, New York. Bikoff began by selling an electrolyte-enhanced bottled water called Smartwater. Two years later, he introduced Fruitwater. But it wasn't until he launched Vitaminwater in 2000 that his enterprise really took off. Glacéau promptly became the best-selling brand of enhanced water in the U.S. By 2006, its revenue had reached a reported $355 million, and a year later Coca-Cola, seeking a larger stake in the noncarbonated-energy-drink segment, bought the company and announced that Glacéau would operate as an independent subsidiary.

Originally published