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Castanea Partners Makes Strategic Investment In Fuze Beverage

March 12, 2004 - Castanea Partners, a private equity firm located in the Greater Boston area, announced today that it has acquired a significant equity stake in Fuze Beverage LLC (“Fuze”). Headquartered in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, Fuze manufactures and markets vitamin infused juice drinks and teas targeted at health conscious consumers.

Fuze was founded in 2001 by Lance Collins, who has worked in the beverage industry for over twenty years. In developing Fuze, Collins’ vision was to produce “Smart Age,” healthy beverages that offer low carbohydrates, low calories, vitamins, minerals and great taste. In the last two years, the company has grown to more than 50 employees, with over 220 distributors across 48 states and the Caribbean. This past year Fuze had six of the top 15 fastest-growing products in ACNielsen’s New Age beverage category.

In 2002, Fuze received an investment from the Pentland Group, a private investment firm focused on branded consumer products. Pentland has also invested in such well known international brands as Reebok, Speedo, and Lacoste. Pentland will retain their current investment in Fuze and join forces with Castanea in further developing the Fuze brand.

The senior team at Castanea has previous operating experience in the beverage industry, including the ownership of GC Beverages, the largest independent Pepsi-Cola bottler in the late 1980’s, and the Sunkist soft drink brand.

Lance Collins states, “Castanea’s investment in Fuze will enable us to continue to expand our product offerings and market reach. Additionally, their experience in the beverage industry, combined with their brand expertise, makes them ideal strategic partners as we continue our rapid growth.”

Brian Knez, Managing Partner of Castanea, comments, “Fuze is a tremendous opportunity that fits our investment strategy well. Lance and his team have done a marvelous job of rapidly growing the brand, and the opportunity to partner with Pentland is very attractive. Our operating experience in branded consumer products, and beverages in particular, made us very comfortable with the company and our ability to help them build on their success.”

Robert Smith, Managing Partner of Castanea, adds, “Fuze has achieved a level of success that is rare in its market, and they show all the signs of continuing on their path of rapid growth. They have a lot of exciting opportunities ahead, and we look forward to helping them maximize their success.”

About Castanea Partners
Castanea Partners, Inc. (www.castaneapartners.com) is a private equity investment firm located in the Greater Boston area. Castanea Partners was founded and capitalized by Robert A. Smith and Brian J. Knez, the former co-CEOs of diversified publishing leader Harcourt General and of high-end retailer The Neiman Marcus Group. The firm was founded in 2001 to pursue small to middle market investment opportunities. Castanea Partners is made up of a core team of top operating executives and experienced private equity professionals with a strategy to invest in market segments where its partners have operating expertise, including information services, education/training, publishing, consumer products, and specialty retail.

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