St. Louis-based Anheuser-Busch (A-B), a division of Anheuser-Busch InBev, announced its acquisition of San Francisco-based Hiball, maker of the organic energy drinks and sparkling energy waters by the same name, as well as Alta Palla ("high ball" in Italian), a brand of organic sparkling juices and sparkling waters.

Hiball's success in the energy and sparkling water categories will further deepen A-B's investments in the non-alcohol sector, the companies say. Hiball Energy and Alta Palla, Hiball's two signature brands, will benefit from A-B's brand-building experience, its wholesaler network and its operational expertise, they add.

Hiball's founders and team pioneered the category of natural, organic energy drinks aimed at consumers who want the boost of energy, with less or no sugar, and organic ingredients, it says. Hiball's energy drinks and sparkling energy waters are made with a proprietary, organic-certified energy blend, consisting of caffeine, guarana and ginseng. Its products target some of the most important trends in the beverage space today, including health and wellness, natural and sustainably-sourced ingredients, energy-boosting products, and attractive, aspirational brands, it says. 

"Todd, Alyssa, Dan and the entire Hiball team have created an incredible business, developing some of the fastest-growing brands in the beverage industry and giving their loyal consumers the choices they love," said João Castro Neves, president and chief executive officer of A-B, in a statement. "We are very happy to partner with these three entrepreneurs and invest to help them achieve their dreams.

"The combination of Hiball's category-leading organic energy drinks and Alta Palla's organic sparkling juices and sparkling waters together with our network and operational know-how will create tremendous growth opportunities for these brands,” he continued. “There are some key similarities between our companies including our desire to dream big, our passion for our people and our products, and our commitment to quality and sustainability in everything we do. Our goal is to deliver Hiball products to new markets, while preserving their culture and brand identities. Hiball's motto is 'It's all good,' and we couldn't agree more."

Hiball was formed in 2005 when its founder and president Todd Berardi began selling the company's signature energy drinks out of the back of his car. The company, which now has 20 employees, still is driven by a small team of very passionate people who eat, sleep and drink Hiball Energy and Alta Palla, it says. The company continues to aspire to reach an expanding audience of people who want quality ingredients. Following the close of the acquisition, Berardi, his wife Alyssa Warnock, Hiball's creative director and designer who designed all the branding and packaging, and Dan Craytor, vice president of business development, will continue to lead and manage the business, the companies say.

"We are thrilled to partner with a company that shares our vision for where we can take Hiball Energy and Alta Palla in the future and brings real passion and dedication to their work every day," Berardi said in a statement. "This deal is the beginning of a new and exciting chapter for me and my team, and I can't wait to get started. Together with Anheuser-Busch, we will be able to bring our delicious, refreshing and organic/Fair-Trade products to more consumers in more places, growing our brands and our share of the energy and sparkling markets. When I founded this company, I had a single goal of delivering the very best organic, natural products to like-minded consumers. I am excited to join the Anheuser-Busch team so we can share our products with more consumers and give our team even more opportunities to grow."

A-B plans a phased transition of the Hiball Energy and Alta Palla brands to its wholesaler partners. David Stokes, chairman of the Anheuser-Busch Wholesaler Advisory Panel, said: "We are thrilled to partner with Todd and the rest of the Hiball team. Hiball Energy and Alta Palla are great additions to our developing no-alcohol portfolio, and we have been asking A-B for a partnership opportunity just like this. Adding these outstanding brands to our wholesaler system increases the breadth of our product portfolio and strengthens our network as we offer more innovation to our customers."

A-B will draw on its extensive, proven track record of working with founder-driven companies, like Hiball, to help them expand their consumer base while preserving the company's distinctive culture, its commitment to quality organic and fair-trade ingredients, and brand identity. Hiball also shares A-B's commitment to the local community and, as part of the A-B family, will maintain its relationships with the non-profits and athletes Hiball already supports, the companies say.

Following the announcement, A-B and Hiball expect to close this transaction in the third quarter of this year. The terms of the deal were not disclosed.