The second day of the 2018 Globes Business Conference in Jerusalem saw Pepsico CEO Ramon Laguarta and Sodastream CEO Daniel Birnbaum on the stage together. They spoke about Pepsico's acquisition of Israeli home carbonated drinks company Sodastream this year for $3.2 billion and revealed that they are in the process of setting up a Sodastream plant in Gaza.
Laguarta began the conversation by complimenting the startup nation. He turned to the audience and said, "You should be very proud of what you have achieved in 70 years. As a stranger here, I see that you have turned the desert into something amazing and creative. I think you should feel very proud."
As the head of a corporation with 250,000 employees worldwide, this is not Laguarta's first visit to Israel, nor the first time he has been in Jerusalem. In addition to the connection with Sodastream created this year, Pepsico has also done business with the Strauss family and the Tempo group for many years.
Laguarta repeated his company's reason for acquiring Sodastream, saying that it was "a great opportunity for Pepsico, given the great vacuum in the beverages market resulting from reduced use of plastic, which Pepsico is filling through the acquisition of Sodastream." He added, "This vacuum will grow more and more quickly, and here is where Sodastream's personal touch comes into play.
"We feel that there is a huge opportunity for us, among other things for our global development. Essentially, what we have acquired is a stunning team and special leadership bursting with skill and talent, and I'm a great believer in human power."
"To make the world a better place"
Another reason cited by Laguarta for the acquisition of Sodastream is the need to make the world a better place. "We are on a mission to make the world a better place, or as you say in Hebrew, 'to fix the world'," he said.
As an example of this fixing, Laguarta mentioned Pepsico's "courage in choosing to reduce its use of plastic. We saved the world millions of bottles."
During the talk, Birnbaum and Laguarta revealed what preceded the signing of this major deal. It began with initial conversations in London, continued with the realization that Pepsico was going to be the new owners of Sodastream, not merely a strategic investor in it, and ended after five weeks of intensive negotiations that the companies succeeded in concealing from the Israeli public.
According to Laguarta, the meeting in London was "the beginning of everything that happened afterwards, the connection between our companies, and the importance of this connection… from my point of view, the desire to expand this amazing company, but also to preserve it as a diamond in Pepsico's business portfolio."
Laguarta explained that he had arrived in Israel and toured Sodastream's plant - an event that made a very big impression on him. He said that this impression was mainly a result of "the human state of the plant." Birnbaum said that Sodastream's plant in Arad had 2,000 employees, including Jews and Arabs on terms of equality, and also Palestinians.
Birnbaum added that integration between Jews and Arabs in the company was part of its DNA. "We talked about the Gaza Strip, trying things, creativity, optimism, and transparency. This is our bible.
"The diversity in the plant is very important to us." Since Sodastream also employs Palestinians, Birnbaum commented on the situation in the Gaza Strip, declaring, "We want people in the Gaza Strip to have jobs - real jobs."
Laguarta agreed, saying, "Business can be a bridge in certain cases.
During the conversation, Birnbaum revealed that Sodastream had plans for setting up a production plant in the Gaza Strip. "We set up our plant in Rahat, 'Island of Peace,' and I want to make it bigger and give more people hope, so we're in the process of also putting a plant in Gaza, which will be operated through a subcontractor. We want people in Gaza to have real jobs, because when there is prosperity and plenty, there will also be peace," he said.
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on December 20, 2018
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