By VINNEE TONG
The Associated Press
Tuesday, January 16, 2007; 6:53 PM
NEW YORK -- Retiring NFL star Tiki Barber has teamed up with new partners to invest in a company that makes a fruit-infused beverage called O Water, the drink's maker announced Tuesday.
It is one of the star running back's first public ventures since playing his last game as a New York Giant, ending the 2006 season in a Jan. 7 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. The water drink made by O Beverages LLC has been sold in test markets for two years and is now in the process of rolling out nationally.
O Water, the newest addition to the fast-growing water category, was developed by fellow investor Ming Tsai, celebrity chef and the host of the PBS television show "Simply Ming." The other major investors include Tom First, a co-founder of Nantucket Nectars; Ed Slade, former president of FIJI Water, and Chad Gifford, former chairman of Bank of America. First and Slade co-founded the company in 2005.
"Everybody is trying to drink more water but I found many are either bored of plain water or unwilling to consume beverages that have more calories than a glazed doughnut," Slade said.
The drink comes in two lines, which are both infused with real fruit and one of which has electrolytes added. They comes in flavors such as strawberry, mandarin orange, lemon-lime and peach. A company press release describes it as "unsweetened ultra-purified water with a twist of natural fruit flavor."
Investors aim to capitalize on the growing demand from consumers for less sugar and fewer calories in their drinks. The sector recently drew the attention of the Indian conglomerate Tata Group, which in August said it would buy a 30 percent stake in Energy Brands Inc., maker of Vitaminwater, for $677 million.
O Water has been test marketed over the past two years in the Tri-state area and Boston. The company has plans to run a TV advertising campaign on Plum TV, which is shown in markets such as Aspen, Nantucket and the Hamptons.
Barber intends to embark on a career in TV next season, and is said to be in negotiations on a contract.
On the Net:
O Water: http://www.obeverages.com