SodaStream CEO Birnbaum to step down and become sparkling water firm’s chairman

After 12 years at helm and $3.2 billion sale of company to PepsiCo, leader will hand over reins to his deputy, Eyal Shohat, on August 1

Shoshanna Solomon was The Times of Israel's Startups and Business reporter

SodaStream CEO Daniel Birnbaum dances with employees during a Ramadan iftar breakfast at the Rahat factory on May 27, 2019. (courtesy SodaStream)
SodaStream CEO Daniel Birnbaum dances with employees during a Ramadan iftar breakfast at the Rahat factory on May 27, 2019. (courtesy SodaStream)

SodaStream’s Chief Executive Officer Daniel Birnbaum, the orchestrator of the sale of the home carbonation company to US beverage giant PepsiCo Inc for $3.2 billion, is stepping down to become the chairman of the Israeli company.

Deputy CEO Eyal Shohat, 45, will replace Birnbaum at the helm of the firm on August 1, SodaStream International Ltd. said in a statement on Monday. Birnbaum will step into the position of chairman on September 1, after 12 years of heading the firm.

“Following 12 amazing years with you all, and upon completion of the first year of integration with PepsiCo, I’ve decided to step back from the day-to-day operations at SodaStream,” said Birnbaum in a letter to employees. “PepsiCo’s CEO asked me to stay on as Chairman and I am honored and delighted to do so.”

Under Birnbaum’s leadership the company — a maker of machines that carbonate home tap water in reusable bottles — started targeting health-conscious and green-leaning consumers with messages whipping US beverage giants like Coca-Cola and PepsiCo.

SodaStream CEO Daniel Birnbaum (left) with Eyal Shohat, July 15, 2019 (SodaStream),

The firm positioned itself as a brash David providing a healthier alternative to the drinks offered by its Goliath competitors, which use massive amounts of sugar and sell their products in planet-killing plastic bottles.

Birnbaum also saw himself as a force for change in Israeli society by employing diverse populations in SodaStream’s manufacturing efforts, including Jews, Arab, Bedouins and Palestinians.

“Although this is by no means ‘goodbye,’ it is a significant milestone in my life and one for me to reflect upon,” Birnbaum said in his letter.

“Looking back at the past 12 years, we have accomplished so very much together: We disrupted the beverage industry. We created jobs for 3,500 families. We proved that peace is possible between Israelis and Palestinians. We saved the world from billions of plastic bottles. We became the largest sparkling water brand in the world. We grew our global presence from 13 countries to 46. We got acquired by PepsiCo, an historical event for the State of Israel. But no less important, we celebrated holidays, prayed side by side, made friendships that span religions, nations and continents and we became a family. And family is forever.

“I thank each and every one of you for giving me the opportunity to be part of your life and for joining me on my obsessive mission to make the world a better place.”

Commenting on Shohat’s appointment, Birnbaum said: “Eyal has been a partner to me and a key driver of our success, both leading up to and since our integration with PepsiCo. Equally important, he shares my passion and commitment to offer the world a great-tasting sparkling water while reducing the use of single-use plastic. I have no doubt the company will continue to thrive under his leadership.”

Prior to becoming deputy CEO, Shohat served as SodaStream’s chief corporate development officer responsible for all commercial responsibilities.

He joined SodaStream in 2010 as chief legal officer prior to the company’s initial public offering on the Nasdaq exchange in 2010. Before joining SodaStream, Shohat served as VP Legal Affairs at Frutarom Industries Ltd., where he had a role in a chain of 25 cross-border M&A deals that led Frutarom to become one of the largest companies in its industry.

Newly elected CEO of PepsiCo, Ramon Laguarta (right), and SodaStream’s Daniel Birnbaum at the signing of the acquisition deal, August 20, 2018, at SodaStream’s offices in Israel (Lens Productions)

“I am honored to receive the baton from Daniel and look forward to continuing to work with him in his new capacity as Chairman,” Shohat said in the statement. “I am also humbled to take on responsibility for this great company and our thousands of employees and their families worldwide. Under Daniel’s lead, SodaStream became a phenomenal success and I thank him for the opportunity and trust. SodaStream will continue to be an Island of Peace and fight for an end to plastic waste.”

“Under Daniel’s leadership, SodaStream soared to unprecedented heights, and took a stand on the important issue of plastic waste to help create a more sustainable future for us all,” said Jim Andrew, PepsiCo EVP SodaStream and Beyond Bottle Ventures. “We’re grateful that Daniel will continue to stay on as Chairman and that we will continue to benefit from his experience and creativity. At the same time, we know SodaStream is in great hands with Eyal as CEO, and we are as excited and committed as ever to grow this company and expand its strong worldwide reach and offerings even further.”

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