By Dominique Vidalon
PARIS (Reuters) - Evian and Volvic owner Danone has put money into a Hawaiian bottled water from the bottom of the Pacific Ocean, showing the depths multinationals will now go to in the quest to stand out.
The investment in Kona Deep, for an undisclosed sum, is the fifth in a year for Danone Manifesto Ventures, a fund the French food giant set up last year to invest in entrepreneurial companies, which are eating away at the dominance of big brands.
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Kona Deep sources its water from a deep ocean current off the coast of Hawaii. The two-year-old company says its water has a unique blend of naturally occurring electrolytes and minerals that make it extra-hydrating.
Danone <DANO.PA>, the world's No. 3 bottled water company, is one of nine food giants to set up such a fund recently.
A case of 12 1-litre bottles of Kona Deep can be found online for $33, nearly triple the price of a case of Evian.
After being pumped through a pipe that reaches 3,000 feet below the ocean's surface, Kona Deep desalinates the water using reverse osmosis, and bottles it.
Danone did not give details about the environmental impact of the process, but said on Tuesday ocean water was a renewable source and that Kona Deep sources it in a "responsible and sustainable manner."
Kona Deep can benefit from Danone's experience with eco-friendly packaging and community management, it added.
Danone is taking a minority stake as part of Kona Deep's $5.5 million capital raising effort, which also includes private equity firm Grand Crossing Capital and local Hawaiian investors.
The brand has recently expanded from Hawaii to the U.S. mainland and plans to use the funds to expand distribution and production capacity.
($1 = 0.8520 euros)
(Reporting by Dominique Vidalon; editing by Martinne Geller and Alexander Smith)