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Coca-Cola takes minority stake in beverage startup Iris Nova

Coca-Cola Co. has taken an unspecified minority stake in premium beverage startup Iris Nova to become its largest investor, Bloomberg News reported Dec. 20.

The Atlanta-based soft drink giant led a $15 million funding round that values the maker of Dirty Lemon premium drinks at about $60 million, according to the report. Iris Nova said other investors taking part in the fundraising included retired New York Yankees player Alex Rodriguez, actress Kate Hudson and tech industry veteran Tim Armstrong.

Iris Nova offers so-called "functional wellness" drinks, and built a customer base through Instagram before opening its first physical store in New York called The Drug Store. The checkout-free outlet processes customer payments via text message.

The company's Dirty Lemon beverage line uses ingredients like charcoal, turmeric and collagen that elicit a premium price, the report said. It also included a drink made with CBD, a non-intoxicating compound from cannabis and hemp, but that was temporarily discontinued during Iris Nova's funding round as legalization of hemp-derived CBD is still pending in the U.S.

Iris Nova founder and CEO Zak Normandin told Bloomberg that the company has no plans to expand beyond its social media-driven, direct-to-consumer business model. It reportedly is aiming to make a profit by 2019-end and reach $100 million in sales by the end of 2021.