* Sweet Leaf Tead president to replace founder as CEO
* Says founder was 'generously compensated'
NEW YORK, March 22 Sweet Leaf Tea Co, which is
35 percent-owned by Nestle Waters North America, promoted its
president, Dan Costello, to the role of chief executive,
replacing the small organic tea maker's founder, Clayton
Costello, a former general manager with Nestle Waters North
America, began managing Sweet Leaf's day-to-day operations last
year when the unit of Nestle SA NESN.VX invested $15.6
million in the Austin, Texas-based start-up with an option to
buy it outright.
Sweet Leaf, whose iced tea drinks are sold by Whole Foods
Market Inc WFMI.O and other stores, said Christopher would
remain on its board of directors.
A company spokeswoman would not disclose the details of
Christopher's pay package, only to say he was "generously
Nestle Waters is behind water brands including Poland
Spring, Deer Park and Ice Mountain. Sweet Leaf was its first
foray into other types of drinks besides water.
Nestle and private equity firm Catterton Partners are Sweet
Leaf's biggest shareholders. Catterton invested $18 million in
Sweet Leaf in 2008.
The U.S. market for bottled soft drinks has been hurt by
the economic downturn, but a growing health consciousness has
led some consumers away from full-calorie sodas to
non-carbonated beverages such as teas and juices.
Teas made from natural or organic ingredients have been
seen as a bright spot in the industry with Coca-Cola (KO.N)
having purchased a stake in Honest Tea.
(Reporting by Martinne Geller; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)