Daniel Birnbaum laughs at how many times he’s been called crazy since he took the reins of SodaStream in 2007. After all, he claimed that a stodgy, century-old soda maker could compete with Coca-Cola. But Birnbaum increased the company’s revenue nearly six-fold, to $613 million by the middle of last year, then sold the company to Pepsico for $3.2 billion.
Now the 57-year-old son of a Holocaust survivor has an even more audacious plan than competing with Coke: making peace, with bubbles on the side.
Crazy? Maybe. But take a trip to SodaStream’s factory in Israel’s Negev desert near the town of Rahat, and you can start to see what Birnbaum means. The plant—which replaced an earlier factory in the Israeli-occupied West Bank that had been targeted by boycott activists—employs a mix of Israelis, Palestinians, and Bedouins. They’re not separated within the factory; they interact with and manage each other and some have even become friends.