A pile of Poland Spring water bottles. Credit: Creative Commons

A pair of private investment firms will soon buy Poland Spring and several other North American bottled water companies in a $4.3 billion deal with Swiss food giant Nestlé, the companies announced this week. The transfer is expected to happen this spring.

For now, the two companies that have agreed to buy Nestlé’s bottled water holdings, One Rock Capital Partners and Metropoulos & Co., have provided little information about what changes could be in store for brands such as Poland Spring, Pure Life, Deer Park and Arrowhead.

A spokesperson for One Rock, which is based in New York City, said they would not be releasing any information beyond a press release announcing the sale.

Dean Metropoulous, the founder of his family-owned investment firm, has previously transformed big name food and beverage brands including Hostess and Pabst Brewing, according to the release.

First founded in Maine over a century ago, Poland Spring now employs more than 800 people here. It has three bottling plants and access to 10 supplies of water mostly scattered across the western part of the state.

A class-action lawsuit filed in 2017 by plaintiffs from a group of states including Maine charged that Poland Spring’s water does not meet the U.S. Food and Drug Administration definition of spring water, but Nestlé has fought the lawsuit and insisted all of its water comes from springs. That lawsuit claimed Poland Spring’s water sales in the U.S. were between $300 and $900 million annually over the previous decade.

Nestlé first said that it was considering selling its North American bottled water business last spring. That part of its business has faced numerous challenges in recent years, including competition from store brands, rising costs and growing concern from consumers about the environmental harm of plastic waste, according to the Wall Street Journal. However, it will hold onto its premium water brands including Perrier, San Pellegrino and Acqua Panna.

A group of Maine water rights activists opposed the sale of Poland Spring before it was formally confirmed this week, arguing that individual communities will lose even more control over their groundwater supplies if it passes from Nestlé to private equity firms.

More than 70 people attended a protest of the sale and of the bottled water industry last weekend in Fryeburg, where Poland Spring extracts some of its water.

This article appears through a media partnership with Maine Public.

Correction: An earlier version of this report misstated how many water sources Poland Spring owns.