China’s thirst for U.S. companies rises with coconut water

July 14, 2014, 5:34 PM UTC

The original version of this story contained an error. Reignwood Group runs Red Bull China as a joint venture with T.C. Pharmaceuticals. Corrected Nov. 2, 2015.

The Chinese distributor of Red Bull is buying a stake in the maker of Vita Coco, the top seller of coconut water in the U.S., in the latest sign that China’s thirst for U.S. assets is far from quenched.

Vita Coco’s New York-based parent company, All Market, said Monday it is selling a 25% stake for roughly $166 million to Beijing-based Reignwood Group. Reignwood is the owner (in a joint venture with T.C. Pharmaceuticals) to Red Bull China, which began distributing the Red Bull energy drink in China company two decades ago.

The deal is the latest example of China’s M&A boom gobbling up U.S.-based targets, as companies there look to meet the demands of the country’s ever-expanding consumer market. Last year saw the largest acquisition of a U.S. company by a Chinese buyer with Shuanghui International’s $7.1 billion purchase of Virginia-based pork producer Smithfield Foods. Beijing-based tech outfit Lenovo has also been an active shopper in the U.S., having announced its deal to buy Motorola Mobility from Google (GOOG) for about $2.9 billion earlier this year. Lenovo also recently got approval from Chinese regulators to move ahead with its planned $2.3 billion acquisition of IBM’s (IBM) computer servers business.

Red Bull China’s Vita Coco stake purchase values All Market, founded in 2004, at $665 million. The deal gives Red Bull China the right to market Vita Coco in the world’s second largest economy starting next year.

The Chinese company is looking to expand its drink offerings and tap into the growing market for coconut water by bringing the trendy product to the world’s largest population. In roughly a decade, Vita Coco has grown to control about 40% of the U.S. market for coconut water, which saw sales around $500 million last year, according to The Wall Street Journal. The drink company has enlisted the help of several celebrity investors, including Rihanna and Madonna.

In the deal announcement, Vita Coco co-founder and CEO Michael Kirban noted his company’s growth in markets outside the U.S., including in Europe and Japan. “We expect China to follow suit,” Kirban said.

Last year, Coca-Cola (KO) took control of the country’s second-largest coconut water seller, Zico. The beverage giant paid an undisclosed amount for full control of Zico after having paid $15 million for a minority stake five years ago. Meanwhile, Pepsi (PEP) owns a majority stake in coconut water company O.N.E.

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