Sitting cool amidst the chaos of a new product rollout at one of the industry’s most important DSD houses, ZICO Coconut Water Mark Rampolla found time to sit down with BevNET.com President John Craven to discuss his brand’s most important step to date: moving into plastic bottles.
While wearing Tetra-Pak paper-based packaging, Coconut Water has grown into one of the most talked-about beverage categories in recent memory. But during the interview, it became apparent that all that was changing. Big Geyser, the Mashpeth, NY-based distributor that has aided the growth of breakout products like vitaminwater, Muscle Milk and Honest Tea, had already sold out the first shipment of ZICO’s PET bottles, according to COO Jerry Reda. But consumer education is still key and that meant that Rampolla’s focus was on re-introducing the product to about 2000 retail accounts. It required Rampolla — and the rest of ZICO’s 30-plus staffers — to fly East from their California headquarters to help Big Geyser sales representatives place new point-of-sale materials, explain the new packaging, and generally nurture the brand’s relationship with its current and potential retailers.
Despite the initial sellout, significant questions remain for ZICO, one of Coconut Water’s “Big Three” companies, alongside O.N.E. and Vita Coco. Could the company keep its core Tetra-Pak audience – the Whole Foods shopping, yoga-practicing ‘early adopters’ of the trend – happy while taking PET into the mainstream? How would new hires and fresh cash help the company keep growing? How much could it expand in key markets like Los Angeles, New York and Boston against tough competition?
Things are picking up for ZICO, Rampolla told Craven – he said that to this point in 2010, sales are “pretty much double from last year” for the brand. To hear more about the company’s expansion strategy for the coming year, the state of the category and Rampolla’s views on the beverage industry overall, watch the following six-minute video.