A couple of big beverage hires hit the news this week with Icelandic Glacial announcing that it has landed former Activate president Reza Mirza as CEO of the premium water brand, while ZICO veteran Bill Lange has taken his talents to Oxnard, Calif. as the VP of Marketing for probiotic beverage company KeVita.
Mirza joins Icelandic Glacial following his departure from Activate in December, at which time co-founder Anders Eisner retook the reins of the cap-dispensing brand as part of a transition in ownership of the company. Mirza comes to Icelandic with significant experience in the enhanced and premium bottle water segments having joined Activate in October, 2011 as the chief operating officer Activate and then as president of the company one year later. Prior to joining Activate, Mirza, who holds an MBA in International Business and International Affairs from Columbia University, held the role of Senior Marketing Manager for Nestle Waters North America as well as executive management positions with Colgate-Palmolive and Bosch.
As CEO, Mirza will be responsible for sales, marketing and distribution of Icelandic Glacial, and while co-founder Kristjan Olafsson will remain involved in the day-to-day operations of the company, he will now shift his focus to product innovation and developing new markets world-wide, according to a statement from the company.
“I am thrilled to be joining Icelandic Glacial at this exciting time, building on the excellent and strong foundation laid by Kristjan,” Mirza said. “I see the opportunity to build Icelandic Glacial into a megabrand in North America through increased distribution, strong marketing and innovation. I look forward to working with the outstanding team at Icelandic Glacial to deliver on this opportunity.”
Mirza joins a company in the midst of a steadily growing market for premium bottled water. Amid thriving demand for enhanced water brands like Smart Water and “affordable luxury” brands like VOSS, FIJI and Icelandic Glacial, beverage companies are increasingly looking at ways reach consumers (and higher margins) via premium positioning.
Perhaps just as hot as the premium water category, the market for probiotic food and beverages has exploded in the last two years. Yet rapid growth can often attract clutter and confusion with a deluge of new brands. And to help refine and enhance its communication with consumers, KeVita brought on Bill Lange, the former VP of Marketing for ZICO who oversaw brand marketing, field marketing and innovation for the coconut water company. Lange, who has 17 years of marketing experience, holds the same position with KeVita.
Lange comes to KeVita amid huge sales growth for the brand, particularly in natural retailers. Excluding sales in Whole Foods, KeVita had natural channel sales of just over $5 million for the 52 weeks ending on Dec. 21, according to SPINS, a leading provider of syndicated market research. KeVita executives pegged total 2013 revenue for the brand at $12 million.
In addition to Lange, KeVita announced that it has brought on former Reed’s, Inc. CFO James Linesch for the same position , and Marc Hoopingarner as Director of Sales Operations. Hoopingarner most recently worked as Sales Operations Analyst at for protein bar company thinkThin.