High-Profile Hires: Coco Libre Taps Former ZICO Vet as CEO; Lange to Pressed Juicery; Ventura Joins Califia

Candace Crawford, Maverick Brands

Candace Crawford, Maverick Brands

Three high-profile entrepreneurial beverage companies have recently solidified their executive ranks with beverage veterans hailing from a variety of backgrounds within the industry.

Maverick Brands, which markets Coco Libre coconut water drinks, today announced the appointment of Candace Crawford as CEO of the company, a role effective on March 1. Crawford, a former executive with ZICO, Bossa Nova and POM Wonderful, takes over for Maverick founder Mark Shaw, who will transition to the lofty title of Office of the Chairman, Chief of Marketing, Strategy and Innovation.

Crawford was the CFO and COO of ZICO from February, 2010 until November, 2013, when the Coca-Cola Co. completed its acquisition of the coconut water company. Crawford managed operations and oversaw finances for the company, which she joined following CFO roles at Bossa Nova and POM Wonderful. According to Maverick, Crawford played “a pivotal role in [Bossa Nova’s] growth and subsequent sale to Beverage Holdings, parent company of Sunny Delight.”

Shaw, who will continue to serve as a board member of the company, will support marketing and innovation initiatives for Coco Libre, however, Crawford is slated to take over day-to-day responsibilities, with a mandate to rapidly expand distribution and awareness of the brand. Coco Libre pulled in nearly $4 million in measured channel sales of its coconut water for the 52 weeks ending on Feb. 4, according to IRI, a Chicago-based market research firm.

The choice of Crawford as CEO is seen as one “that will elevate Coco Libre to its next phase of growth,” David Wong, Chairman, Maverick Brands, said in a statement.

“Mark’s vision for the business and passion for creating healthy beverages remains the foundation of the company,” Wong said in a company release. “His considerable accomplishments have brought us where we are today. Now, we believe Maverick will benefit from Candace’s executive experience and industry knowledge.”

In a telephone interview with BevNET, Crawford explained that “the [Maverick] board wanted someone who’s seen it and done it before,” and referred to her past experience with early-stage beverage companies that attained rapid growth in distribution and sales and, in the case of ZICO and Bossa Nova, were eventually sold.

While Crawford noted that Coco Libre has strong distribution on the West Coast, Texas and in Costco stores, she pointed to the brand’s lack of a significant presence in New York and the Northeast as an immediate area of focus.

“New York and the Northeast have to be conquered,” she said. “That’s where all the influencers are.”

Bill Lange

Bill Lange, Pressed Juicery

While her job doesn’t official begin until next week, Crawford said that she’s given herself until the start of Expo West to find a DSD distributor in New York. The company is now gearing up for the event where it will promote a new coffee-flavored line extension for Coco Libre’s protein line.

Meanwhile, another ZICO veteran has taken the top marketing spot at cold-pressed juice outfit Pressed Juicery. Bill Lange, a former CMO of ZICO who, like Crawford, joined the company in early 2010, had most recently held the same role at probiotic beverage maker KeVita. Lange parted ways with KeVita in November, eight months after joining the company.

While Pressed Juicery has yet to announce the hire, Lange disclosed the news last week, via an updated to his LinkedIn profile, which now states “VP of Sales and Marketing at Pressed Juicery” as his new job. Lange joins Pressed Juicery amid continued and planned expansion for the Santa Monica-based company, which is making a deeper push for online sales of the brand and targeting a total of 31 brick and mortar stores in California by the end of 2015, according to Pressed Juicery founder Hayden Slater, who spoke at BevNET Live Winter ’15 in December.

“I first fell in love with Pressed while watching Hayden’s presentation at BevNET [Live],” Lange said in an e-mail to BevNET. “When he started speaking, I wrote in my planner ‘Story, driving passion & reason to exist.’  To me, those are critical elements to any strong brand and company culture.  We had those at ZICO and I sensed them from the outset with Hayden and Pressed, so suffice it to say that I am very excited to join such a strong brand, team and company.”

Arnold Ventura

Arnold Ventura, Califia Farms

Though Crawford and Lange parted ways with ZICO prior to being fully absorbed into the Coca-Cola system, Arnold Ventura is attempting to make a segue from another cola giant to an entrepreneurial beverage company, Califia Farms. Ventura, the founder of now defunct aguas frescas brand Coba, had been an executive with PepsiCo’s Naked Emerged Brands, an incubation unit tasked with identifying disruptive beverage brands and supporting those within its portfolio.

Last month, BevNET reported on PepsiCo’s decision to reorganize Naked Emerging Brands, a shake-up that resulted in the elimination of most of its sales force and several other employees reassigned or leaving the company. One of those who parted ways is Ventura, who has joined Califia, which markets a range of almond milk, cold-brew coffee and juice products, as its vice president of business development.

In an e-mail to BevNET, Ventura called his new role “a pretty amazing opportunity to work alongside [Califia founder and CEO Greg Steltenpohl]!” Calling Steltenpohl, who also founded Odwalla and later sold the company to Coca-Cola, “an absolute legend in the industry,” he welcomed an “interesting dynamic, where you have like Greg and then you have a wet-behind-the-ears aspiring next [generation] leader in our industry in me.”

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to include the e-mailed quote from Bill Lange.