Video: Visit with Harmless Harvest

Harmless Harvest, whose products debuted at Expo East in October, is one of those new beverage lines that’s sure to be talked about during its official launch, which is scheduled for early 2011. They’ll be the first to market with a USDA Organic certified coconut water — and with the coconut water category rapidly growing, it’s something that probably couldn’t be launched at a better time.

But in talking to founders Justin Guilbert and Douglas Riboud one quickly understands that Harmless Harvest didn’t set out to be just a coconut water company — in fact, the pair were extremely surprised at the response to that product. The company’s real focus, they say, is Mato, another Tetra-Pak product, which is a blend of wild harvested fruits including capuacu..

“We had no idea that coconut water was so important to the industry, Guilbert said. Rather, he said, what Harmless Harvest is all about is wild harvested ingredients – an anti agriculture movement that focuses on “placing value on the wilderness” by finding marketable ways to utilize the native crops that grow in what are often times remote areas.

So, in the case of their coconut water, Harmless Harvest takes young coconuts from mature coconut trees in a specific area of the Mexican coast. The trees, which rise 35 feet tall, have to be picked by hand, offering quite a contrast to agricultural coconuts, which the pair claim come from small trees that are optimized for farming (and, they add, could never be certified organic).

So who are these guys? Guilbert, a former marketing executive for Maybelline/Garnier, and Riboud, who is the nephew of Group Danone CEO Franck Riboud (in fact, Douglas Riboud’s grandfather founded Group Danone), are old friends who reconnected while in business school in France. Eventually, they ended up travelling various parts of the world, marveling at the variety and potency that came from wild fruits –a nd eventually this turned into something that the pair decided to turn into a business. Aside from wanting to pursue something that “creates positive change,” the pair believe that there is an opportunity to re-introduce the market to fruits that have in some cases been forgotten in a largely industrial global food supply.
Now, the company is trying to get ready for their official launch. Their last minute decision to exhibit at Expo East (their coming out was originally going to be Expo West 2011) has resulted in a bevvy of interest in the brand. They are scrambling to get everything in order, with the company planning on launching several coconut water and Mato products, along with a line of gelatos. From there, they claim to have ambitious intentions; if they realize them, they will surely be a company to watch.

In the video, hear the founders talk about wild harvesting, their launch plan, and how the idea for the brand came to be.