The changes are taking place for three key reasons, according to CEO Mike Kirban: to give the packaging a more updated, refreshed look, to address changes required because of a recent class-action lawsuit settlement, and to refine labeling copy to create a more transparent look at the product’s composition for consumers and regulatory agencies.
That last part reflects a change in the ingredient panel of Vita Coco to reflect the addition of a small amount of sugar to some batches of the drink to keep the flavor consistent from container to container. According to the company, the change allows standardization of sweetness level regardless of harvest, time of year, or country of origin – all variables that have become more important as coconut water companies have started to source their products from different parts of the globe to satisfy increasing consumer demand.
“We don’t have to do it,” Kirban said. “We’re leaning on the safe side, and as the category leader, we want to be the most transparent to the consumer as possible.”
It’s a touchy subject because part of coconut water’s popularity is traceable to its tiny ingredient list. On unflavored Vita Coco, that list will show “Coconut Water, Vitamin C and Less than 1% Natural Sugar.” The nutritional fact panel will also include “100% Juice” at the top of the panel.
Kirban stressed that the amount of sugar and number of calories per serving in Vita Coco is not changing, and that the changes are in compliance with regulatory standards for pure juices.
“It’s like when you buy two oranges at the same supermarket,” he said to illustrate the variability the company is trying to address. “They’re both oranges, but they don’t taste exactly the same or have the exact same nutritional content.”
Other changes will attempt to create points of differentiation from competitors like Zico, which has moved to a concentrate format for its mainstream RPET package; Vita Coco will contain the addition of the word “Pure” for all flavors and sizes , and a more highly visible “Never from Concentrate” message on the front of each package. Those packages will also be double-sided, with logo, flavor, size repeated on both sides for easier merchandising.
Issues of function that were under fire in the recently-settled civil suit, which forced Vita Coco to offer up to $4 million in free product as payment for ending the case, will also be reflected in changes in marketing copy on the package.
The removal of most of what the brand called its “romance copy” will satisfy the requirements of the settlement, changing the labeling to more clearly describe the variable nature of coconut water and changing the language so that it no longer purports to be more hydrating than sports drinks. The packaging will continue to promote the potassium and electrolyte content of Vita Coco, however.
The changes begin in May and will carry on throughout the summer.