Vita Coco still indie, starts DPSG deal with Publix

Vita Coco founder and CEO Michael Kirban said his company will continue to operate much as it has, even after signing a national distribution agreement with Dr Pepper Snapple Group.

The brand’s agreement with America’s third largest bottling network will begin with Publix on July 12, he said, then build to cover 35 states.

“The roll out for full DPS footprint will probably take at least a year,” Kirban said during an interview at The BevNET Live conference in New York. “It’s going to be staggered. It’s going to be Southeast, then other regions, and we’re going to slowly grow it just the way we’ve grown our business for the first six years.”

Unlike DPSG’s agreements with HyDrive and Big Red, he said, Vita Coco’s distribution contract with DPSG does not include an equity stake. His company’s enduring independent status sets it apart from direct competitors Zico and O.N.E. (One Natural Experience). Last year, Zico announced a $15 million investment from The Coca-Cola Co., Inc.’s Venturing and Emerging Brands unit. Soon after, O.N.E. announced an investment from Pepsi Bottling Group which has since been inherited by Pepsi Beverage Company.

As his company grows, Kirban said Vita Coco will support the brand with expanded production capacity – he said the company will add access to two more production lines by the end of the year, with a facility in the Philippines joining the one it owns in Brazil – and sales staff.

“We went from 15 people 18 months ago to almost 80 people today. Who knows, we might double in terms of number of employees again this year,” he said. “We need to make sure that wherever we go, we work the stores, we work the product, we work with the distributors.”