BevNET TV: An Interview With Mark Rampolla of ZICO

As the coconut water category continues to expand, ZICO, one of the first companies in the space, has emerged as a strong category player whose sales and distribution have drastically increased over last year.

In a recent interview with BevNET CEO John Craven, ZICO founder Mark Rampolla stated that there were a number of factors that contributed to the rapid growth of the brand, though he specifically pointed to the company’s introduction of a PET bottle as part of its packaging line-up and the launch of its chocolate flavor as key to ZICO’s overall evolution.

“Without a doubt, the [PET] bottle is what has taken us to the next level,” Rampolla said. “[Yet] one of the things that’s frustrated me about ZICO and the whole category is how often you have to explain to people, ‘it’s an acquired taste.’ Familiarity does help but, more than anything, having something that simply tastes delicious goes a long way.”

“And so [with ZICO Chocolate] I just wanted to come up with something that was delicious and that everybody loved,” Rampolla continued. “The response has been off the charts — and the lesson for us is, taste matters.”

From a distribution standpoint, ZICO has found success in the last year by way of entry into chain stores, and greater mainstream distribution on the West Coast, much of it through the Coca-Cola system.

“It’s been a learning process, but it’s working very well in Southern California, Rampolla said. “We’re going to experiment and continue to grow in [Coke’s] system.”

However, Rampolla also explained that while Coke, a minority investor in the company, provided great reach at many chains, he noted that ZICO works with a number of independent distributors to stretch its presence in small markets, communities and channels.

“What’s been most impressive to me is that Coke is sort of embracing this concept of brand first, get it to consumers, find the route to market and be flexible,” he said. “There are certain small markets and small communities and channels that they don’t touch well and they’ve been very open to working with sub-distributors.”