BevNET TV: Coco Café – How the Vita Coco Deal Came Together

When Coco Café first appeared on store shelves last September, it would’ve been easy to assume that the coconut water/latte blend already had some sort of relationship with Vita Coco; the name, design, and packaging of both brands were – for certain – quite similar. Coco Café founders Brian McCaslin and Elan Eifer admittedly admired Vita Coco and its branding, though, at the time, the two companies had no affiliation, a fact that quickly changed following a chance meeting with Vita Coco CEO Mike Kirban at BevNET Live Winter 2011. Two months after the event, Vita Coco would end up acquiring a majority stake in Coco Café.

In an interview filmed at the comfy confines of Coco Café’s coffeehouse-inspired booth at Expo West 2012, Eifer, McCaslin, and Kirban spoke about how the similarities between the two brands allowed for synergy in the marketing, distribution, and, in particular, ingredient sourcing.

“The supply chain at Vita Coco, for us, is the biggest factor. They run it. They have a worldwide presence on it,” McCaslin said. “[Eifer and I] would have endless conversations just about inexperience, and now we can go into the office of people who’ve done it.”

Kirban noted that McCaslin and Eifer were running Coco Café as they had before the acquisition, although now with the vast resources of Vita Coco. For his part, Kirban hopes to mentor McCaslin and Eifer by sharing some hard-earned wisdom from years in an often challenging industry.

“I’m trying to remember as many mistakes as we made in the early days and help these guys understand and avoid [them],” Kirban said, calling it his goal to make it “as easy as possible for these guys to build something quickly.”

Kirban noted that the acquisition of Coco Café allowed Vita Coco to eschew a caffeinated line extension while gaining a broader footprint in the coconut water category, but also to enable the brand to challenge Starbucks Frappuccino in the RTD coffee category.

“I think [Coco Café] is less of a new twist on coconut water – like a lot of the other brands or things that are coming out – and it’s more of a new twist on coffee,” Kirban said. “That’s the big difference. We’re not even looking to be in the coconut water set necessarily. So, really the focus is really going after the coffee business by turning it around a little bit and using what we do, which is coconut water, in order to do that.”

In this video, BevNET CEO John Craven speaks with McCaslin, Eifer, and Kirban about the trio’s first meeting at BevNET Live, and the next steps for Coco Café in the coming months. Kirban also offers his opinion on the use of coconut water as an ingredient, while McCaslin and Eifer delve into the benefits of Vita Coco’s organization and supply chain including greater access to Fair Trade ingredients.