By any account, Harmless Harvest was one of the most talked about brands at Expo West 2012, and it certainly wasn’t for a lack of influential enthusiasts. From Gwyneth Paltrow’s recent declaration that she is “obsessed” with Harmless Harvest and that “it puts all other coconut water to shame,” to a feature story in Vogue that called the beverage one of “the new health kicks of the season,” the brand has – intentionally or not – cultivated a well-heeled (or at least high-heeled) following.
Nevertheless, Harmless Harvest seemed to be right at home with the earthy, beatnik, Birkenstocked vibe of the natural products show, in its stripped down, palm tree-laden booth complete with an oversized, hand-drawn sign that declared, “No cooked up stories. No boiled down product. No lies.” The swarming crowds eager to meet founders Justin Guilbert and Douglas Riboud turned the booth into a tabernacle of vindication for their steadfast belief: that high pressure processing can help a raw, organic coconut water eventually find mainstream appeal.
“It took us two and a half years to develop this [product], and we’re finally getting recognition,” Guilbert said. “We’re getting incredible ground support from consumers, stars, retailers. People are really reacting to the new standard that we’re setting in the coconut water category by utilizing both incredible raw material coming from… organic and natively grown coconuts, and the extremely novel way of processing and delivering [coconut water] as a raw product through high pressure systems.”
The brand is off to a torrid pace in 2012 having wrapped up a three month exclusive deal with Whole Foods on January 1, and adding distribution in over 1,000 new stores since then. Harmless Harvest is also introducing its first line extension, a 16 oz. bottle, in response to its consumers clamoring for a larger alternative to its – relatively small – 8 oz. bottle. The new bottle size will be preview launched at Whole Foods and other retailers in the Northeast, with new distribution in metro New York through Dora’s Naturals, a New Jersey-based DSD distributor that carries a number of natural beverage brands including Guayaki, Inko’s, and Sambazon.
In this segment, filmed inside the Harmless Harvest booth at Expo West, BevNET CEO John Craven spoke with Guilbert and Riboud about the early successes of the brand and how the taste of its coconut water has become the best way for consumers to appreciate and understand the use of high pressure processing in preserving a raw product. Guilbert also discusses why some of its coconut water has a tendency to turn pink and how the discoloration is useful in educating consumers about a natural and raw product.