Founder Veloso Leaves Operational Role at O.N.E.

The founder of O.N.E. Coconut Water, Rodrigo Veloso, is giving up his day-to-day operational role at the company.

Veloso, who had been CEO of the company since he started it with his wife – and former president, Emilie Fritz Veloso — is moving into a position he calls “Chief Visionary Officer,” or CVO.

In that job he will be more focused on international growth and supply chain objectives, as well as other broad goals, he said.

“My heart is with the company,” Veloso said. “I’m still going to be involved, but I’m moving to having a more active role in the company in terms of the big picture.”

In late 2010, PepsiCo and Catterton Partners, who had been co-investors in the company, acquired a majority stake in O.N.E. Veloso remained as CEO and as a board member, although Emilie left the board.

Since then the company has had a fair amount of churn in its sales and marketing positions. O.N.E. recently brought in Tim Prager, a veteran of both Nestle Waters North America and Sweet Leaf Tea as its EVP of Marketing and Sales, however, solidifying the executive team to a level where Veloso felt comfortable moving into a more strategic role, he said. The company also has NitinDhopadi in a combined COO/CFO role and  Chris Cook as VP of Marketing.

“We are in a position right now where we have an executive team that is solid and strong, a supply that is flawless and able to escalate and execute our needs, domestically and internationally as well, and a true partnership with Pepsi,” Veloso said.

Veloso has already shown enterprise in that international, big-picture strategy role, helping to secure supply lines for the company in Indonesia and the Philippines even as the supply of Brazilian coconuts has dwindled amidst growing international demand for their juice, according to Michael Farello, who shepherded the Catterton investment in O.N.E.

“To me, the position is a recognition of the fact that he has been spending time on international expansion and the like,” Farello said. “It’s an evolution of his role and a pretty natural transition, one that he seems excited about. It enables him to spend time more on the forward-looking parts of the business.”

O.N.E. has shown a willingness to take risks with its brand in ways that the other two seminal coconut water companies, Vita Coco and Zico, have not. The brand was the first of the three to add a functional component to the already potent mix of electrolytes in coconut water, as well as move the ingredient laterally into a licensing deal with smoothie maker Jamba Juice to create a lighter calorie product line. Additionally, O.N.E. has been active in trying to secure an organic supply of coconut water for broad distribution in the U.S., although currently newcomer Harmless Harvest has taken the lead in that regard.

Veloso has himself remained a highly active entrepreneur even as he has helped integrate O.N.E. into the Pepsi system; he recently launched an online insurance company in Brazil.

“I’d like to teach Brazilians to buy insurance online,” he said. “It’s a similar challenge to convincing Americans to drink coconut water.”