Pressing the Gas Pedal, Harmless Harvest Pumps Up Infrastructure

It’s not riding on endless tracks, but the founders of the runaway train named Harmless Harvest are making moves to ensure that there’s no end in sight.

With sales of its “100% Raw” coconut water booming, Harmless Harvest has over the last six months pumped money and resources into an operational base in Thailand, aiming to ensure a consistent supply of its ultra-high quality liquid while it expands the availability of its products to mainstream consumers.

Although Harmless Harvest has taken a deliberate approach to line extensions and new products, it’s also set to unveil an overhaul of its tea line and add a couple of flavor varieties to its coconut water.

Featuring a tweaked formulation, Harmless Harvest’s 100% Raw Tea has undergone its second label revamp, and, most notably, will feature a new name. Now known as Namacha, which in Japanese means “raw tea,” the beverage line will return to the market next month.

Harmless Harvest Namacha feat.Harmless Harvest co-founder Justin Guilbert described the initial release of the tea, which is made with pulverized and cold-steeped tea leaves and finished with high pressure processing (HPP), as a test launch. The products were sold exclusively at Whole Foods, and Harmless Harvest wanted to know “the limits” and “the weaknesses” of the line and potential for a sub-category of cold-brewed and “raw” teas, Guilbert said. Once the company was satisfied with interest and demand for the line, it made the decision to lock in long-term contracts with its suppliers in Japan.

As for the name change, Guilbert said that the company “tried to steer away from calling it ‘100% Raw Tea,’ because [unlike] coconut water, the descriptive approach was, perhaps, less valuable.”

“We’ve created what we feel is a brand name that really translates well with what we’re doing,” Guilbert said, citing greater awareness of tea-based drinks like kombucha and matcha.

But the price of retrenching the line means that now Namacha will likely share shelf space with other refrigerated tea brands — including Suja’s recently launched line of cold brew, biodynamic teas. Guilbert said that Harmless Harvest would position the products as innovative beverages and target influential consumers who will embrace the process and formulation of the drinks.

The company is working with “about five key distributors” and 5-6 retailers on the roll-out of Namacha. Packaged in 10 oz. wrapped bottles, the teas will retail for $2.99.

Harmless Harvest Cinnamon CloveOn the coconut water front, Guilbert said that while Harmless Harvest has “really resisted the temptation to just add flavors for the sake of adding SKUs on the shelf or building the real estate,” it found “incredible success” for last year’s introduction of a seasonal cinnamon and clove variety, which the company will bring back to the market as a year-round product in the fall. Guilbert also hinted at the launch of another new coconut water SKU that will be forthcoming this fall, but was not able to offer specifics on the flavor or formulation.

Despite his enthusiasm for the new beverages, he underscored the importance of staying on mission when it comes to communication of the brand, which is rooted in the differentiation of its “raw,” organic coconut water versus others in the category.

“We’ve really been trying to stress upon the specificity of perishable coconut water versus shelf-stable coconut water,” Guilbert said. “We’re not really trying to pick any bones with coconut water leaders, the Vita Cocos and others, because we’re talking about different products, different contexts, different distribution, different price points.”

And despite a steady flow of new “raw” coconut water brands hitting the market, Guilbert indicated that he’s more concerned about competition coming from other emerging categories, including super-premium juice. He remarked on the breadth of innovation and booming sales in nascent beverage segments as being both challenging and frustrating.

“We’d love to launch 20 new SKUs… but the reality is, we’re looking at the source, and we’re looking at the long-term relationship with the source,” he said. “We’ve made a very, very big, conscious effort to slow down. Meaning to focus on source, focus on the one ingredient we have, and resist the temptation… to gain some sort of attraction on the marketplace.”

Harmless Harvest 100 Percent Raw Coconut WaterPointing to what he sees as long-term, sustained demand for premium, organic coconut water, he noted that the company has spent the last six months worked on intensifying its relationships with its farmer-partners. While not glamorous from a marketing perspective, the company’s desire to think long term and grow its business over the next 5-10 years is critical to its goal of becoming “one of models for the organic agriculture movement,” he said.