Last February, when private equity firm KarpReilly LLC purchased Zola, CEO Chris Cuvelier said he hoped the sale would set the coconut water and acai juice producer on the path to becoming a $100 million company.
Very quickly after completing the deal, KarpReilly and Zola began crafting a plan for an entire brand relaunch. The rigorous project that became known internally as “Zola 2.0” was focused on creating a new team, new packaging, and new innovation. A year later, Zola is ready to reveal the first stage of its makeover at Natural Products Expo West this week.
One of the key pieces of the relaunch is a packaging redesign. Consumer research played a large role in determining the direction of the Zola 2.0 project. Many taste testers reported low expectations based on the look of Zola’s original cans and bottles, according to Cuvelier, to the point where consumers were actually “surprised” by how much they enjoyed the brand’s beverages. The redesign does away with the busy imagery of Zola’s old cans to present more minimalist visuals of coconuts and berries on a plain white background.
Most prominent is a new logo that Cuvelier said represents Zola’s commitment to plant-powered hydration.
“It’s a totally new icon that has an energy trifecta that features people, plant power, and hydration,” he said. “So I think for the first time the brand story comes through on that package.”
Cuvelier said the old packaging “communicated too much” without hitting the key points about the products he wanted to resonate with consumers. Prompted by the feedback from consumer research, Cuvelier and Chief Growth Officer Pete Brennan opted to make “plant power” the key message of the brand, one that could unite its coconut water and acai juice lines and drive all future innovation.
While many of its new innovations are slated for a summer reveal, Zola will debut a pineapple coconut water — available in 1 liter Tetra Pak — at Expo West as the only new flavor in the first stage of the relaunch. Cuvelier said the company also made formula changes to its espresso and chocolate coconut waters, removing dairy and carrageenan to ensure that its entire portfolio is vegan-friendly.
“One of things we’re really proud of is that it evolves our position to not only focus on those premium ingredients and attributes we’ve always prized in Zola, but now with our plant-powered hydration platform, it’s a real shift and a real meaningful focus on consumer benefit,” said Brennan, who joined Zola following the KarpReilly purchase. “We’re making sure that we are demonstrating through the design, and the product that’s always been inside the package, that we are delivering on the needs that our consumers have.”
In addition to Brennan, Zola 2.0 included several new team members. Among them are former Harmless Harvest supply chain director Belinda Yao, who came on as vice president of operations in October and brand manager Caroline Martin, who hailed from The Clorox Company. Most recently, former Mamma Chia sales director Andy Blacklidge joined in February as national director of sales.
“Part of Zola 2.0 is about approaching the business in a different way and it goes back to having a team that sees the vision — and I think now we have the team that can get out there and execute the vision,” Cuvelier said. “I’ve been spending quite a bit of time on the road in front of buyers and showing them where we’re going as a brand with the packaging and the response has been incredibly positive, so we’re looking to deepen our partnership with retailers and bring on new distribution. So, I think now we’ve got the team that can drive things to make that happen.”
The new packaging, as well as the pineapple coconut water, is set to hit shelves in June. According to Brennan, the launch will include a proactive digital media campaign and Zola will also launch a new website to educate consumers about the transition.
“This wasn’t about creating a new brand positioning,” Cuvelier said. “It was really about coming in and understanding the existing core elements within our brand’s DNA and being able to communicate that in a better way.”