Byravee Iyer
Dec 10, 2015

Vita Coco builds thirst for coconut water in Asia

Following its entry into Japan, China, Singapore, South Korea and Philippines in 2014 and 2015, US-based coconut water company Vita Coco plans to expand into five additional markets including Australia, Brunei, Maldives, New Zealand and Malaysia by the end of this year.

Prinz Pinakatt: Vita Coco targets young adults with a healthy message
Prinz Pinakatt: Vita Coco targets young adults with a healthy message

“Overseas demand for Vita Coco has been strong for years, even before we entered certain markets,” said Prinz Pinakatt, VP of marketing and sales for South Asia and Pacific, adding that Asia will play a significant role in the firm’s short- and long-term plans. “But we wanted to build this brand properly and have been methodical about how our proposition is presented in each new market.”

According to Pinakatt, the company is currently exploring “several opportunities” across the region, but he declined to share more details. “What I can tell you is that our footprint will grow.”

Last year, The Reignwood Group, which owns Red Bull China, picked up a 25 percent stake in Vita Coco and announced major distribution plans for the beverage. According to Euromonitor, Red Bull China has vast retail connections, funds for advertisement and sponsorship and the understanding of consumer’s growing demand for healthy beverages. Red Bull China has no formal business with Red Bull but has grown into a US$2.5 billion brand. “If Vita Coco is promoted similarly, it could surpass sales in the US,” Euromonitor said.

As of April 2015, Vita Coco was present in 15,000 stores in China with plans to expand distribution to 40,000 by the summer, The Wall Street Journal reported. The company also launched a multi-million-dollar marketing campaign, which included digital, print and out-of-home.

About 30 per cent of its revenue will be generated outside the US in 2015. Euromonitor estimated Vita Coco’s sales at $420 million last year, ahead of rival Coca Cola’s Zico and Pepsi’s Kero Coco.

In 2016, the company will invest in sponsorships and social media and the digital amplification of branded content. Pinakatt declined to share details on media spend. “Our partnerships will be designed to deliver brand experiences instead of mere associations of awareness, turning influential consumers into ambassadors. We will also significantly increase our investment in new platforms, formats and content types.”

Vita Coco’s marketing approach includes a mix of humour and wit around current topical social conversations. The brand is also known for adding a bit of drama to point-of-sale and experiential programs. Consumers can expect to find more of that in stores and across other touchpoints.

The company is also starting to involve its celebrity fans turned investors, such as Madonna and Rihanna in Asia. “Today cultural icons like Madonna or Rihanna are still a part of the Vita Coco family and will help the brand tell consumers in Asia the benefits of the drink,” Pinakatt said.

Madonna invested $1.5 million in the brand in 2010. Its other investors included her manager Guy Oseary, Matthew McConaughey and Demi Moore, and Red Hot Chili Peppers singer Anthony Kiedis. It is noteworthy that the coconut drink maker launched its first TVC in the US—ditching its celeb endorsers—earlier in the year.

As for distribution, it depends on the individual market situation, Pinakatt pointed out. “In some instances we work directly with retailers and build business with them, in others we work with well-established partners. We do not follow a template and are always willing to explore," the former Coke executive added. 

 

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