Coca-Cola Co. Buys ZICO

Plans full marketing, distribution of coconut-water brand

Coca-Cola Co. Buys ZICO Coconut Water

ATLANTA -- ZICO Pure Premium Coconut Water got an access boost Friday with its purchase by the Coca-Cola Co. Coca-Cola and ZICO Beverages LLC announced that Coca-Cola has acquired the outstanding ownership stake in ZICO, giving the coconut-water brand the scale benefits of the Coca-Cola system.

The announcement will unlock more capability for ZICO, including marketing, selling, manufacturing, innovation and distribution opportunities, according to Coca-Cola. Additionally, the Coca-Cola Co., Atlanta, will gain a leading position in one of the fastest-growing beverage categories in the world.

The move completes the transaction that began in 2009 when Coca-Cola’s Venturing and Emerging Brands (VEB) business unit first invested in ZICO. In 2012, the company purchased a majority stake in the brand. And earlier this year, the brand took its place on red Coca-Cola trucks to be distributed throughout the U.S. and Canada.

“When we made our investment in ZICO, we did so because we saw it as a burgeoning premium brand with the potential to be a significant leader in a high growth category,” said Deryck van Rensburg, president and general manager, Venturing & Emerging Brands, Coca-Cola North America. “Over the past four years, we have watched the coconut-water category see an impressive spike in revenue and household penetration and ZICO solidify its position as one of the leading brands in this category. With our acquisition, we plan to innovate in all aspects of the consumer experience and increase both velocity and distribution to position ZICO for even more growth. This announcement is the sign of a continued beginning for the brand, with more resources, support and cachet to come.”

The coconut-water category has seen impressive sales growth since its inception, nearly doubling its revenue every year since 2004. In the period since Coca-Cola’s initial investment in ZICO, the brand has expanded its distribution footprint from six markets to national presence, adding such influencer retail partners as Kroger, Target and Walmart. While coconut water growth remains extremely strong in 2013, year-to-date ZICO’s volume growth continues to outperform the category.

“We always believed coconut water would eventually become a major beverage category and ZICO a household name, even when we were running the company from my garage and selling out of a rented truck,” said Mark Rampolla, ZICO’s founder and chief executive officer. “Over the past four years, it has been exciting to see ZICO excel as our partnership with the Coca-Cola Co. matured. Now, with full access to the resources of the Coca-Cola system, we have the opportunity to bring ZICO and the healthy, replenishing benefits of coconut water even further into the mainstream and realize our original goals.”

As part of the transaction, G. Scott Uzzell will become president and take over day-to-day management of ZICO Beverages LLC, El Segundo, Calif. Rampolla will remain as a non-executive advisor to ZICO supporting the transition and long-term strategic initiatives.

“As we enter a new phase of growth and development, I hoped to find a leader that would respect our brand heritage and organizational culture while helping us capitalize on this incredible opportunity,” said Rampolla. “I’ve known Scott for six years, have a tremendous amount of respect for him and am confident that he’s the guy to take ZICO to the next level.”

Uzzell has served as ZICO’s chief commercial officer and EVP of sales for the past year. Prior to this position, Scott played a number of leadership roles for the Coca-Cola Co., including VP of the McDonald’s business unit and VP/GM, Incubation for VEB. His knowledge of the VEB business and the Coca-Cola system will be critical in ensuring a seamless transition of the new ZICO operating model.