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The Coca-Cola Co., Atlanta, acquired the outstanding ownership stake in Zico Beverages LLC, El Segundo, Calif. The acquisition will unlock more capability for Zico including marketing, selling, manufacturing, innovation and distribution opportunities. Additionally, The Coca-Cola Co. will gain a leading position in the coconut water category.
The move completes the transaction, which 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 began being distributed via Coca-Cola trucks throughout the United States 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 of VEB at Coca-Cola North America, in a statement. “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.”
Since Coca-Cola’s initial investment in Zico in 2009, the brand has expanded its distribution footprint from six markets to having a national presence, adding retail partners such as Kroger, Target and Walmart. While coconut water growth remains strong in 2013, year-to-date volume growth for Zico 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,” Zico Founder and Chief Executive Officer Mark Rampolla said in a statement. “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 of Zico Beverages and take over day-to-day management of the company. Rampolla will remain as a non-executive adviser to Zico by 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” Rampolla said in a statement. “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 executive vice president of sales for the last year. Prior to this position, Uzzell held a number of leadership roles for The Coca-Cola Co., including vice president of the McDonald’s business unit as well as vice president and general manager of incubation for VEB.
“I have long shared the energy, passion and love for Zico that has existed among consumers and within the company since its inception,” Uzzell said in a statement. “Mark and his team have done an incredible job building the Zico brand into what it is today. I’m excited about leading the team through this next evolution in the brand’s development and believe that with the team’s entrepreneurial zeal and the resources of The Coca-Cola Co., we can take Zico to new heights.”