And while those prices have definitely been dropping as the market grows, one new SoCal brand has hit a milestone that might officially tip the drink into mass-market status: Its entire product line retails for just 99 cents, and you'll find it sold at dollar store and outlet food chains. The real kicker? Coconut Beach’s quality is on par with, if not superior to, all of the big players in the coconut water game.
“Coconut water has exploded over the last five years, and now we’re starting to see [the market] fragment into flavored, carbonated, and other varieties,” says Coconut Beach co-founder Mitch Compton. “This is a big response to American consumers saying they want other options besides sugary, high-fructose corn syrup beverages. We want to help grow the health and wellness category, and being a high-quality, entry-level water, this fills that need.”
In other words, by offering up pure coconut water for about the price of a soda, the brand’s banking on luring in an increasingly health-conscious mass market—one that may have been turned off by the comparatively high price of coconut water in the past.
So, why's it so cheap?
Compton was initially skeptical when Coconut Beach co-founders Mike Reidy and Kent Harrington approached him with the idea of launching the new, cheaper coconut water. “Being a surfer from Southern California, coconut water is not new to me,” he says. “If you go to a convenience store, there are 30 different brands—some of them are good, some of them are gross. So at first I was thinking, ‘Why do we need another coconut water?’”
But after sampling the water that his friends had scored—which really does taste pretty darn close to the sweet water that comes fresh out of a coconut—he was sold. The upstart brand couldn’t compete with heavyweights like Coca-Cola (who owns Zico) and Pepsi Co. (One Coconut Water) in terms of marketing budget, but it could compete on price.
“Our strategy was all a play off volume—if we could find retailers that have consumers demanding healthy products at an affordable price point and give them a premium product for that, we felt like we had a business," Compton explains. That means that they're counting on their customers to continue coming back to retailers for more—a lot. "So far, that’s worked out very nicely for us,” Compton says.
To be clear, there’s no cost-cutting involved in the water itself. Coconut Beach’s 100 percent pure coconut water uses only non-GMO, young Thai coconuts—never from concentrate, and with no preservatives, flavorings, added sugar, or other not-so-nice extras. “It was important to us that we were putting something out there we’d actually drink,” stresses Compton. “You see lots of different makeups of what people call coconut water, and they’re not all created equal. There are a lot of great brands out there that are doing what we do, but there are also a lot who are adding things to the water so it’s not 100 percent pure.”
Compton adds that the brand also works closely with its suppliers to ensure they’re operating under ethical labor and environmental standards, and that no animals are used in the harvest process.
First dollar stores, then the world?
Since launching in late 2015, Coconut Beach’s products have been picked up by bargain retailers such as Dollar Tree, Grocery Outlet, and Food 4 Less; the water will also be available to buy on Amazon later this summer. And so far, it’s proven a hit among the stores’ budget-conscious audiences.
“The overwhelming response has been nuts,” says Compton, who adds that in addition to the pure coconut water, the brand’s coconut chips—especially the chocolate-covered ones—have been fan favorites. (No, these aren’t super-healthy, but they’re a better choice than a bag of M&Ms.)
“We don’t need to go out and tell people, ‘Hey, this is what coconut water will do for you,’” he says. “Other brands have already been saying that for years. We just say that it’s a high-quality product that we consume ourselves, and I think that’s where we’ve been very successful.” And while no processed coconut water can ever beat the fresh stuff—not to mention that its relatively high natural sugar content means it should be consumed in moderation, no matter what the source—it’s certainly a better choice than Gatorade or soda. Who can fault any brand that’s encouraging more people to make that switch?
Wellness drinks are big business—even Beyonce and Leo DiCaprio are investing in them. Check out some of the more unusual varieties to come across our desks lately, including daily detox drinks, collagen beverages, and crystal-infused waters.
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