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Kiwi entrepreneurs tap sweet waters

Another Kiwi venture is dipping its straw in the coconut water market with the launch of the Coaqua brand.

In the latest Idealog mag we found out about Nelson entrepreneur Max Jones, who has joined the category with his Da’ Maha range.

We also found that coconut water is the fastest-growing non-alcoholic beverage in the world and grew by 540 percent between 2008 and 2012. Madonna bought shares in the big coconut water brand, Vita Coco, in 2010.

Coaqua was founded by New Zealand-born entrepreneurs Grier Govorko and Steve Gilberd, who began researching the beverage four years ago.

Govorko spent 20 years as the production designer for US band the Red Hot Chili Peppers, while Gilberd is a veteran of the hospitality and bakery trade. They say they saw a gap in the market for a product targeting the hospitality industry. 

“We tasted every brand of coconut water we could and saw that all the competitors were copying Vita Coco or were positioning their brands as sports hydration alternatives,” says Govorko. “No one was catering for the hospitality market so we started looking at what opportunities existed.”

They also aimed for a naturally sweet product sourced from young coconuts. Established brands were sourcing water from large plantations where water from old coconuts is pasteurised in bladders, then packaged and pasteurised again before being shipped to market, they say.

The pair have found a supplier in Vietnam which harvests coconuts in the Mekong Delta region, where small scale family farmers harvet whole coconuts shipped to Ho Chi Minh City and bottled within two hours. The supplier has strict instructions to maintain the levels of naturally occurring sugar and protect the taste and freshness of the raw product, the pair say.

Coaqua is distributed nationwide by Red + White Cellars. New Zealand is being used as a test market, where it is offered in bars, restaurants and specialty food markets like Farro, say Govorko and Gilberd. 

They’re targeting the US and have signed a distribution deal with a premium lifestyle hotel brand opening its first US property in Miami in the next few months. They also plan to expand into sparkling and fruit variations of coconut water. 

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