In Mandarin Chinese Coca-Cola translates to something along the lines of, “Allow your mouth to rejoice.” Whether or not your mouth rejoices, the man who invented Coca-Cola in 1886 claimed it as a treatment for headaches, impotence and morphine addiction. But now things are changing. The Coca-Cola Company while making news for its newfangled digital dispensers, recently bought intoZICO, a company that markets coconut water. Noting that coconut water is the Gatorade of the soccer world, the Coca-Cola people are banking on the idea that this might just be the next Real Thing.
The ZICO people claim that coconut water has been around for 4,000 years. Conventional wisdom holds that coconut water, the “water” inside of young, green coconuts (as opposed to coconut milk) was God-given to the earth with all other plants, but sometimes conventional wisdom has been known to be wrong. Regardless, American tourists to just about any tropical place have encountered machete-wielding vendors ready to dispense coconut water at the drop of – a quarter.
Since packaged coconut water entered the American drink landscape, it hasn’t exactly taken off. But with several companies distributing it and baby steps in marketing, sales of the potassium-rich, electrolyte-packed, low calorie, natural drink reached $20 million last year. While that’s a literal drop in the U.S. beverage market bucket, Brazil sells about $300 million worth of the stuff each year.
Even if Americans don’t dig coconut water in a big way, the Coca-Cola Company still stands to win in its international markets. It knows that a whopping 51 percent of Coke earnings comes from outside the U.S. where the popular beverage can be found in even the most remote, rural hamlet. Similarly, from Asia to Africa and South America, billions and billions of people are drinking coconut water. Of course, it isn’t known how companies will get the average Third World person to switch from actual coconuts to the packaged version.
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