Four years ago, Phoenix local Brian Kaplan met a man who told him about a trend gaining momentum in his country of Brazil—people were drinking coconut water mixed with spirits.
About the same time frame, coconut water had already begun flying off supermarket shelves in the United States. The water variety is known to contain sodium, magnesium, potassium, calcium and vitamin C, among other minerals, and is sought-after for its hydration and health benefits. But, the combination of coconut water and spirits had not yet been commercially conceptualized.
The conversation set the wheels into motion for Kaplan, a University of Arizona graduate, and he began to research the idea of ready-to-serve coconut water cocktails.
“Coconut water tastes good and is good for you,” said Kaplan. “As a mixer with alcohol, it really smooths out the flavor without overstepping it, offering something totally unique that is low in calories and sugar while not tasting artificial or too sweet.”
Kaplan combines refreshing coconut water with five-time-distilled premium vodka for his gluten-free bottled cocktails. His product, called Coco 21, launched in stores in February 2016.
“We’ve created something that tastes delicious and is better for you than most alternatives out there,” he said.
The four varieties—Original, Pineapple, Cocorita and Guava—are found in statewide locations of Total Wine & More, Fry’s Food & Drug, Albertsons, Bashas’ and Safeway, and each flavor is under 70 to 90 calories per serving.
Several Valley restaurants, including Scottsdale’s S & V Urban Italian, are also pouring the beverage. Bar manager Maggie McAtee serves up Coco 21 Pineapple on the rocks, garnished with a pineapple wedge.
“We love that you feel guilt-free when consuming this product, and it entices you to have a second or third cocktail without the worry of feeling crummy the next day,” she said. “It is easy to serve and it is even easier to sell.”
With a background in creating and marketing various health and beauty products that have been sold in retail outlets ranging from Walgreens to Nordstrom, Kaplan is no stranger to bringing big ideas to the marketplace. And looking to the future, he is focused on expanding Coco 21 outside of Arizona.
“I love that I was able to start the brand in my hometown,” he said. “I love doing events and samplings, and seeing how happy consumers are when they try it for the first time.”