Whangarei founded company Cocavo has recently extended into over 4,000 Walmart stores in the US. We spoke to CEO of Cocavo, Chris Nathan, about what it takes to roll out the humble New Zealand product further into international markets.
Q&A with Chris Nathan, CEO of Cocavo:
Cocavo has done well within our New Zealand market thanks in part to a growing trend of wellness from our food, do you expect the same enthusiasm around good healthy products from the US market?
That’s quite an interesting question. Cocavo has actually taken off more in the USA due to the nature of the adventurous cook there. We have struggled in New Zealand due to lack of media attention despite our marketing. It’s been a bit of a slap in the face really. However once people in New Zealand try it they just keep coming back. Our first full container leaves for Australia next week too.
Your product is set to go in over 4000 stores, what will change for you to keep up such a large demand including stockists back home?
We have been planning to build our own coconut oil plants around the Pacific with new technology I developed. Our first plant is due to open in Fiji around March 2019. This plant, the first of five, will have a profound direct impact on around 26,000 families whose sole income is from coconuts.
We expect their income will double overnight. Until our first plant opens it will be a huge logistical challenge but with additional staff we will be able to manage it. One big challenge is the labeling for each market. We have to carry five stock keeping units with different labeling for New Zealand, Australia, UK and the USA. Korea was just too hard, so we have not pushed forward on that front.
You’re already stocked within 1200 supermarkets within the US, is there any major differences within their market compared to our that you weren’t expecting or had to adapt to?
Walmart is a market for everyone from every walk of life. I liken it to Pak’n Save on steroids. Having said that Americans have a different perception on food that we are adapting our recipes and marketing to.
Walmart is a major brand in the US with over 6,000 stores, how did you go about securing a place within it, did you approach the company?
We were approached by Walmart at the Fancy Food show in San Francisco. Now after many months of careful negotiation we are going in to most stores with the exception of the discount outlets.
What are you most looking forward to by expanding Cocavo’s reach into international markets?
For me, it’s bringing a great cooking oil to the masses that is also healthy and has a compelling social impact story to tell. Our marketing and show team is looking forward to doing the face to face with the American buying public on a grand scale.
Cocavo has only been in production since November 2016, with the first shipment arriving in April 2017. Along with the additional coconut oil plants, the company has a US team based in Oxnard California to handle logistics to distributing to some 40 distribution centers across the US.
The Cocava oils will be rolled out into 4,122 Walmart stores across America, supplying three varieties of the oils.