- All Market Inc. (AMI), owner of the Vita Coco coconut water brand, named former Boston Beer CEO Martin Roper to the newly created position of president to oversee operations and priorities for the company, according to a release sent to Food Dive.
- Mike Kirban, AMI's CEO and co-founder of Vita Coco, will retain his position and focus on innovations and long-term initiatives such as sustainability and social impact, AMI said in a release.
- Roper led The Boston Beer Co. for 17 years. According to AMI, revenues quadrupled during the time he was there, and Boston Beer debuted successful innovations such as Twisted Tea, Angry Orchard and Truly Spiked & Sparkling seltzer.
Despite owning the popular Vita Coco coconut water brand, the Ever & Ever premium sparkling water brand and the Runa organic energy drink brand, AMI is relatively unknown, though it is one of the largest privately owned beverage companies with a better-for-you portfolio, according to BevNet.
That could change with Roper as the company's new president. He brings 23 years of experience with Boston Beer, where he started out as head of manufacturing and stepped down just last year as president and CEO.
Roper comes with experience growing brand names. He is credited with helping the independent craft brewer turn around years of sales declines by introducing the Truly Spiked & Sparkling brand of hard seltzer, Twisted Tea and Angry Orchard cider — portfolio additions that contributed to quadrupling Boston Beer's revenue. Those new brands reduced the company's dependence on Sam Adams, which represented 42% of sales in 2015, and was 27% a year ago, according to Barron's.
Roper is also used to working at companies with independent-minded founding entrepreneurs still at the helm. When Roper became Boston Beer's CEO, co-founder Jim Koch stayed on as chairman, which is similar to how Vita Coco co-founder Mike Kirban will still lead AMI.
The timing is interesting since Roper is coming in just as AMI is expanding beyond Vita Coco into other beverage products and will likely need a seasoned veteran to guide its operational priorities. Besides launching new products like Ever & Ever, the company also acquired natural energy drink Runa last year for an undisclosed amount. The deal positioned AMI in the clean-label energy drink category since Runa is made with guayusa leaves sourced from the Amazon rainforest.
Additionally, Vita Coco planned to launch a hemp-infused version this summer following a debut at the Natural Products Expo West in March, BevNet reported. This is another trendy category to get into, but that product hasn't hit the market yet.
It's possible Roper could be looking to prime AMI for a sale. The company was reportedly in talks with PepsiCo in 2017. Nothing came out of it, possibly because the potential acquisition price was less than $1 billion, which may have been insufficient, since Vita Coco's then-26% market share was valued at $2.5 billion, according to Euromonitor International data cited by Reuters.
Other beverage giants that might be interested in buying AMI include Coca-Cola and Keurig Dr Pepper, which distributes about 35% of Vita Coco products domestically and now distributes Runa.
Even if the company is not sold, Roper and Kirban have plenty to do to boost Vita Coco and the company's other beverage brands. Multi-outlet sales of the aseptic product, including at convenience stores, fell 8.1% to about $185.4 million during the 52-week period ending March 24, according to IRI figures cited by BevNet. But its refrigerated Coco Community brand sold in plastic bottles saw 988% growth during the period, for about $7.2 million in sales.
Roper's new position puts him in the middle of new financial and organizational challenges — scenarios he apparently relishes, according to a 2018 exit interview he did with The Wall Street Journal after leaving Boston Beer. Chances are he also shares Kirban's ambitious goal of doubling the size of the business by 2021.
"I’d like to get involved in a different category and do this again," Roper told The Journal last year. "I’d like to take a business again from a hundred million to a billion. It’s really fun to empower a culture to grow and win in a very competitive environment. There’s a pace about it, there’s an addiction to it. It’s just a very fun thing to do."