Israeli chutzpah lies at the heart of America's favorite coconut drink


Jordan Hollander

Vita Coco founders Mike Kirban, left, and Ira Liran.

ISRAEL21c-Two guys walk into a New York City bar in 2003 and meet a couple of Brazilian women.

"What do you miss most from home?" the men ask. "Agua de coco," the women answer. Coconut water.

In 2004, the two men found Vita Coco, which takes off like wildfire as consumers everywhere seek alternatives to sugary soft drinks.

Today, Vita Coco is the global market leader in coconut water, the clear nutritious liquid inside young green coconuts. The company has 10 manufacturing facilities in eight tropical countries, which altogether utilize two million coconuts daily.

"In the US we have 45 to 50 percent of the market share. Coconut water sales in the US are $1.2 billion per year and $1.9 billion globally," says Ira Liran, the Israeli-born member of the founding duo, who followed his love to Sao Paulo.

Celebrity investors including Madonna, Demi Moore, Rihanna, Matthew McConaughey and Anthony Kiedis of the Red Hot Chili Peppers love the drink and Vita Coco's social initiatives in communities where the coconuts are sourced, ranging from scholarships for farmers' children to sustainable farming programs.

"I never dreamed it would be this successful. My original plan was to sustain my life in Brazil," Liran tells ISRAEL21c during one of his frequent trips to visit family in Israel. "But we knew we had something special on our hands."

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