June 30, 2022

How Vita Coco Out-Hustled the Competition

“Believe that what you’re building can be really big.” - Vita Coco CEO, Mike Kirban


Scott shares some big news! Then, Nora and Scott chat with Mike Kirban, the co-founder and CEO of Vita Coco, the world’s largest coconut water company. Mike reveals how Vita Coco won the coconut water wars, and shares marketing strategies and tips on how to connect with consumers in an authentic way. Plus: Why he rejected an acquisition offer from Pepsi and kept Vita Coco independent. For more info on our presenting sponsor, check out grayscale.com/businesscasual

 

Hosts: Nora Ali & Scott Rogowsky

Producer: Bella Hutchins 

Video Editors: McKenzie Marshall and Christie Muldoon

Production, Mixing & Sound Design: Daniel Markus

Music: Daniel Markus & Breakmaster Cylinder

Fact Checker: Kate Brandt 

Senior Producer: Katherine Milsop

VP, Head of Multimedia: Sarah Singer 

 

Full transcripts for all Business Casual episodes available at https://businesscasual.fm

Transcript

Nora Ali: Okay, Scott Rogowsky, before we get to chitchatting about coconut water, today is significant. It is Scott Rogowsky graduation day. So this is our last episode together recording Business Casual, but it is not goodbye.

Scott Rogowsky: It is? What?

Nora Ali: Surprise! It's not goodbye. You have so much cool stuff that you're building and doing that we couldn't hold on to you, Scott. You have your store, you have other Morning Brew things. So this is your chance to shoot your shot.

Scott Rogowsky: I'm shooting my shot.

Nora Ali: Shoot your shot. Let us know what's good in Scott Rogowsky-hood.

Scott Rogowsky: Oh my gosh.

Nora Ali: What's happening? 

Scott Rogowsky: There's so much happening. Well, first of all, I can't believe this has been, what? Nine months already? It just seem to have flown—

Nora Ali: Has it been that long?

Scott Rogowsky: I think so. I think so.

Nora Ali: Wow. We could have carried a child to term.

Scott Rogowsky: Nora, that's actually the announcement I wanted to make here.

Nora Ali: That's where you were going with this? Oh my gosh.

Scott Rogowsky: When I was told, you're going to be hosting Business Casual with Nora, I said, okay, this is it. I've got my career secure. I can finally have a child. And now I have to take paternity leave, Because now the baby's here. Wouldn't that be amazing? No. No, actually—

Nora Ali: The baby is your store. You have a baby.

Scott Rogowsky: The baby is my store. I do have a baby. I do have a vintage clothing shop in Santa Monica that I opened up three months ago. And I will say, this is absolutely true, Nora. I've always been this entrepreneur-type guy. I've talked from the very, very first episode I told you about selling the turtle in the pond to that kid, right? So from selling turtles—

Nora Ali: I forgot about that.

Scott Rogowsky: Yeah, but I've always had this dream to open a clothing store, vintage clothing shop. I've collected for 20 years. I've had a few popups over the years. I had a website back in 2003, if you can believe it, that clearly didn't do very well. I think I sold one shirt from that website. But after talking to all these CEOs on the show and hearing everyone's story and founding journeys, something clicked at me right around December, January. I was like, well, shoot. I mean, if this person can start that, this person can start that, why can't I just start something and start small with one store, and maybe I'll have an international conglomerate of vintage clothing chains, 10 years from now. 

Nora Ali: Oh my gosh.

Scott Rogowsky: But I started small here in Santa Monica. Yeah. So that's, yes. It's taking up a lot of time, but it's super fun. I encourage anyone who's in the area, come on down and visit me. I'm usually there every day pretty much. It's just me. I'm the only employee. So come say hi; I'll hook you up with some swag. 

Nora Ali: Wow.

Scott Rogowsky: And I'm also, yeah. This is not a goodbye for the Morning Brew stuff, because I'm going to be doing some video work for Morning Brew, maybe a new podcast. There's a lot brewing. I mean, Nora, as you know...

Nora Ali: Yes?

Scott Rogowsky: As you know, Morning Brew, which started as a newsletter for a few friends, became a newsletter for a few million people, and now is a 14-story content factory just pumping out all sorts of goodies on all the platforms, all the socials, and Business Casual is just one of those offerings.

Nora Ali: Totally.

Scott Rogowsky: They're getting bigger. We're all growing. And it's exciting. It's exciting to be a part of this company.

Nora Ali: I can't wait. I can't wait to see what you have cooking, Scott, because the podcasting, amazing. You have a fun, humorous voice, but you belong on the screen. You belong on camera. That's how we know you with HQ. So I hope we see more video stuff from you, especially.

Scott Rogowsky: There's going to be some fun video stuff. And Nora, I will say this has been such a pleasure hosting with you and getting to know you. And like so many products that we talk about with the companies, it's iterative, right? Business Casual started with different hosts, right? I think there's been three or four versions, and now we had our time together, and now you're iterating and innovating and taking it. And I'm so excited to see where you take this show.

Nora Ali: Thanks.

Scott Rogowsky: And all the great producers we have, and we can thank them properly at the end again, of course, but couldn't do it without them.

Nora Ali: Yes. It's the best thing.

Scott Rogowsky: But this is going to be your time to shine here. I'm so excited to see you at the helm of BC.

Nora Ali: Aw, thanks. You'll be missed, especially the quizziness, the inquisitiveness. Most of all, Scott, I have to be honest, you are just so good at small talk, and you know I don't like small talk. So warming up the guests in the beginning, I'm like, Scott's got this.

Scott Rogowsky: Keep 'em warm.

Nora Ali: So I get to swoop in with my business questions. So I'll have to work on my small talk skills. 

Scott Rogowsky: All you gotta know is just figure out every minor league team in the country, and then when someone says, oh, I'm from Billings, Montana. And then you go, oh, well the Billings Mustangs, they're a fun team, aren't they? That's my way and that's my secret. That's my advice. 

Nora Ali: Okay. I gotta find the equivalent that's not sports. Maybe their local orchestra or something?

Scott Rogowsky: Yes. Whatever works for you. Find a local tie. That's my advice.

Nora Ali: Oh my gosh. I love that. Well, Scott, you will be missed, but we can't wait to see what's next. In the meantime, I feel like I'm interviewing a guest, but in the meantime, where can people find you? Where do you want people to contact you on your socials to keep up with you? 

Scott Rogowsky: I mean, honestly, I have the @ScottRogowsky. I don't do a ton of posting, but I'm really trying to build the brand. It's not something I'm good at, brand marketing, but I'm trying to do it with the store. I got an Instagram page for @qdc.vtg because it's called Quiz Daddy's Closet. QDC is Quiz Daddy's Closet. So @qdc.vtg is Instagram. From there, I will be growing the brands, and maybe TikToks, and websites, and all sorts of stuff. But I'm trying to focus...I'm starting with, I know that Instagram's probably a few years past it's prime, but I'm sticking with it now.

Nora Ali: It's what you know. It's what you know.

Scott Rogowsky: TikTok is the future, Nora. I'm going to get there soon, but not quite yet.

Nora Ali: You have probably pages and pages of notes from our guests. So you have a lot of learnings that you can apply to your businesses.

Scott Rogowsky: Yes. Yes.

Nora Ali: Okay. On that note, Scott, I think it is time to talk about coconut water. Anything quick you want to say about coconut water before I intro our guest?

Scott Rogowsky: I love it. I love it. I love it.

Nora Ali: Totally. It's affordable and it's delicious. And we got to talk to Mike Kirban, who is the cofounder and executive chairman of the Vita Coco Company. And the company was born out of, of course, Vita Coco, the largest global coconut water brand, of which Mike serves as CEO. And according to Grand View Research, the global coconut water market is headed towards a $16.4 billion dollar market value by 2027. Mike is joining us to discuss Vita Coco's scrappy beginnings, how Vita Coco beat out a major competitor, and how they're expanding their portfolio. More with Mike after this quick break.

Scott Rogowsky: Nice to have you on the show. I'm a big fan. Actually, Nora and I are both big consumers of coconut water. 

Nora Ali: Oh, yeah.

Scott Rogowsky: So we're right in your demo, love the pressed stuff you're doing lately. Love the texture, the pulp. I don't know how that developed, but I'm glad it did. I'm glad you got there. 

Mike Kirban: It took us 15 years to figure out that people might want coconut water that actually tastes like coconut, but eventually we got there and press does it.

Scott Rogowsky: But that's it. It's an iterative process, clearly, but it's also an acquired taste, you could say. I remember the first time I tried coconut water, I was a little thrown by it, but it definitely took me a few samples to really fall in love with it. So let's go back to the beginnings. I want to hear how you fell in love with coconut water and this concept. And I guess the story goes, begins at a bar with your best friend and a couple of Brazilian women, like all good stories.

Mike Kirban: Like all good stories, and it's not a joke. In a bar, lower east side of Manhattan, 2003. It was February, freezing, and we're in this bar. We went in and we were there a couple of hours and then it was late. And my buddy saw these two girls getting ready to leave the bar. And he went up and stopped them and got them back to the bar. And we started chatting with them. They were Brazilian. Turns out, he fell in love with one of them, moved to Brazil, and was looking for something to do. And we were on a beach talking about it down in Brazil several months later and had this idea, and it's worked out pretty well.

Nora Ali: It sure has, Mike. And so my first exposure to coconut water was from an actual coconut in Bangladesh. My family's Bangladeshi. And I know you've said before that a lot of the consumers of coconut water in the US are immigrants, because they're used to consuming that in their home countries. What was your process of figuring out how to package coconut water and figure out how to make it taste like coconut water and stay fresh, when a lot of us were used to the OG water just coming out of a regular coconut?

Mike Kirban: Yeah. And you're right. If you travel around the tropical world, everybody drinks coconut water. You go to places like India, and it's literally almost everybody in the entire country drinks coconut water at least once a year. It's huge in all of these countries. And we were lucky. I want to say we created this incredible technology and patented it and everything else. But the truth is when we went down to Brazil in 2004, there was a couple of companies starting to package coconut water in its natural state using this technology developed by Tetra Pak, which is a packaging company, for processing milk. And so it turns out that coconut water and milk actually are very similar in terms of how they oxidize quite quickly and so on and so forth. So this technology was in use. People were packaging coconut water in Brazil. We basically went to some of the local producers in Brazil and asked them to make it for us. In the early days, all we did was create a brand and go and create a market. And then over time, we created this incredible supply chain that really I think creates a huge competitive advantage for us, and so on and so forth. But in the early days, it was leveraging somebody else's technology that they had already created and were using.

Scott Rogowsky: We love to hear about founders' horror stories when they start out. No one in your family has really done the whole college thing and "work your way up the corporate ladder." You're all self-starter entrepreneurs. And there's something really special about that, because you learn on the fly, and you take your intuition, and use your gut, right? And you just roll with the punches as they come. There were a lot of punches early on from that first factory that you tried to build in Brazil. Well, let's hear that story and what you learned from that horrible experience.

Mike Kirban: It was one punch after the other. I mean, it starts even before that when we were using this supplier in Brazil. We took all of our initial money that we put into the business. It was our own money. Put it into the business to start. And all of it went to buy the first containers of coconut water, the first thousands and thousands of bottles of coconut water that we were going to sell, that we were going to make money and then buy more with. And it was all going well. We were set up and ready to go, had some customers in New York ready to buy it, and get a call from the FDA the day before the coconut water is arriving in New Jersey, or this was actually a customs broker. "Okay, ready to import the product, but I need your FDA registration numbers." And I'm like, I don't even know what you're talking about. I have no idea what I need. You're supposed to tell me. And they're like, oh shit. So you can't import this product without properly registering it. So I'm, okay. So let's do it. What do we need to do? And they said, there's a lot of paperwork and it's going to take at least three months. And I'm thinking, okay, so what do I do for three months? What do I do with the product? And they said, you can't bring it into the country. The only thing you could do is pay the FDA warehouse $30,000 a month to store it—but then, it's going to start to go bad—or destroy it, or export it. I'm like, export it. Export it from the...it came from Brazil, then comes into the US, then I have to export it. So I did exactly that. I found a beer distributor in the Bahamas willing to take it. I shipped it to him. I went down there and he's like, I'll take it. Whatever you sell, I'll pay you for, so like a consignment deal. I got a rental car and I went door to door in the Bahamas. I was going to nightclubs and bars, and grocery stores, and people's homes, selling coconut water out of a rental car. And that was it. And we made enough money back to start over again three, four months later. So it was just, that's how we started. 

Nora Ali: So scrappy. Coming back from these punches and picking yourself back up after failures, it means you have to have a passion for what you're doing. And like Scott said, we hear about these failures from founders all the time. But did you set out to have a passion for coconut water and be a coconut entrepreneur? It's not like you did it for a hot second. You've been doing this for what, 18 years? How do you maintain that passion and momentum for coconut water?

Mike Kirban: I love coconut water. No, look, the product is amazing. I loved it from the minute I tried it. I knew there was something there, but that's not where I got the passion to pick up again every time we fell. To be honest, I think something that entrepreneurs do have in general is a bit of a chip on their shoulder. And I know I have one. I was never good in school. Nobody thought I would ever be able to really accomplish anything. And everything that I've done, I wanted to succeed. And then succeeding, you keep moving the goal post and you keep...what is succeeding? And I think that's what has driven me to create the business, move the business forward, and continue to drive it forward and really think about what the next stage of the business is, which is taking on Coke and Pepsi as a broad beverage platform over the next 20 years. And so, I think it's chip on the shoulder syndrome, to be honest with you.

Scott Rogowsky: The coconut water's a Trojan horse for dominating the beverage space in general.

Mike Kirban: That's it.

Scott Rogowsky: I know what you're up to. We're going to find out more what Mike is up to when we come back from this quick break. Currently, you've got this parent company now. It's not just Vita Coco water; you're working on other functional, healthy beverages. And you're really trying to take on the big Cokes and Pepsis of the world like you mentioned. But, again, I want to get back to those early days. I love these stories of the scrappy startup. This is what people love to hear as well because it inspires them. You had a challenge with distribution because of the big Cokes and Pepsi of the world who dominate the distribution aspect. How much did you know about that distribution network and what it takes to break in before you tried to? And then why did you ultimately go to that door-to-door approach again with the bodegas in New York City to get started?

Mike Kirban: Again, I didn't know anything. When I started this business, I knew nothing about consumer goods or beverages or distribution and routes to market. I think that was actually a benefit. I think if you come into something as an entrepreneur, understanding or knowing too much, you try to do things by the book and it doesn't always work, and nothing ever always works. But I think as we looked at distribution, it just felt natural to just try to go to as many stores as possible. I don't know if you know the story, but I found out I could roller blade and hit more stores in a day faster than if I was walking. So I put on the roller blades and that's how I was selling coconut water every day. Going store to store in New York, and just started by finding somebody, a man in a van, to help me get the product there, and created a new way of doing it, where I would actually bring in a piece of paper and make the store manager sign that he agreed to take the product. And then I would fax that—there were still fax machines back then. I would fax that to the man in the van and he would go deliver the product. And then that just started to play out in other markets around the country and then around the world, the same model basically.

Nora Ali: I love what you said about it being a bit of a benefit if you don't know too much and maybe not having preconceived notions of how things work in a particular industry when you're an entrepreneur. I wonder how you applied that to relationships with celebrities because I know Madonna, Demi Moore, Matthew McConaughey have invested in Vita Coco. They did so early on. And you had convinced Madonna to invest in it, not just be the face of it. Wouldn't it be cool if Madonna's the face of Vita Coco? That, in itself, is a huge accomplishment. So talk to us about your approach to those celebrity relationships.

Mike Kirban: It's exactly the same thing. I remember when I sat down with Madonna's manager. He actually said to me, "Madonna loves the product. We should do an endorsement deal." And I think anybody who came from consumer goods would be like, yes, an endorsement deal would look like this and then we would do this and this and this. And I said to him, why would I do an endorsement deal with Madonna? This was back in 2008 or '09. Why would I do an endorsement deal with Madonna? I don't have the money to put into TV commercials and everything else. I won't be able to use her. I can't afford it. So instead, just for the hell of it, I was like, we're doing a funding round looking to raise some money to help us expand the business. Would she want to invest? And I said that almost as a joke, almost like there's no way. And this is before celebrities were investing in consumer businesses, which is what they're all doing today. But he was like, yeah. Let me talk to her and let's do it. He came back to me a day later and he's like, Madonna wants to put in X millions. And I got Matthew McConaughey, and Anthony Kiedis, and all these people lined up in a day. He put it all together and they took the whole round. It worked really well. And then they went out and marketed for us. So it was really cool.

Nora Ali: They have incentive to market it because they're invested in it. So you got...your return on investment is huge.

Mike Kirban: Exactly. I didn't have to spend a dime. They gave me money. 

Nora Ali: Yeah.

Scott Rogowsky: Right.

Nora Ali: That's awesome.

Scott Rogowsky: And look, for whatever reason, coconut water has become this battleground with different celebs and endorsements. Everyone seems to have their brand or latch onto it. There's of course, much like the soda wars, the cola wars between Coke and Pepsi. Now there's coconut water wars, because this other brand, Zico, was basically founded around the same time as Vita Coco.

Mike Kirban: Same day.

Scott Rogowsky: And isn't Jessica Alba—

Nora Ali: Same day? 

Scott Rogowsky: Is it really the same day?

Mike Kirban: It was literally, they launched the exact same week in 2004 that we launched.

Scott Rogowsky: Crazy.

Mike Kirban: Crazy. In New York, in basically the same neighborhood. It's just crazy. And we fought it out. Yeah. You're talking about wars. I mean, we fought it out. There was close to fist fights. There was a lot of shenanigans, us taking them off the shelf and throwing them in the garbage and all sorts of stuff, buying them out of stores. It started in New York, but then we were doing the same thing in London. We were doing it in Seoul, in Shanghai, in all these markets all over the world, going at it, against each other. I mean yeah, we would go in and the store would have a shelf of Zico and we would literally say, we'll give you product to fill the shelf, plus we'll give you an extra 10 free cases if we could take that product and throw it in the garbage. That was our tactic. They got bought by Coke. We were freaking out. We were like, Coke is going to kill us. How are we going to compete with Coke and their product, Zico? And we did. And we just outhustled them, outmaneuvered them. And over time, just beat them so bad that Coke literally gave up on the brand, and ended up selling it back to the original founder for a couple bucks, I think $3 or something. And...that's all they could get for it. And so, today we have 50-something share of the category. We're driving 90% of the growth in the category. But it was a battle, a battle.

Nora Ali: You said you outhustled the competition. You did stuff like the throwing their products out, but what else was there? Did you try to improve upon the product? Was there marketing things you could do? What are some of those pieces of advice?

Mike Kirban: I think there's a couple things that we did really well. One is we really connected with consumers in an authentic way, using specifically music and lifestyle. So that ties back to the whole Madonna, then Rihanna—all of the stuff that we did with our celebrity investors back in the day, I think generated a lot of PR and really helped make the brand something special. And then as the business continued to grow, we built out a supply chain and we invested way ahead of the curve into supply. And we created what is this incredible moat around our business that makes it almost impossible for somebody to scale a coconut water company today. I think the real advice that I would give is believe that what you're building can be really big, and get out ahead of it. That's what we did on the supply chain. And that made all the difference in the world. 

At the end of the day, it was outhustling, but Coke didn't have the supply chain to really develop a coconut water business. We went and we literally put these companies throughout Southeast Asia in business that were already using coconuts. They were cracking millions and millions of coconuts a day, but the water was a byproduct. So we said, okay, we'll help you upcycle this byproduct and we'll give you a route to market for it in the US and in Europe. And we did exactly that. And in exchange, we got these exclusive supply contracts with the largest manufacturers of coconut products. So it worked out really well.

Nora Ali: So you had the ability to localize and specialize, where maybe Coke wasn't paying attention to those details. And that helped to outpace them.

Mike Kirban: It was too small for them. 

Nora Ali: Yeah. Yeah.

Mike Kirban: That's right. 

Scott Rogowsky: And that's always the knock on these larger conglomerations if they go and acquire, because the R&D costs are too great. And not to mention, you've had offers from some of these big conglomerates as well. PepsiCo tried to acquire you in 2017. But instead of selling, you rejected the deal. It's because you have your eye on a greater prize, isn't it? Explain why you decided to keep Vita Coco independent under your domain.

Mike Kirban: I mean, over the years, we've looked at several opportunities to potentially sell the business, and all sorts of strategic opportunities. I think there's just such an opportunity in the beverage space to create this roll-up of healthy, better-for-you beverage brands that this generation and future generations want more of. I think Coke and Pepsi and the big guys are so focused on carbonated soft drinks. That's their focus. It pays the bills, it keeps the lights on, and it's awesome, and they're really good at it. But what they're not good at is really seeing what the next generations want, which is health, functional, better-for-you stuff, cleaner ingredients. And there are a lot of great brands out there that play in that space in all different segments of beverages. And I think we can, through M&A, and also in-house innovation, build this platform of brands and be the beverage company of the future. That's the objective. 

Nora Ali: I want to hear more about these better-for-you things, but we're going to take a quick break and more on that with Mike when we return. All right, Mike, let's talk about the broader portfolio of products you guys have outside of Vita Coco. By the way, I started drinking protein water only recently. And I know that's one of your products, is Pwr Lift. I thought there was a catch or something. It's crazy to me that there can be protein packed in water. You guys figured it out. It tastes good. So talk to us about how you decided that you would expand into Pwr Lift and also Runa, and any other products that you have.

Mike Kirban: Pwr Lift is a great example. This is a product that drinks like a sport drink. It tastes great. It's super flavorful and it's chuggable. You drink it when exercising. But it's got no sugar and it's got 10 grams of protein. And I don't know if you've ever drunk a protein shake before, but they're hard to drink. They're chalky, they're thick. Some of them are good, but they're hard to drink and they don't chug. It's not thirst-quenching. So we want to take thirst-quenching and mix it with protein. And I think we nailed it. I mean, Pwr Lift is a great product. So we're really excited about that. 

Runa is our energy drink. It's a clean energy drink made from the guayusa leaf, which is this incredible leaf, back to like what the coconut is. It's this product that is consumed in a place far away that we never had here. And it's packed with caffeine. It's got actually more caffeine than an energy drink, and it's just this leaf that we brew. And so it's clean and it's plant-based and it's great. It gives you this incredible energy and focus. So Runa's a product that we actually acquired that we've been tinkering with and getting right. And now we're starting to push it out across the country.

Scott Rogowsky: It's funny. I think I dated a Runa ambassador back in 2012, '13. So I've long been familiar with that brand. I have a question, just to switch gears slightly, about the environmental impacts of everything that we're doing. I know you're very eco-minded, as am I. It's crazy. We have the exact same take on why this is an issue, right? Why the planet is the most important issue? Because without the planet, we don't have any place for the other problems to exist. 

Mike Kirban: There's no other issues.

Scott Rogowsky: Right. Every issue is based on the fact we need a planet, right? So I heard you say, I was like, that's exactly how I feel. And I like that you really put your money where your mouth is, and you call other companies to help out when they're not exactly putting their money where their mouth is. But the aspect of farming these coconuts, I know that palm oil is incredibly destructive and that's a major competitor with coconut groves and coconut plants. How is the company taking steps in those specific areas to educate and to promote sustainable growth for coconuts, and maybe convincing people, don't do the palms, those aren't good?

Mike Kirban: It's a huge focus for us. It's not only environmentally the right thing to do, it's also somewhat self-serving in that it helps our business. So we've created, several years ago, the Vita Coco Project, which has several pillars, but one of them is education, and educating the farming communities. These are communities that have nothing historically. We went in and, I mean, I saw kids going to school in the mud under a tarp, and that was their classroom. That was school. And so we started building schools. We built 30 schools in the Philippines. And then on top of that, in those communities, we've been educating their parents who are the farmers. And these are not large plantation owners. These are small plot landowners where one brother is a fisherman, the other brother is a coconut farmer, and that's how they support the entire extended family.

And what happened, especially in the Philippines, but other markets also, is that the trees started getting old. They were all planted after the war, World War II. And they've started to get old and senile. And the coconut trees that were growing 200 coconuts when these people's grandparents were harvesting, these trees are now growing 40 or 50 a year. And they couldn't make a living off of these trees, so they were cutting them down and planting palm oil palms, right? And they were getting the money for the lumber and then creating palm oil, small palm oil plots. We went in and we said, look, you need to learn how to better take care of your crop. We brought them seedlings and gave them seedlings to plant under the trees that would then grow over three, four years that become the new trees that are more productive, better breeds of seedlings, better breeds of trees. So we planted thousands and thousands and thousands of trees in these communities. And then when they cut down the older tree, they now have this new tree that is bearing more fruit.

We also taught them how to intercrop between the trees, crops that grow, that they could get more income off of. And so we've done all of these programs that have really, I think, changed the livelihood of the communities in which we produce our product. And so we talked about building a big beverage company and all these other things, but, for me, personally, this is the most rewarding thing. The fact that we were able to build a business that didn't have impact at its core when we started—we were just like, oh, let's see if we can create a business. And then we took that and really created something that is having an incredible impact; uplifting communities that I personally didn't know existed before I started this business has been an amazing feat.

Scott Rogowsky: Well, Mike, as you've said, you achieved one amazing feat in terms of building your business, but can you achieve another by answering my questions? It's time for Quizness Casual, the Business Casual quiz. This week's quiz is all about buzzy brands that popped up in the past few years, the beverage space, the food space. So you should know maybe a little bit about this, and you do have Nora here to help you out, okay? Here we go. Qumero Numero Uno. Which of the following is not a real flavor of Hint Water? One of these has not been offered by Hint. Strawberry guava, crisp apple, honey crisp apple, or blackberry lemon. And this may be the hardest question I've ever asked.

Nora Ali: Two of them are crisp apple related.

Scott Rogowsky: Right.

Mike Kirban: Yeah. So it's got to be, okay, Nora, you're good at this. So you're dissecting the question. You've got it down to there's two weird apple things. It's one of the weird apple things. I have no idea which one, but it's one of them, Nora.

Scott Rogowsky: Or is that a red herring?

Nora Ali: That's a trick, maybe.

Scott Rogowsky: Is that a red herring?

Nora Ali: That could be a red herring.

Mike Kirban: Oh man, guys.

Nora Ali: Our producer, Bella, is a tricksy one. She outsmarts us pretty frequently when she puts these together. What was the last one, Scott?

Scott Rogowsky: Hint Water. Last one's blackberry lemon.

Nora Ali: Blackberry lemon. I feel like maybe it's blackberry lime or something. She's really tricking us.

Scott Rogowsky: Nora knows.

Nora Ali: What does your gut tell you? What does your gut tell you, Mike?

Mike Kirban: Give me the two apples again.

Scott Rogowsky: Crisp apple and honey crisp apple. And I had to double check this myself to be like, is this real? Because, yeah.

Nora Ali: Okay. So I'm—

Mike Kirban: I think we should say crisp apple. I think they would've, I know those guys. They would've gone with honey crisp apple, which is weird.

Nora Ali: You don't think it's a red herring. You don't think that—

Mike Kirban: Okay, you've done this before. Right? This is new to me. So you know how this whole thing works. 

Nora Ali: Scott drops hints all the time too, because he wants us to succeed.

Scott Rogowsky: A hint about Hint.

Nora Ali: So I feel like it's not those two. A hint about Hint. So I feel like it's the blackberry one.

Mike Kirban: Go. Blackberry lime and lemon.

Scott Rogowsky: Blackberry lemon?

Nora Ali: Yeah.

Mike Kirban: Yeah.

Scott Rogowsky: So crisp apple and honey crisp apple are two distinct flavors that Hint has offered in the past, okay? I don't know if they're available now. But they've tried different branding and different names. However, blueberry lemon is a flavor, but blackberry lemon is not, so—

Mike Kirban: Yes. Scott: Trickery. Mike: I couldn't have done it without you, Nora. I'd be dead. [inaudible 00:29:42] apples.

Nora Ali: This is the only time I've ever been helpful on this quiz. So I am glad, Mike. Just for you.

Scott Rogowsky: Wow. That was a struggle. We got there. We have two more questions, though. So let's not rest on our laurels here, okay? Two more to go. 

Mike Kirban: Okay. 

Scott Rogowsky: Here we go. Q2. What brand of bottled water does Burger King carry? Essentia, Nestlé, Aquafina, or Smartwater?

Mike Kirban: It feels like Aquafina.

Scott Rogowsky: Been to Burger King lately?

Nora Ali: No.

Mike Kirban: I haven't been in 25 years to a Burger King. Oh man.

Nora Ali: Aquafina. 

Mike Kirban: I'm going to say it's definitely either Aquafina, or Dasani was one of them?

Scott Rogowsky: No. Nestlé, Smartwater, or Essentia.

Mike Kirban: Yeah. It's got to be Aquafina.

Nora Ali: Yeah. I can visualize Essentia in Starbucks, I feel, right?

Mike Kirban: Yeah. That's just going to be in much higher, Essentia's too expensive.

Nora Ali: Yeah. And Smartwater is too cool. 

Mike Kirban: Too cool.

Nora Ali: All right. Let's do it. Aquafina. 

Scott Rogowsky: Well, you mentioned you haven't been to Burger King in 25 years. That's probably why you got this one wrong, because 14 years ago—in 2008, they switched its US locations from Pepsi's Aquafina to Nestlé's Pure Life water.

Mike Kirban: Oh. Damn. Damn.

Scott Rogowsky: So there you go. Burger King's on-the-go customers want their environmentally friendly curved shape of the eco bottle, apparently. I don't know. 

Mike Kirban: Oh man.

Scott Rogowsky: Okay. It's okay. 

Nora Ali: That's close. Close.

Scott Rogowsky: Look, you can still win this thing out. Two out of three will win. Here we go. Final question. Which of the following celebs did not buy a stake in Oatly? So three of these did, one did not. Oprah Winfrey, Jay-Z, Natalie Portman, or Jessica Alba.

Mike Kirban: Jessica Alba or Natalie Portman. Hold on.

Scott Rogowsky: Go with your gut.

Nora Ali: You said it so confidently.

Scott Rogowsky: Yeah. Yeah. Jessica Alba or Natalie Portman.

Mike Kirban: I know Jay-Z. I know Jay-Z is in there and I know Oprah's in there. Okay, wait. Hold on. Jessica Alba, with her Honest Company thing, I feel like she's already got her thing.

Scott Rogowsky: And wasn't she big at Zico too? She's the face of Zico.

Nora Ali: Yeah. Yeah. She had a big brand deal with them.

Mike Kirban: Yes. But now you're pushing. Now you're trying really...again, maybe we're going the wrong way. You want us to win. Damn it.

Scott Rogowsky: I want you to win. 

Nora Ali: He does want us to win. 

Scott Rogowsky: I want you to win.

Mike Kirban: Natalie Portman.

Scott Rogowsky: No. No, no. Go with your gut. Go with your gut.

Mike Kirban: I love it. This is— 

Nora Ali: It's a little rigged. It's okay.

Mike Kirban: Okay. Jessica Alba.

Scott Rogowsky: Jessica Alba. I was trying to make the point that she's involved in the other things, the Zico and this. So she's got her things going on. Like you said, Honesty, you're right. Oatly, she's not a part of, but they raised $200 million from Blackstone, Oprah Winfrey, Jay-Z, and Natalie Portman. So good on them, but better on you for getting two out of three. Nice job, Mike.

Mike Kirban: Barely. Barely. My God. 

Scott Rogowsky: We'll give it to you. Oatly. Is there going to be an oat milk?

Mike Kirban: Amazing. 

Scott Rogowsky: Coconut oat milk coming out next?

Nora Ali: There's coconut milk.

Mike Kirban: There's coconut milk.

Scott Rogowsky: Coconut milk. Yeah.

Mike Kirban: Approaching Walmart. Yeah.

Nora Ali: Yay.

Mike Kirban: Vita Coco coconut milk.

Nora Ali: Amazing. Awesome. 

Mike Kirban: Yep. Yep.

Nora Ali: All right. 

Mike Kirban: This was fun, guys. So fun.

Nora Ali: Great job, Mike. Thank you for joining us on the podcast. We had a lot of fun with you.

Mike Kirban: Thanks so much. Had a good time. Thanks, guys.

Scott Rogowsky: Oh, you know how much I've loved hearing from you BC listeners over these many months, and we're going to continue to hear from you as a podcast. I just may not see those messages anymore, but that's fine. You can message me personally. In the meantime, still message businesscasual@morningbrew.com or DM on Twitter @bizcasualpod. That's B-I-Zcasualpod. DMs will remain open for life.

Nora Ali: You can also leave us a voice memo on our website, that's businesscasual.fm, or give us a ring and leave us an old-fashioned voicemail. Our number is 862-295-1135. And as Business Casual grows, we are excited to get to know our listeners, old and new. Drop us a line. And don't forget to leave your name and where you're calling or writing from, so we can hear from you in a future episode.

Scott Rogowsky: As I sign off from Business Casual and read these credits one last time, I truly want all of you listening to know just how important and talented and special these people are, and how Nora and I could not do the show without them. First and foremost, it's our producer, senior producer Katherine Milsop and Bella Hutchins and Daniel Markus. Really, the three of them. It's the three-headed monster of goodness, this triumvirate that puts the show together. Not only the research, the booking, the questions, the sound design and mixing from Daniel, his input—everyone's doing their work and doing it so well. So thank you again to Katherine, Bella, and Daniel for producing, and Daniel for the sound design and mixing. And of course, Sarah Singer, our VP of multimedia; Kate Brandt, our fact checker; music, once again, from Daniel and The Mysterious Breakmaster Cylinder, who, I don't know how he does it for all these podcasts, but he's contributing to ours as well, so thank you, Mr. Cylinder. If you like what you heard, you're going to like it even more when I'm gone. Trust me. Please follow Business Casual on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you continue to get nasty with that casty. And we love it if you give us a great rating and a review.

Nora Ali: Thank you, Scott. We appreciate you. And thank you to our listeners for listening to Business Casual. I'm Nora Ali.

Scott Rogowsky: And I'm Scott Rogowsky, saving my final thanks for you, Nora, because without you, I wouldn't know what the hell I'm doing on this show. You have the business acumen, the journalism, the chops to chop it up with our guests and ask about EBITDA and portfolio and all these words that I'm learning still, in my advanced age. But honestly, you've made this so, so easy for me, so fun for me. You're a great laugher, which is really all I ask for in life. And you've kept it—

Nora Ali: I do laugh at everything, but you're funny, Scott.

Scott Rogowsky: You do. You probably don't know what I'm talking about half the time, but you laugh at it, and that's what's important.

Nora Ali: For support.

Scott Rogowsky: It's just so appreciated and, honestly, you've made this so enjoyable, and I'm just thrilled for you to keep this going. And like you said, it's not the end of us. It's not the end of the show, certainly. This is going to keep on getting bigger and bigger, and you're going to take it to the moon, as we like to say as a culture now.

Nora Ali: We hope so. We'll take all the things to the moon, and we cannot wait to see what is next for you, Scott. It has been a real pleasure, and I hope you will continue to keep it business.

Scott Rogowsky: If you keep it casual.