Interview with Chris Cuvelier, CEO of Zola

Interview with Chris Cuvelier, CEO of Zola

About Chris Cuvelier

Originally from Danville California, Chris Cuvelier studied Social Sciences at University of California, Irvine. After college, he founded Juice Time and then Juice and Smoothie Bar Consulting before founding Zola. He loves to surf and travel the world, and is married with two daughters.

What inspired you to build your beverage company?

I knew entrepreneurship was going to be my path, and I was always interested in and inspired by healthy products.

How did you come up with the idea?

In 2001, a Brazilian businessman contacted me to sample a berry called acai, which, at the time, was not a well-known fruit. Immediately I knew I had tried something truly fantastic, so I agreed to be the exclusive supplier of açaí juice to the U.S.

What are yours and your partner’s backgrounds?

While in school, I came across the Juice Club, a juice bar chain that then became Jamba Juice. I decided to start my own juice bar after graduation called Juice Time. Shortly after, I began Juice and Smoothie Bar Consulting, where I coached other like-minded entrepreneurs.

When did you create the company?

In 2002 I started the company by selling the world’s first bottled açaí juice out of the back of my truck. After we had raised money from family and friends, my wife and I ran the company out of our apartment for a period of time. Once the company began to grow and we brought on more people, we acquired an office space in San Francisco.

What makes your product unique in the market?

We have found that the best tasting acai juice comes from Brazil and the best tasting coconut water comes from Thailand. We are unique in the fact that we are positioned as a “Fruits of the World” brand, allowing for growth into fruits from other parts of the world.

What is your ideal target consumer?

Our ideal target consumer is the healthy, active, and adventurous shopper, who regularly travels and enjoys the excitement of new products and experiences.

Where is your product available?

Safeway/Vons, Whole Foods, Lucky SaveMart, Raley’s, Stop & Shop, Wal-Mart, Albertson’s, Cost Plus World Markets, Winn Dixie, and Amazon.com.

What are your distribution channels?

Natural, specialty, grocery, and food service (through Robek’s and Booster Juice.)

How do you promote/market your beverage?

We have a team of merchandisers throughout the country who work with the retailers at store level to ensure that both the retailer and the consumer have the best possible experience with our brand. We also run biannual Win A Trip sweepstakes to both Thailand and Brazil, which we promote in-store and online. Additionally, we are active across all major social media platforms.
Facebook https://www.facebook.com/drinkzola
Twitter @drinkzola
Instagram @drinkzola
Google+ +DrinkZola
Website www.zolaacai.com

Where would you like your beverage company to be in three years?

I would love to see us continue as the fastest selling acai juice and coconut water company in the US. We plan to grow our passionate customer base and continue to see people respond positively to our innovation.

If you had the opportunity to build another beverage company what would you do differently?

Over the past twelve years we have gone from a small entrepreneurial company to a significant brand in the industry. If I could do two things it would be 1. To take what I have learned and apply it to a new company and 2. Team is important. I would plug in an outstanding team.

What advice could you give entrepreneurs starting their own beverage company?

It’s not easy. You are competing with some of the largest companies in the world for shelf space, and they always have more people, more money, and more experience. You must approach your business differently and do the things well that a large beverage company cannot, such as innovation, authenticity, etc. You can’t out-Coke Coke, so don’t even try.

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