Coconut water entrepreneur quenches thirst for environmental stewardship
Even charities get a boost as Rodrigo Veloso turns farmers' discards into a sought-after product.
Thu, May 13 2010 at 10:51 AM
MAIN INGREDIENT: Rodrigo Veloso is the brains behind a new coconut water product. (Photo: Glenn Inskeep)
Spend a fair amount of time perusing the beverage aisle at your local grocery store? We sure do, especially with the parched summer months ahead. In recent months we’ve noticed the emergence of super-hydrating coconut water, once a somewhat obscure potable that’s now on the tip of many health-conscious consumers’ tongues … not to mention stocked in their fridges. O.N.E. (One Natural Experience), a beverage company founded by Brazilian-born eco-entrepreneur Rodrigo Veloso, is leading the coconut water pack.
We caught up with Veloso to learn more about the numerous health benefits of coconut water, find out about an exciting new product from O.N.E. — O.N.E. Active — and to see what else, aside from coconut water, might be in his fridge.
MNN: Coconut water is low in fat, is free of preservatives, cholesterol or added sugars and offers a myriad of health benefits, most notably its super-hydrating abilities. Is there one benefit that particularly resonates with you?
Rodrigo Veloso: Coconut water in general completely fascinates me. First, O.N.E. Coconut Water is one ingredient. Besides squeezing your own fresh orange juice, how many beverages claim this? Another benefit that resonates with me is what our registered dietitian always says: Drinking one 11-ounce [container] of O.N.E. Coconut Water is like drinking one liter of water plus eating a banana or two as it’s super hydrating in the short term and has 670 milligrams of potassium. Finally, another fact about coconut water that always amazes me is that coconut water is a universal donor. In WWII, coconut water was used as an intravenous solution with American soldiers as it has a composition similar to human plasma. This fact is well reported in The American Journal of Emergency Medicine.
Your business model revolves around making good use from discards instead of newly harvested crops. Much of this "waste nothing" ethic stems from your growing up on a farm in Brazil. Can you tell us a bit about this and how it shaped the formation of O.N.E.?
By spending parts of my childhood on a farm, I was always shocked to see that all farmers discarded the coffee fruit, which is delicious and very nutritious. This waste always disturbed me and later I came to learn that the same occurs with the coconut water, the cashew fruit and the acai fruit, as the value was only in the meat, the nut and the hearts of palm, respectively. The whole concept of O.N.E. is to generate a win-win situation for all its stakeholders. The farmers make more money selling the fruit in its entirety, the company has access to abundant raw material and consumers benefit because they have access to healthy products.
O.N.E. is remarkable in that 100 percent of profits from O.N.E. Water sales support various charities. Can you tell us about some of the organizations that O.N.E. is currently working with?
We are very proud to be working with Healthy Child Healthy World, the leading U.S. organization in educating parents about healthy choices they can make for themselves and their families. Additionally, we are large supporters of Feed The Children, an organization that delivers food to families suffering from the economic crisis.
Coconut water is a growing trend and O.N.E. is the best-selling brand of it in the States. Aside from the brand's eco-friendly Tetra Pak packaging, charitable tie-ins, and focus on health, what else do you think helps O.N.E. stand out from the pack?
A few things. First, our product line: In addition to our Coconut Water we offer the consumer other super fruit juices. We are about to launch the world’s first coconut water based sports drink, called O.N.E. Active. It’s a complete and holistic coconut water based sports drink with added active ingredients including ginseng, ginkgo biloba and catuaba bark to help increase the performance of active bodies and minds. Second, O.N.E. has been and continues to be the leader in educating consumers about the tremendous health benefits of coconut water. Lastly, we are proud to have a team that is passionate, excited and committed to making our very healthy beverage, specifically O.N.E. Coconut Water, available to everyone.
Health, access to clean drinking water, and the sustainability of the Amazon rainforest are all important issues to you. Are there any other environmental issues that have recently gotten you fired up?
Genetically modified organisms. GMO ingredients are found in many everyday foods and there is still significant controversy about the effects of GMOs on our health and the health of future generations. O.N.E. is proud to be a GMO-free company.
Although a native of Brazil, you now call Los Angeles home. Are there any eco-issues specific to Southern California that are of concern to you?
Water. California is in a state of emergency, and I would like to see more people and businesses taking actions to reduce water consumption.
The green movement is often all about following by example. Do you have any green heroes? Are there people who inspired you to do good and make O.N.E. an ecological-minded business venture?
Two people that truly inspire me are Al Gore and Muhammad Yunus. They are both successful businessmen and conscious capitalists who are truly improving our world and the lives of individuals as a result of passion and purpose.
Your story is quite remarkable. Do you have any words of wisdom to other aspiring eco-entrepreneurs?
Believe your vision and live your dream because without that you will not be able to achieve your goals. O.N.E. was chosen as the name for our product not only because it underscores the value of coconut water, but because it’s also an acronym for "opportunity never ends." And I do believe that the opportunities are limitless for eco-entrepreneurs who want to change the paradigm of how business is run in the world today.
Have to ask: Are there any other beverages that we might find in your fridge aside from coconut water and other O.N.E. drinks? Have a soft spot for anything?
Funny question … reflecting on this all we have are our O.N.E. beverages, a carton of almond milk and a couple bottles of white wine.
Thumbnail photo: Jupiterimages