A Conversation With. . . Jenia Kokotuha

 

Jenia Kokotuha

 

Minta, a carbonated, mint-flavored soda that came on the market in 2011, is owned by the Hollywood, Calif.-based Bev Marketing Group Co.,Inc,

It is available in original flavor, made with natural cane sugar, and a sugar-free diet version, made with stevia. The drinks are sold through specialty gourmet and natural food stores, mainstream supermarket chains, retail stores and also in trendy resorts and restaurants. Beverage World recently spoke with Jenia Kokotuha, Founder and CEO of Bev Marketing Group Co., about the brand.

Beverage World: Where did you get the idea for Minta?
Jenia Kokotuha:
I also own a brand of sparkling wine from central coast California called Vertuze and I was traveling to France in the Champagne region and I noticed a lot of customers in the region were consuming Perrier with mint-flavored syrup. I thought it was an interesting idea and took the concept back to the United States and hired an agency to develop the formula. We wanted to make sure that all the mint syrups were naturally flavored and naturally colored. So we use only cane sugar, some citric acid and just lime juice and mint extract.

BW: How would you describe the flavor?
Kokotuha:
The easiest way to describe it is as a non-alcoholic mojito. I’ve also heard a lot of people say is it tastes almost like a 7-Up or a Sprite with mint flavor to it, but not as sweet. Consumers are usually very surprised when they taste it. They don’t know what to expect. Often they expect it taste harsher from the mint. But once they taste it, they’re very pleased.

BW: What kind of retail formats and price point are you targeting with Minda?
Kokotuha:
Natural food stores and delis along with a number of Las Vegas resorts. Our benchmark product would be Orangina when it comes to distribution. Our target pricing on the plastic PET bottles is $1.29 on the shelf, and on the glass bottles it’s $1.59. We tend to carry glass mostly for on-premise because it has a little more sophisticated look to it. But a lot of accounts, like a Las Vegas resort, they like plastic better because of the pools and safety. Also, we are exploring mixology for the brand where we use Minta as a mixer for a number of cocktails at trendy bars and restaurants in California. A lot of bartenders call it a five second mojito.

BW: Who are you targeting with the brand?
Kokotuha:
We see our consumer as 14 to 35, or even 40 years old. We want it to appeal to the younger Millennials and also their parents who are making the purchasing decision in a lot of cases. The older customers are who we can also see using it as a mixer sometimes.

BW: How much growth have you seen?
Kokotuha:
We launched the product with both skus this past February and we’ve had a very significant growth rate in the U.S. We’ve gone close to 45,000 cases on just the west coast, in California and Washington. Now we are starting to sell the products in Dubai as well, where we actually have a significant following. We’re also exploring the option of producing Minta locally in Dubai. But at this point we’re still manufacturing in California and shipping it to Dubai.

BW: What is it about Dubai that makes it an attractive market for a brand like Minta?
Kokotuha
: Mint flavor is very popular not only in Europe, but also in Latin and Middle Eastern markets as well. The Dubai market is kind of a blend between New York and Miami as far as the price points. You can go with a little higher price point there. Also, Dubai is a very well traveled marketplace. And it’s a great showcase. You have a lot of hotels, a lot of yacht clubs and resorts. There’s a lot of really high-end locations where you can present your product and display it.

BW: And what are your plans for 2014?
Kokotuha:
We want to expand to the East Coast, especially New York and Florida. We’ve been approached by different distributors, especially beer distributors who are expressing an interest in non-alc beverages. And they see our product has having legs.

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