Class Notes Profiles
Mark Rampolla, Bus Ad ’91, made a career out of coconuts.
While serving in the Peace Corps in Costa Rica, he spotted coconut water everywhere. Locals peddled it, sipped it as a hangover cure and prescribed it as a “drinkable IV” at rural hospitals. Soon, Rampolla was hacking open coconuts with a machete to rehydrate after his workouts.
“It was known as a clean, healthy source of replenishment,” he says. “The whole Western world knows about Gatorade and the importance of electrolytes. But how many people outside of the tropical world know that coconut water can function as a natural sports drink?”
After working for International Paper in Memphis and then El Salvador, where he ran the beverage packaging division for Latin America, Rampolla founded ZICO Pure Premium Coconut Water in 2004.
The company has grown more than 100 percent every year and counts supermodels and professional athletes among its fans. In 2009, it expanded even more with an investment from the Coca-Cola Co. It was named the official coconut water of the 2012 Olympics in London.
The coconut industry used to harvest only the fruit’s oil and meat, discarding the water. Now the growing popularity of coconut water — sold by ZICO and its competitors — has led to at least $200 million invested in developing countries, Rampolla says.
That’s a point of pride for Rampolla. “One of my struggles has been balancing my interest in business and my belief in the good that business can do with social responsibility,” he says. “In a way, I feel like we’re trying to cross that gap with ZICO.” — Nicole Sweeney Etter