In the last year, we’ve seen Villager Goods explode in popularity, standing out from the countless other coconut water brands in the market. What makes the brand special? Is it the athlete founded-and-owned model? The belief in quality, organic ingredients? Superior marketing? In reality, it’s probably these reasons and many more, but the driving force in success can most likely be attributed to the leadership and guidance of Josh Landan, an industry veteran that has success stories like Saint Archer attached to his name.
Landan was recently named CEO of Villager Goods, a move that should surprise no one familiar with the brand and the man. Landan chatted with TRANSWORLD BUSINESS after the announcement, filling us in on what Villager Goods has been up to, and what’s to come.
Interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Josh, how did you come to take the role of CEO? How has the role transition been? Who was holding that role previously?
The CEO position at Villager Goods was vacant before I came on board. Villager really needed someone to be there full-time with a great understanding of the brand, the athletes, and also have a passion for a healthy product that promotes a healthy lifestyle. The team was most comfortable with me in that role. I was ready to move on from Saint Archer and take on Villager Goods.
The role transition has been amazing because I'm back to the stage I enjoy the most – which is building a brand from the ground up. This is where I'm the happiest, excited and most passionate. Its back to the basics of me and my friends creating a brand and working hard.
What are some of your goals, personal and for Villager as a whole, as you embrace your new position?
My goal for the brand is always the same – distribute to as many places as humanly possible, which means every grocery and convenience store in the US and eventually expand to worldwide distribution. That was the goal of Villager Goods prior to me taking on the role of CEO and that goal still stands. We want to carry out the vision that we've had since the beginning, which is – it is not just a coconut water. Coconut water is what we've lead with because that's what we drink the most of, so it was a natural fit for us to launch our brand with coconut water first.
The Villager team and I enjoy being in this building phase. All of the athletes are so involved so it is fun for us to be together doing this all over again. From motivating them to be doing these films to hitting the road together in a van going on different routes in Southern California. We go as far as gas stations in Las Vegas and athletes doing these unconventional things are something you don't hear about everyday.
What takeaways from your experience in the industry are you relying on as you get settled?
I've learned everything about business in general being in this industry. Specifically, with beverages, there are some similarities but not a ton. It is a totally different system, so it was a learning curve for us. For example, just getting product from the Philippines was a learning experience in itself.
We could have gone with beer distributors since there are a lot who sell non-alcoholic products all over the US, but we decided to go with nationwide distributors. Fortunately for us, we've been picked up by nationwide retailers in the early stages, which has been an unbelievable blessing.
You co-founded Villager Goods after serving as co-founder and CEO of Saint Archer. What inspired the idea behind Villager Goods? What similarities and differences are there in the two companies?
We strive to make products for everyone and not exclude anybody from our brand. It was unfortunate with Saint Archer, since we were excluding a large part of the population and excluding a big population who are huge fans of the Villager athletes. The biggest inspiration is creating a healthy product for kids. The only similarities really are that athletes own the brand with me, that's it. It's the business model – the way we fund the companies is through ourselves. Aside from that, the business itself is completely different, what we are creating is completely different.
Villager focuses on the health and well-being of its consumers – a much different approach from the traditional beverage companies in the outdoor/ action sports space. Why was that so important to focus on as a brand?
All of us at Villager are genuinely living that lifestyle that the brand is promoting. Me, as the everyday person, it has been a huge benefit to me – having 3 kids and having the energy to be able to do all the activities I love – I owe that to the dietary changes that I made years ago. As for the athletes – I can speak for all of them and say it's probably the main factor as to why their performance level is so high, like Andrew Reynolds, Eric Koston, and Taylor Knox. They are all so health conscious which has opened a huge void in the industry. So we thought to ourselves – why not take that a step further and create it? The guys were not passionate to be promoting things that they didn't think were healthy and rose to the occasion by jumping on board with Villager Goods and supporting the brand message.
What is new since we last caught up with you right before Villager’s launch at retail, from a product standpoint? Is Villager planning on branching into food items as well as additional drink options?
We have a lot of exciting things coming. We don't have a confirmed date on Little Villager, which is organic juice boxes for kids, as well as the sparkling water and granola categories – but stay tuned. We also plan on expanding outside the US.
What have been some unforeseen challenges in assuming the role of CEO of Villager Goods?
The biggest challenge will forever be the actual product and the supply chain of coconut water. With beer – you can buy all the equipment and ingredients and be in control of making it. As opposed to coconut water – you're not in control of all the variables that go into making it. There could easily be a natural disaster in the Philippines that could wipe out all the coconuts and hypothetically– we could be out of coconut water for 6 months. There's never a 100% guarantee. We started making coconut water in 1-liter package sizes out of Vietnam. This is an active plan but also prepares us for the unknown. Same coconuts, same flavor. We're trying to be well-prepared for whatever may happen.
What can we expect from Villager in the coming 6-12 months? Anything you can share with us?
The sales of our 3 flavors have been going faster than we anticipated in our Southern California market, so nationwide distribution with the biggest retailers in the US will be coming online in the next 12 months. We're going to have our apparel line – which will be distributed to over 65 retail stores in Southern California. Also, we will continue making profile films on the owners of the brand and people outside of our circle that we feel fit the brand message.
Any last thoughts?
Thank you to everyone who has supported our brand. We greatly appreciate it!
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