Sustainability of message: H2coco founder's commitment to consumers

Australian business entrepreneur, David Freeman, shares the brand values he's beholden to and the ongoing efforts to realise them

Bondi Rescue star Anthony ‘Bondi Harries’ Carroll
Bondi Rescue star Anthony ‘Bondi Harries’ Carroll

Imitation might be the greatest form of flattery, but for business entrepreneur, David Freeman, it is also vindication of his plan and a reassuring reminder the issues that matter so much to him are becoming more mainstream.

Freeman first launched his coconut water product, H2coco, in Australia in 2010, and since then has witnessed the emergence of numerous rivals and an awakening among consumers regarding the importance of better nutrition.

“It took a couple of years to educate not only consumers but retailers that coconut water was going to be a big thing,” Freeman tells CMO. “We have been lucky enough to be at the forefront of that, and at the same time produce a quality product focused on empowering people’s lives towards making every day healthier.”

Another important decision Freeman made early in the brand’s development was to use Tetra Pak packaging rather than plastic or glass bottles.

“The current consumer generally only knows the end part of recycling, which is which bin they put it in,” Freeman says. “But that is a very small part of it. A big part of sustainable packaging is around the carbon emissions of the process of manufacturing. And when you compare the difference in the carbon emissions that are emitted through Tetra Pak and a glass bottle it is a way lower and a more sustainable approach.”

Freeman is pleased to see larger organisations making similar decisions, such as Coca-Cola Amatil’s announcement in in April that it would make 70 per cent of its plastic bottles entirely from recycled plastic by the end of the year, or McDonald’s decision to phase out plastic straws by 2020.

“These are all great movements, but I’m still trying to understand why it is taking them so long to do it,” Freeman says. “Being a small nimble business we can make any decision quite quickly that will have the most impact. If you look at it as a financial business decision it doesn’t make it the easiest choice, but it is not always about that for us. It is about making the biggest impact now and coming down to our core values as a company.

“I would really urge other businesses to get on board with this, because the awareness of the environmental impacts and issues that we are having today are forever growing.”

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Freeman has also been working on growing H2coco’s product lines, including the launch two years ago of the world’s first pure 100 per cent long shelf life watermelon water, H2melon.

“And we are just about to launch another world first, which is 100 per cent real banana water called H2nana,” he says.

The company is also expanding beyond its fruit water lines into more function products, starting with a ready-to-drink bullet coffee under the brand Brain & Body Co.

“We focus on all trends that are going on at a global scale and what people are looking for and we want to make sure that our products are bringing first to market innovation to Australia with the right quality and the right messaging,” Freeman continues. “There is a lot of growth for us in utilising resources we have and the brand that we develop and focusing on quality functional products. This is what consumers are looking for. At the same time, we’re maintaining and protecting our core range of coconut water with major retailers.”

Authentic ambassador

H2coco recently added a new voice to help tell its story, signing up lifeguard and Bondi Rescue star Anthony ‘Bondi Harries’ Carroll (pictured) as the brand’s newest ambassador. Freeman says the decision made sense at a number of levels.

“His personal values are so perfectly aligned with H2coco and where we want to go in terms of health, fitness, and sustainability,” he says. “And to me as a company and a brand, it’s important our values align to somebody who is putting out a real message, as opposed to just a fake Instagram ambassador which many people do.”

It also helps H2coco was born in Bondi, and Freeman remains a resident.

As the company grows, Freeman is conscious of the importance of maintaining H2coco’s adherence to its core principles, which he says will become more prominent as consumers become more conscious of their importance.

“I’ve always wanted to produce the best quality with the most sustainable approach, so we have been quite strict on that,” he adds. “We may have a small impact compared to major retailers but if we don’t do it and don’t start pushing that message change is not going to happen.”

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