20 August 2019
Jane Gottschalk said natural beverages are the big trend as most parents want to give the best to their children. Photo: HKEJ
Jane Gottschalk said natural beverages are the big trend as most parents want to give the best to their children. Photo: HKEJ

For an ex-fund manager, fulfillment springs from coconut water

A mother of five children, 39-year-old Jane Gottschalk had little else to ask for in life as she divided her time between her domestic obligations and her career as a senior officer of London-based alternative asset manager Cheyne Capital Management. 

But she quit her lucrative job as a fund manager and became an entrepreneur two years ago.

She established a company that sells high-end coconut water in Hong Kong, and it became a huge success. It counts Hollywood celebrities among its devoted customers and musical legend Elton John as a shareholder.

The product is 100 percent coconut water — no fat, cholesterol or added sugar. It is just like drinking the water straight out of a coconut, only that the container is different, Gottschalk said.

Gottschalk’s love for coconut water dates back to six years ago when she and her husband decided to invest in the American coconut water brand Vita Coco when they were still living in New York.

“There are too many bad things in the world. As a mother of five, I believe that parents want to give the best to their children, so natural beverage is the big trend,” Gottschalk told the Hong Kong Economic Journal in an interview.

The family later migrated to Hong Kong because of her husband’s work. She then discovered that Hong Kong — and even the whole of Asia — does not have packaged coconut water products. Seeing the gap in the market, she started a company called Jax Coco with her husband and two other partners.

The coconut water comes from the Philippines, which the company sells in exquisite glass bottles for the high-end international beverage market.

Gottschalk said she initially had doubts whether her business would make a splash in the region. “Although Asians know the benefits of coconut water, they are used to drinking it straight from the coconut,” she said.

But trusting her business instincts, she proceeded with the project, and in just two years, Jax Coco became a very popular beverage drink, especially in the United States and Europe. Famous artists such as actress Elizabeth Hurley and singer Sophie Ellis-Bextor even promoted the product on social media, and multiple-Grammy-Award-winning superstar Elton John even became one of the owners.

The product is now available in about 30 countries and regions, mostly in Asia, the Middle East, North America, Australia and North Europe, and was officially launched in the mainland half a year ago. 

She said that the mainland market has a huge growth potential as the general public is just starting to realize the importance of a healthy diet.

Gottschalk, of course, will not ignore Hong Kong, the base of her operations. She believes Hong Kong is a natural market for the product as the city has a hot and humid weather for most of the year.

Jax Coco is also ideal for athletes as coconut water contains a lot of minerals and natural components for replenishing water in the body.

The company is now distributing coconut water for kids and has started diversifying into coconut oil. It plans to develop other coconut by-products such as coconut milk, sugar and chips to widen its clients.

The company seeks to strengthen existing markets while venturing into new ones such as Japan and South Korea.

“My goal is to turn the Jax Coco into a company that is worth US$2 billion in five years,” Gottschalk said.

But challenges abound, including coconut source and emerging competitors.

“The Philippines was hit by hurricanes before and many coconut trees were blown down. Then many farmers went on strike. Luckily we are prepared for these unexpected incidents and have a lot of stocks,” she said.

She also said that leading players in the beverage industry such as Coca Cola and Pepsi are starting to acquire other coconut water brands to maintain their market share in the industry. Jax Coco is now actively seeking other coconut suppliers such as Indonesia in Asia, Mexico and the Dominican Republic in Central America.

Gottschalk’s enterprising character may have something to do with her family background. Born in Kuala Lumpur to a British diplomatic family and raised in India and other countries, she can easily adapt to a new environment and embrace challenges.

Having worked for a big hedge fund company in Europe has also helped her develop a keen sense of the market and an ability to bear risks, she said.

Gottschalk said the satisfaction of managing your own business is greater than being a fund manager. For example, she is learning a lot about agriculture while building the brand.

“Even if I got investment returns for working as a fund manager, I didn’t have anything real to take home. But now I am able to manage a farm,” she said.

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