But Bonadea, priced between $2.49 and $2.69 a bottle, didn't sell as well as hoped. Sales were up by hundreds of percentage points from the first batch, but Ventura expected an increase in the thousands by then.
"We just weren't getting serious attention. The brand wasn't moving off the shelf," he says. "I wasn't sure if it was the price point or the marketing."
In January 2010, Ventura and Domene showed Bonadea to focus groups. Based on the feedback, the partners realized they had to change the way the beverage was packaged and marketed. One problem was its name, which had no real meaning. People didn't connect with it. And the 16-ounce bottle looked too much like the ones that contain Snapple, one of the top-selling iced tea and juice drink brands in the country.
Over the next nine months, they considered many names and label designs and eventually came up a new name, Coba, a Mayan city on the Yucatan peninsula and decorated the labels with images of flowers and fruit. In March 2011, they took Coba to a trade show in Anaheim, Calif. On the show's last day the organizers surprised the partners by announcing that they had picked Coba as the best product in the show. Coba also caught the interest of retailers.
The partners began producing their new beverages â¿¿ but soon came another worry: Nestle, the world's largest food and beverage maker, was introducing its own aguas frescas. And there was competition from natural soda maker Hansen. Ventura hurried to Whole Foods' headquarters in Austin, Texas with a shoulder bag filled with Coba on ice. He met with an executive just hours after Hansen's representatives visited, made his pitch and showed his product. The company decided to carry the beverage in some of its locations.
Coba is now sold in Whole Foods stores in Florida and the West. It's also at delis, convenience stores and restaurants, priced between $1.99 and $2.50. Sales are up five times from Bonadea's best levels.