May 24, 2017
by julia ford-carther | January 28, 2014 | Food & Drink
Mike and Danielle Zig of The Coconut Cartel at Crandon Park on Key Biscayne.
Smuggling coconuts into Miami has proven to be a lucrative business for Mike and Danielle Zig, cofounder and CEO, respectively, of The Coconut Cartel. Not only did it inspire a catchy company name, it has created a thirst for the Cartel’s organically sweet—and naturally packaged—tropical beverage.
The Coconut Cartel concept presented itself on a hot day in El Salvador, when Mike got his first taste of the rare Malayan Dwarf and Maypan coconuts sourced from a 110-year-old farm originally planted for Almond Joy. “My partner [Christian Quinonez Sol] threw down a coconut, popped a key through it, and put a straw in,” he recalls. “It amazed me how easy it was to open a coconut.”
The taste, one that’s attracting both longtime coconut water abstainers and a celebrity following (rapper Drake receives special deliveries), sparked Mike’s interest.
To balance his newfound creative burst, Mike pulled in the grounded, left-brained side of the family (and fresh college grad), Danielle, to help execute his vision. “I make sure we have what we need productwise,” she explains of her role. “Supporting him is like taming a bull. He’s running around [about] a million things. I make sure that we can actually do it.”
Danielle, who otherwise would have spent her post-grad months traveling the world, is happy to be involved. In fact, she always had her own dreams of starting a business, although she never anticipated working alongside her big brother. “It works,” she says. “We consult each other on everything. I’m glad I could help him make it happen.”
Now, the two—who are also roommates—live and breathe their new family collaboration, even spending weekends together making Coconut Cartel deliveries to Soho Beach House, Broken Shaker, The Standard, and private events. But for these well-connected Miami natives, this is also a social endeavor. “Our friends are our own clients,” explains Mike. “So going to these events [is] like hanging out with friends. We just happen to be schlepping coconuts everywhere. But work is fun.”
That sentiment will fuel a large expansion this year, including collaborations with local juice bar JugoFresh, bottled products at health-food stores and, in spring, a limited-edition line created from the family’s Malayan Dwarf groves.
With about 42 kilometers of coconut palms to source—enough to stretch from Key Biscayne to Sunny Isles Beach—the Zigs are farming conscientiously. “We plan on being around for a while, so we’re going to grow organically and sustainably,” says Mike. And they’re keeping it close to home: “Everybody comes [to Miami],” he says. “It makes sense to market here.”
photography by nick garcia; shot on location at crandon park, miami, florida
May 4, 2017