Hispanic Heritage Month: Celebrating Agua Bonita’s Kayla Castañeda
It’s Hispanic Heritage Month, an essential time to recognize and celebrate the contributions of the Hispanic community in the United States. As a female-founded company we are proud to highlight diverse stories of female founders of Hispanic heritage in the food and beverage industry. We’re kicking things off with Kayla Castañeda, founder of Agua Bonita – the first ready-to-drink aguas frescas.
Meaning “beautiful water” in Spanish, Agua Bonita serves its namesake well. Containing 50% real fruit juice, still water, and no added sugar the juice and water blend is vibrant, refreshing, and beautifully bold. And let’s not forget about the flavors. From the more traditional agua de jamaica and pineapple cucumber to the contemporary mango habanero and watermelon chile – flavors that are inspired by culture – we love them all.
The demand for an alternative to high-sugar, processed drinks is growing, even more so for those run by minority business owners. In September of 2020, Agua Bonita became the first-ever Latina-run beverage startup to raise more than $1 million in funding – just under a year after its launch. What a trailblazer.
Coming from a family of Mexican migrant farm workers, Kayla grew up in the main valley of California where they grow 60% of the nation's produce. Her grandfather would often come home with extremely ripe fruit that he didn’t want to see wasted, so it would be made into delicious aguas frescas for her entire family.
When Kayla lost her job mid-pandemic as a result of mass shutdowns, she embarked on a journey to create something that was reflective of her culture, her family, and her grandpa’s doctrine of never letting food go to waste. And Agua Bonita was born.
As a pioneer in the beverage industry, Kayla is standing out and carving her own path. We had to find out more about who inspired the founder, how she is rewriting her own rules, and what SHE CAN represents where she is in her career now.
Meet Kayla Castañeda
Tell us about your business and what inspired you to start.
My family is what inspired me to start my business, specifically my grandpa. I wanted to create something that was reflective of my culture, myself and my family – when I took the time to consider the options against what consumers are looking for, aguas frescas fit the bill. Growing up, my grandpa would bring home ripe fruit from the fields for the family to enjoy and make aguas frescas, so I followed in his footsteps with Agua Bonita.
Who inspired you to break the rules or think beyond them as a woman in your industry?
One person who inspired me to think beyond the rules and boundaries as a woman in business is Dany Garcia. She is such a powerhouse across industries and breaks glass ceilings everywhere she shows up. That's how I strive for my career and life to be – the best I can give, at whatever it is, every time.
In your space, what were / are the rules? How are you rewriting your own rules and defining yourself in this space regardless of the status quo?
In this space, there are a lot of antiquated processes of doing things – even as simple of a decision as putting non-carbonated drinks into cans like we do was seen as taboo. Or having cans that each have their own unique design. We are shedding those ways of doing things and building a company and product we want to see for all the right reasons.
Let’s play the name game! Name a SHE CAN wine cocktail right now that represents where you are at in your work right now? What would be the ingredients in your cocktail using She Can Wines as the base?
The Fresh White x Pineapple cucumber cocktail is where I'm at in my work right now. Fresh, cool, but still a bit of spice coming at you.
What’s your favorite SHE CAN flavor?
My favorite SHE CAN wine flavor right now is Coastal Berry! It feels perfect for that transition from late summer into early fall.
With 1% of every Agua Bonita purchase going toward helping migrant farmworkers via non-profits, the company using rescued produce where possible, and the cans being made from recyclable aluminum, Agua Bonita is the mission-driven, planet-friendly elixir you can feel good about – inside and out.
In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, we've teamed up with Kayla and the Agua Bonita team and first generation, Mexican-American mixologist, Adilenny Becerra, to craft 4 cocktails to help you celebrate all month long!
Meet the Mixologist
Adilenny Becerra, is a first generation Mexican-American located in Salinas, California, along the Central Coast of California. Her mother is from Michoacán, Mexico and her father from Guanajuato, Mexico. Through culinary, food, and wine, she has been able to express her love for her culture and heritage and is constatnly learning about new ingredients through her mother who works as a chef. She works with her family to create beautifully crafted wine and tequila cocktails at their resteraunt, Villa Azteca, where they specialize in traditional mexican food with an innovative twist.