Kara Goldin used to be a fan of diet sodas – that is, until she realised just what was in them. In an effort to curb her diet soda addiction she tried to swap her fizzy drinks for water. The only problem was, she didn’t like its flavour.
Plain water just didn’t do it for Goldin, so she started experimenting with its taste, adding fruit slices to up the taste. It was 2005 and Goldin looked around for a commercial product and found nothing similar on the shelves in the US. The inkling of a business idea began to form.
“I started out by being a customer of diet soda. I aspired to drink more water, but it just wasn’t happening. I was addicted to sweetness,” she explains.
Goldin realised she wasn’t alone. In the US, 100 million people have type 2 diabetes. One in four, don’t even know they have it. Sugar addiction is a major problem. It seems Goldin had found a market for her natural fruit infused drinks…
A friend warned her against going into the food and beverage industry, describing it as “pick and shovel work”. Goldin ignored their advice and threw caution to the wind. In less than six months, her new water product, Hint, with zero calories, no sugar, no preservatives, no artificial sweeteners, and no GMOs was on the shelves in Whole Food stores across the US.
Cut to the present and Hint has expanded to produce 16 different flavours of still water, 6 carbonated waters under the Hint Fizz moniker and even a caffeinated product called Hint Kick.
The expansion was rapid, and Goldin says having the right systems in place from the start has helped her scale.
“Early on when we decided to focus on starting this company, I wanted to focus on the right product and brand,” Goldin said. “A friend we trusted said work with NetSuite and make sure you get it right from the beginning.”
While Hint is distributed through Whole Foods across the US, it’s also available direct to the consumer. Online sales make up almost 40 percent of the brand’s revenue.
Goldin says it is important for Hint to have that direct connection with customers.
“Focusing on our customers and customer experience has helped us grow the brand,” she said.
Whilst she seems to have conquered the US market, with Hint now a multimillion dollar company, Goldin has her eyes on other locales. Getting Hint’s distribution right is critical. Ensuring products are manufactured as close to a distribution point as possible not only saves Goldin money but sits well with the brand’s purpose of doing good.
“From a distribution standpoint, we wanted to ship as locally as possible. We do everything here in the US. As we go into other countries we want partners that will allow us to do this too.”
Her advice to other business owners looking to pursue their dreams is simple, “enjoy what you do every day”.
“Otherwise the days will be long and hard. Also, have a purpose. You have to ask yourself a lot of questions. Are you driven by a mission? What are the barriers that stop you from moving the needle for your business? How do you put processes in place to scale your business? What are your opportunity costs? How can you be a top company and get your story out there and how do I protect my company culture while growing rapidly?’
“We never started this company to be just a beverage company but be an arm to bring out products that are good for our customers Every day I get emails from customers saying ‘you’ve changed my life, you’ve helped me drink water’.”