Roger Vozar: Are people ready for “water made tasty” rather than sweet?

One of the basic rules to starting a successful business is to find a need that’s not being served — and fill it. Kara Goldin certainly found an untapped market when it came to Hint Water.

Much of her story sounded familiar — being hooked on diet soda and finding water to be a boring replacement. In my case, it’s Diet Pepsi rather than Diet Coke, but I also discovered that plain water doesn’t always cut it. For some strange reason it’s OK in the workplace; however, once at home there’s a need for something more flavorful.

Goldin’s correct when she says the majority of options available contain some sort of sugar or sugar substitute as a sweetener. So, unable to find the right product in the marketplace, she started making her own by adding fruit slices and skins to water.

Today, both of Hint Water’s lines — Hint Water and Hint Fizz — contain natural fruit flavoring with no diet sweeteners, preservatives or calories.

Starting small

Aspiring entrepreneurs should be buoyed by Goldin’s example in that not a lot of startup capital was needed. She took $50,000 out of her bank account to help start the company in 2005.

“I took it to Whole Foods and got it on the shelf there. Then we launched it in New York at some stores. Soon we were rolling into not only stores, but also corporations that were giving their employees beverages,” Goldin said.

Production is contracted to outside companies, which keeps costs down.

“We don’t own any of our production facilities; we co-pack in multiple locations,” Goldin says. “It’s just a matter of making it simple for the production facilities to be able to make the product. We give them rules to follow.”

Achieving scale

Goldin says Hint Water has reaped the benefits of employing people, including herself, who worked at small companies that grew into large ones.

“We have people who worked at Frito-Lay, Netscape and KIND, who worked at large companies and were there when they were smaller,” she says. “It’s about having the right people who can actually help you scale a company.”

Hint Water management is cautious about pushing growth, including waiting for the right time to launch new products.

“We just launched four new flavors. We held off for the last couple of years on launching new flavors because we really wanted to make sure that we had the right mix in stores,” Goldin says.

Taking the next step

Identifying potential growth areas is important for any business, and it makes sense that Goldin and Hint Water are targeting the casual dining segment.

If you’re dining out and want water, wouldn’t a flavored water be a better value for your money than a bottle of spring water? Certainly there are people who prefer bottled water to tap, but taking it the next step and adding flavor provides an additional benefit.

There are competitors, so it will be interesting to see which captures the attention of consumers. But I’m certain calorie-conscious individuals would welcome another choice beyond plain water and diet sodas.

Roger Vozar is Associate Editor of Smart Business Northern California Roger is interested in the people and businesses making a difference in Northern California. Reach him at (800) 988-4726, ext. 380 or [email protected].