Last week at Pizza & 40s, Kara Goldin, the founder of Hint, told a story that fired me up.
The setup goes like this:
In 2004, Kara Goldin was drinking 10 Diet Cokes a day, had bad acne, and was tired all the time. Wanting to change her diet while also not giving up her love of tasty beverages, she started making her own water by boiling fruit skins and mixing the oils with water. She called her concoction Hint.
However, six months after launching Hint, Goldin was ready to quit.
Although sales were growing and Hint was being sold in stores across the Bay Area, she was struggling to figure out the shelf life of the beverage. Obviously, understanding when your product needs to sell by is not only important to the business, but to the customer’s health… aka it’s a big deal.
And because Goldin – who had never worked in the food industry before – launched Hint on the premise that Americans deserve a natural, low-sugar beverage, she wasn’t willing to use the easy fix that most beverage brands use: preservatives.
Daunted and worried that she couldn’t scale the company, Goldin called a Coke executive who she was hoping would take over the company.
“Listen, I’m in San Francisco. I’ve never done beverages before. I worked in tech and you can just have this company. I launched it, we’re in 10 markets around the Bay Area, and it’s doing pretty well.”
But then, the Coke exec interrupted her.
“Sweetie,” the executive said. “Americans love sweet.”
“And I was like… did he just call me sweetie?” Kara said. “I just put the phone down and lost him for five minutes. And then finally, a light bulb went off. He really thinks Americans love sweet.”
“And so,” Goldin said, “I have runway to go and launch this company because he’s not focused on a company with no sweeteners.”
This conversation inspired Goldin. Now, 12 years later, Hint Water is doing tens of millions of dollars a year in sales. And companies like Apple, Facebook, and LinkedIn stock their fridges with Hint’s variety pack of flavors.
Funny enough, 18 months after this conversation with the Coke exec, Kara was told by a friend that Hint was not only on Coke’s radar, but was listed on a slideshow during a Coke meeting on potential competitors. “We can’t let Hint get to the point of VitaminWater,” the slide read.
VitaminWater was purchased by Coke for $4.8B.
Listen to your naysayers… not because they’re right, but because it’s fuel.
BTW, Hint is giving Hustle readers a chance to get the variety pack delivered to your door for $18 using this special link. Go forth, and stay hydrated.