Five years ago, Kara started producing her all-natural, unsweetened Hint Essence Water because she was dissatisfied with the beverage choices for her children. She was concerned about the number of empty calories in many beverages (and the growing epidemic of obesity, diabetes and heart disease), as well as by the chemicals found in diet beverages. Plain water proved to be too boring for her family, so she started adding slices of lemon, lime and cucumber to the water. Encouraged by some early success, Kara started experimenting with fruit flavors, and soon her friends started to take notice.
When her friends asked her “why doesn’t someone bottle drinks like this,” Kara picked up the phone and asked several product development people from the large beverage companies. The answer: Americans just aren’t interested in unsweetened beverages.
“I realized that what I had created for my own family appealed to most of our friends as well, so there was no reason to think this couldn’t work for many other people. I started researching bottling companies and materials, and charged everything I could – from bottles to labels. I promised my husband I would stop if we hit $50,000 and hadn’t proven that the product would work.”
When it was first bottled, Hint had a very short shelf life so Kara and her husband could only sell it in stores that they could deliver to themselves, but consumers and the media responded very positively during the first year and they kept improving the product until two years later, Hint had achieved an 18 month shelf life. “Then our sales really started taking off.” It’s now sold in Whole Foods and Starbucks nationwide.
They’ve been able to compete against the advertising and marketing of the beverage giants, even as one launched a very similar product within the past year. Their focus? Creative marketing partnerships, serving as the official water for a number of organizations and events, including Airship Ventures (in Los Angeles and San Francisco) and of the Women’s Professional Soccer League. And through these partnerships, Kara has been able to get the word out, resulting in recognition by Health Magazine, Men’s Health, Shape, Prevention, Marie Claire, People Magazine, and “Good Morning America”, among others.
But even given the success of her product, Kara keeps setting the bar higher. “I see now that we’re changing an industry, and every day I have more and more ideas about how the beverage industry could be better.”