‘I think it’s kind of buyer beware…’

The year started on a promising note, added Goldin, who had her Eureka moment in the early 2000s after cutting up fruit and throwing it into pitchers of water to wean herself off diet soda and realizing there was nothing like it on the market (Hint​ has no sweeteners, preservatives, or colors; just water and natural flavors).

Buoyed by a successful Super Bowl commercial​ (airing February 2, 2020), San Francisco-based Hint was gearing up to launch in three major customers chainwide – Walmart, Sam’s Club, and ALDI – an “incredibly aggressive​” move to pull off in the space of a few months, Goldin told FoodNavigator-USA, “And then COVID hit, and we shut down the offices in New York and San Francisco.”

As other corporations rapidly followed suit, sending an army of workers home armed with laptops and video conferencing software, it quickly became clear that Hint’s burgeoning corporate foodservice business – which accounted for 15% of its business at the time – was going to fall off a cliff.

‘Our direct to consumer business almost tripled’

While this didn’t inspire the kind of raw panic Goldin experienced in 2012 when Starbucks (which at the time accounted for 40% of Hint’s business) called her up to say it was dropping the brand, it was a sobering prospect, even if the expectation was that a good portion of that business would likely return at some point, she said.

“The question became, what can we do to move those sales into direct to consumer? We had over a million consumers in our database as of March of last year, so we sent out an email and said we have plenty of inventory, so if you’re interested in ordering your favorite Hint flavor, go online and order a case directly from us, and we saw an incredible lift from that email.

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