Taste Radio Ep. 78: Four Loko/Koia Co-Founder On Why Branding Is The Key to Winning

Episode 78 of BevNET’s Taste Radio podcast features a conversation with Chris Hunter, the co-founder of plant-based protein drink brand Koia. Hunter is also a co-founder of Phusion Projects, the Chicago-based alcoholic beverage company best known as the maker of controversial malternative Four Loko. In our interview, recorded at Natural Products Expo East 2017, Hunter discussed the remarkable rise (and notorious reputation) of Four Loko and explained why a focus on branding and merchandising led to its success.

Hunter also explained his interest in the natural food and beverage industry, calling it “the most exciting space out there.” He discussed his role in reframing and re-positioning Koia as a brand, and expressed a belief that entrepreneurs should look to align themselves with experienced, value-added investors and advisors.

Also included in this episode: A discussion with Project NOSH senior staff reporter Meagan McGinnes about the FDA’s new health claim guideline regarding peanut allergies and how food brands are reacting, innovating and commercializing as a result. We chat with the folks behind Shackleton Whisky, a brand inspired by famed explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton. And in the latest edition of Elevator Talk, we caught up with Safir Jamal, the CMO of 1 Shot Protein, a brand of shots that contain 24g of clean protein per 3 oz. bottle.

Show notes:

1:11 — Reminders, Upcoming Deadlines — Early registration is ending for NOSH Live and Brewbound Session. The room block is almost halfway full for BevNET Live. Sponsorship opportunities for the events are still available, including the Taste Radio gold package. BevNET’s new Media Kit is now available. Learn more about advertising with BevNET, Project NOSH and Brewbound and Taste Radio.

3:48 — Pumpkin Spice Life — ‘Tis the season for everything pumpkin spice. What started with lattes and cookies has become a phenomenon in which entire endcaps and aisles are dedicated to pumpkin spice products. Have we reached a saturation point with the flavor? The hosts discuss.

9:04 — Interview: Chris Hunter, Founder/CEO Koia; Co-Founder, Phusion Projects — In our interview with Hunter we discussed his background in the beverage business, navigating both the phenomenal success and intense public scrutiny resulting from Four Loko, why he segued into non-alcoholic beverages with Koia and how he sees the plant-based protein drink category evolving in the coming years.

29:18 — Trendspotter: The FDA Wants More Kids Eating Peanuts — Last month FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb released a statement regarding a new qualified health claim that early introduction of peanuts to certain high-risk infants may reduce risk of peanut allergy. We discussed the growing crisis around peanut allergies, the FDA’s decision to issue the statement, and opportunities for kids’ brands to leverage the new guidance in marketing and innovation strategies.

43:55 — Interview — Tim Jarvis and Jason Moore, Shackleton Whisky — Scottish spirits company Whyte and Mackay recently announced the launch of Shackleton Whiskey, a brand inspired by famed explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton, who’s known for leading a series of British explorations to the Antarctic. We recently spoke with Tim Jarvis, an environmental explorer and global brand ambassador for Shackleton Whisky, who in 2013 led an authentic retracing of Shackleton’s journey, and Whyte & Mackay Single Malt Specialist Jason Moore about the new whisky and their role in its creation and launch on the market.

52:05 — Elevator Talk: 1 Shot Protein is a brand of shots that contain 24g of clean protein per 3 oz. bottle. We recently caught up with the company’s CMO, Safir Jamal, who visited us at BevNET HQ.

Brands in this episode: Koia, Four Loko, Not Your Father’s, Shackleton Whiskey, Hello Peanut, MyPeanut, 1 Shot Protein.

For sponsorship opportunities, feedback and suggestions, contact podcast@bevnet.com.