BevNET Live Summer 2018 Video: Ken Uptain Talks Essentia Culture, Leadership and Growth

“We have a plan, and we stick to it.”

If the general philosophy of Ken Uptain, the founder and CEO of fast-growing premium water brand Essentia, could be distilled into a single sentence, that would be it. Having launched the brand, which markets an ionized alkaline water with a pH of 9.5 or higher, in 1998, Uptain has followed a strategy of slow but steady growth to build Essentia into a major player in the category, amassing over $124 million in retail sales in 2017.

Doing so, however, required patience and purpose. In this interview with BevNET editor-in-chief Jeff Klineman, Uptain explained that after launching Essentia, he discovered it was “ahead of its time.” He spent the next eight years incubating the company, without putting any resources towards marketing. Having given the brand time to develop, in 2008 Uptain put Essentia on a fast track to growth, hiring an outside sales team to push further into retail and formulating a plan to create a national DSD footprint.

Watch the full interview with Uptain to hear about how he dealt with a consumer market initially unreceptive to “designer waters,” how he helped stimulate growth while carefully managing resources, the importance of company culture in Essentia’s success, and how the brand has shifted from spending zero on marketing to making a millennial-focused message on “overachieving” the centerpiece of the brand.