When the storefront across the street from the San Francisco office of Hint, Inc. became available for rent, founder and CEO Kara Goldin saw an opportunity she couldn’t pass up. Now bearing the brand’s logo, the 1,500-square-foot space marks a new stage in Hint’s growth.
The flavored water maker announced the grand opening of its first brick-and-mortar retail store this week, located at 2124 Union Street in the Cow Hollow/Marina district of San Francisco across from the company’s HQ. The store combines the cafe and boutique experiences, offering a water bar stocked with the full Hint product portfolio, charging stations and work spaces, and a photo booth with a swing. The permanent store also sells Hint’s recently introduced sunscreen and lip balm lines, as well as branded apparel, tote bags, phone chargers, and Bluetooth speakers. The store will also soon add growlers, taking a cue from the microbrewery trend.
“It sort of started as a tongue-in-cheek thing and then we decided why not, why don’t we do this,” Goldin told BevNET in a phone call this afternoon. “You can come into the store and not only experience the Hint brand, but it’s also a very Instagrammable place. We have a swing, phone chargers, you can come and hang out.”
As Hint continues to expand within and outside of beverage, the retail presence allows the company to continue growing its lifestyle approach. According to Goldin, Hint’s main focus will remain on beverage and urging consumers to make healthier drink choices, but the additional wellness products such as sunscreen and lip balm are about “solving problems” and promoting cleaner living. The store, in turn, helps promote Hint as an omni-channel company with branding that extends beyond water.
“It’s a billboard for the brand and it really allows consumers to experience the brand,” Goldin said. “But it’s also a place where we can have a conversation with people about the brand.”
Goldin noted that the space will also allow Hint to host events and partnerships with other companies, ranging from alcohol brands to app and media companies.
The store’s design is modeled in preparation of an upcoming rebrand for Hint, which Goldin said would not be a drastic change but will refresh the image as the company continues to experience fast-paced growth. The new design will premiere sometime after the summer, she said.
According to Goldin, most of the company’s efforts remain focused on growing the core water products, including the sparkling Hint Fizz and caffeinated Hint Kick lines. Hint has doubled its sales over the past year and grown its staff to 140 employees. In addition to increased ecommerce sales, much of the growth has included new doors in conventional grocery and additional facings in existing accounts, with Goldin noting that many retailers have doubled the amount of SKUs on the shelf.
Goldin said the store’s launch party — which featured cocktails made with Hint — also attracted attention from local restaurant owners who are now looking to stock Hint at their bars. Although Goldin discourages mixing Hint with sugars or syrups, she said the company may look more toward on-premise opportunities.
With many cities debating soda taxes and launching public health campaigns to push consumers away from sugary beverages, and although she plans to take it slow, Goldin believes there’s an opportunity to make the Hint water bar model work far beyond San Francisco.
“I think a store like Hint, where people are coming in and having fun and we’re helping them to enjoy water again, I think it can really benefit the health of cities as well,” she said. “I think we’ll definitely be launching some stores, because I think it’s an opportunity to really get the customer to understand what it’s all about.”