NovaXyon Entrepreneurial Olipop Merges Benefit and Goal With $200 Million In Gross sales And A New B Corp Certification

Olipop Merges Benefit and Goal With $200 Million In Gross sales And A New B Corp Certification



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The popular soda alternative, Olipop, became a B Corp this fall. Ben Goodwin and David Lester started the company with a $100,000 investment over five years ago and it’s now projected to pull in $200 million in gross sales this year. Its growth has led leading soda brands to take notice, and come knocking, Goodwin notes. But it’s more than just about the figures for these two co-founders.

“We’re really trying to build a workplace where people are invested in growth on the human side and on the professional side, which then allows us to promote from within, and allows us to create a lot of enrichment, while avoiding command and control culture or entitlement culture,” he says.

To put this into action, Olipop offers employees flexibility and unlimited paid time off. This includes 4 to 12 weeks of paid primary parental leave, 5 weeks of paid secondary caregiver leave, and more than 20 hours of paid community service work every year, meaning employees can easily take time out to volunteer.

But there’s more. The company has also devoted to helping employees invest in their own development. For instance, they hired a PhD in Organizational Psychology who teaches their staff “deep, soft skills and EQ-focused skills,” Goodwin says. “It’s small things like these that add up.”

“Because it’s a bit of pressure cooker to join a fast-growing startup,” he adds. “Only 0.4% of beverage businesses make it to $10 million in revenue. For the first 50 to 70 team members, we were a very mission-driven company. For them, B Corp. certification feels like par for the course. If we didn’t do it, they would probably think that’s odd. But for the newer entries, it reaffirms that we’re putting our money where our mouth is.”

Beyond fostering a better workplace and reducing turnover, Goodwin has been focused on a bigger health mission with Olipop. Given that he started the company with the intention of taking on the giants of the soda industry, he wasn’t shy about Olipop’s ultimate goal. With conventional soda having more than 20 to 30 grams of sugar in each can (and even exceeding that with certain flavors), Olipop has reduced that drastically to 2 to 5 grams max in each serving.

“I mean, I’m sure you are acutely aware that 40% of the country has diabetes or pre-diabetes, and so many have chronic digestive distress. So we need real empirically validated nutritional alternatives being consumed at scale. And that’s part of what we’re trying to accomplish. So we’ve completed multiple in-vitro trials where we actually have positive signals around health impacts, that led to us being entered into multiple insurance panels.”

Prior to starting Olipop, Goodwin spent years building a kombucha brand where he deeply researched the gut microbiome to understand that not all products on the market are as effective as they claim to be. Probiotics (and prebiotics) have been on Goodwin’s radar for years, if not decades. In fact, he and Lester first started a probiotic soda company named Obi; they sold it for an undisclosed amount before attempting to start again afresh with Olipop.

Goodwin is aware that his drinks can fall in the wellness camp as well, where all kinds of claims are being made in marketing. So to bring some third-party certification to claims around gut health, this year, Olipop attained a certification by NutraStrong, a global certification for dietary supplements (including probiotics) to verify that the ingredients listed on the can are truly in the can.

At this point, Goodwin pauses in the interview to address the noise outside the window: “I’m having a chicken coop built outside, sorry,” he says, and then deviates to share a bit about his life before Olipop.

For him, Olipop is really a culmination of passions: learning about one’s inner health, shifting Americans away from a sugar-laden diet, being more connected to our food, training as a microbiologist to better understand the role of bacteria and microbes play in our everyday lives, and building a brand, to name a few.

He shares that he grew up in a home where money was tight, his father passed at an early age, leaving a lasting impact on his mom and their nuclear family. All this stress, coupled with a not-so-nutritional diet, wasn’t ideal. So, it’s only when he decided to dig into this own personal health did he discover the importance of gut-friendly foods in one’s overall health. Thus, for Goodwin, Olipop is more than just a startup: he really wants to change the way America looks at everyday drinks, particular the beloved soda.

“We can definitely do better with the knowledge we have now and the understanding we have of how the gut is at the heart of it all,” he iterates.

His fridge, he jokes, is always full of juices, and different concoctions he’s testing out. As chief formulator, the quest to find the next fan-favorite flavor is ongoing. Call it a “functional beverage” or a “botanical soda,” he’s tackled some of the tried-and-true flavors like root beer, and converted over a new generation of soda drinkers, while attracting funding from celebs like Gwyneth Paltrow, Mindy Kaling, and even the former Pepsi CEO, Indra Nooyi.

So could Olipop be the next major beverage brand to dominate an old-school soda market, while using the principles of a B Corp? Goodwin certainly hopes so.

“We haven’t really gone international yet, because there is so much work to do here in the States. Even with our early success, we are still a tiny slice of this market.”

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