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A Hint of Flavor For Your Water

Linda R. Sittenfeld, CNBC Senior Producer
Tuesday, 13 Nov 2007 | 9:37 AM ET

Ever get bored drinking just plain water? Sure. But you don't want the sweet stuff they add to some brands, and you haven't got a slice of lime handy. Now there's a new option: Hint water, with - you guessed it - just a hint of flavor.
Kara Goldin, Founder & CEO of HINT, Inc. tells us more.

Is flavored water new? Don't we have that already?
Most of what was on the market wasn't really just water. It's sweetened with fructose or similar, and isn't that good for you. I was looking for real water ā€“ flavored -- that I could drink 10 a day of and not worry about calories or sugar and that I could give to my kids. Hint is the only one out there with no calories, no sweetener, no nothing. Diabetics like it, dieters like it, athletes like it. It seems to be what consumers are looking for.

What's your background? How did you get into water?
I was an exec at America Online. My husband was Netscape's intellectual property attorney. (As VP of Shopping and e-commerce, Kara grew AOL's shopping business from startup to more than $1 billion in revenue in less than seven years.) I'm an entrepreneur at heart, and AOL was getting too big. We decided we wanted to do something we could touch and feel and make a difference with. So we started looking at the food and beverage industry. As a consumer I spend a ridiculous amount of time in the grocery store looking at ingredients. People have started paying closer attention to food, but not to beverages, yet they are growing like mad.

So how do you get the Hint of flavor into your water?
We create our own extracts and infuse it into the water, similar to slicing a lime and throwing it in. It doesn't add anything to the water, no calories.

Where can I buy Hint?
We are national in natural upscale markets: Whole Foods, Wild Oats, Stop ā€˜nā€™ Shop, Ralph's, to mention a few stores.

Any plans to expand? Overseas? Into schools?
We started going into Mexico. And will probably be in Europe by the end of the year. We are actively looking at going into schools as they are looking more closely at beverages. The biggest problem kids face now is obesity.

What sort of marketing are you doing?
We are partnered with some causes because we believe in them but also because it's a great way to get the word out. Some examples are Cure Autism Now, Aids Walk NY & LA, and the San Francisco Marathon. We're also working with Disney & other movie companies because they get a lot of flak for partnering with sugary products.

Where do you get your funding? How's business?
We are privately held, and are just now going out to do a round of investment. A year and a half ago it was me and my husband. Now we have 12 employees. Revenue this year is about $5 million, and we've grown over 500 percent in revenue in the past two years.
Will you branch out into other products?
We're thinking about other ways to make the consumer healthier. That could be other products. But right now it's about the distribution of Hint.