At different stages of life, people’s lifestyles, activities and health needs shift. As a result, the trends and products people gravitate toward also shift. Koia, though, offers healthy beverages that resonate with consumers who have a variety of lifestyle and dietary needs. In fact, Chris Hunter, chief executive officer and co-founder of Los Angeles-based Koia Inc., chose to invest in the product because it resonated not only with the marketplace, but also with his personal lifestyle.

At age 25, Hunter became the co-founder of a popular caffeinated alcohol beverage brand. That product resonated with him and his age cohort at the time. After Hunter married his wife and they welcomed their first child, his lifestyle shifted. Following suit, he shifted his career interests to craft beer. Then, after his wife became a nutritionist and the couple welcomed their second son, who is dairy intolerant, Hunter’s personal and professional focuses shifted toward nutritious, dairy-free products.

The Koia beverage line itself is a reincarnation of the RawNature5 beverage created by Koia Founder Dustin Baker and Co-founder Maya French. Baker says the idea for the beverage came to him while working in the medical industry and noticing a need for more nutritious products for sick and overweight patients. The product also tapped into the health benefits of plant-based beverages and the trends of rising veganism and a growing understanding of lactose intolerance. At the same time, the brand was dedicated to a delicious beverage experience so that consumers did not have to compromise health and simple ingredients for taste.

RawNature5 first hit store shelves at five Plum Market locations, ranging from Chicago to Bloomfield Hills, Mich., in 2014. The beverage caught Hunter’s attention, and he became a more significant investor in 2015. The entrepreneurial trio worked to rebrand the product, make it more scalable, and put the proper financial, operational and partnership structures in place to help the brand succeed in the long run. Then, in 2016, Koia was born.

Today, the beverage brand boasts nine varieties across two product lines. Its core Koia line of protein drinks, which features Vanilla Bean, Cacao Bean, Coconut Almond, Cold Brew Coffee, Chocolate Banana and Cinnamon Horchata varieties, is made from almond milk, along with brown rice, pea and chickpea protein to deliver all nine essential amino acids.

Baker says the brand selected pea-based ingredients because they offer high-quality, smooth, easily digestible, plant-based protein and are rich in iron, arginine and branched-chain amino acids, which support improved muscle growth, heart health and feelings of fullness. In addition, the beverages deliver a five-to-one protein-to-sugar ratio, with 4-6 grams of sugar in each 12-ounce bottle.

The Koia Keto line, which was released at the beginning of the year, delivers healthy fats from coconut cream along with 12 grams of plant-based protein, low net carbohydrates and no added sugar. The Sweet Indulgence line includes Chocolate Brownie, Caramel Crème and Cake Batter varieties.


Great tastes for everyone

Growing from its original intention of supporting individuals with specific dietary restrictions, the brand now offers delicious, “craveable” nutrition to the masses, Baker says. Because the proof is in the flavor, many of Koia’s marketing efforts have centered on sampling events, which have helped convert samplers to regular consumers and helped the company learn more about its consumer base, Hunter adds. “This type of firsthand interaction … has helped us understand that we have a very broad consumer base, ranging from ‘Lululemon-millennial-yogis’ to 65-year-old diabetics looking to improve their health,” he explains.

Sampling also has helped show consumers that plant-based foods and beverages are not restrictive or unsatisfying, French adds. “Koia products fulfill the customers’ demand for healthier, better-for-you products without compromising on taste,” she says. “The concept and ingredients are easy to understand and make for a smoother transition to a healthier lifestyle.”

Before the brand had mass awareness, the beverage-maker relied on packaging to grab the consumer’s attention, French says. “We were one of the first brands to list the ingredients on the front of the label, and we are very strategic with listing functional callouts [about] why the customer would purchase the product in the first place,” she explains.

Today, the brand is available in all 50 states at a variety of retailers. The brand already has plans for continued distribution expansion in 2020.

And, true to its persona, the company plans to launch another product targeted at a variety of consumer lifestyles in 2020. “We continue to look for gaps in the market,” Hunter explains. “We will be launching a new line in January that is the first plant-based option of its kind. Keep an eye out for it.” BI