#326 - Disruptive Sips: Building Iconic Beverage Brands from Scratch with Christopher Hunter

June 13, 2024
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Guest Name:
Christopher Hunter
Co-founder of Phusion Projects and Koia.
Company Name:
Phusion Projects and Koia.
Revenue Stage:
Guest Bio
Christopher Hunter is the co-founder of two iconic beverage companies — Phusion Projects (the parent company of Four Loko) and Koia.


Christopher Hunter is the co-founder of two iconic beverage companies — Phusion Projects (the parent company of Four Loko) and Koia.

In this DTC Pod episode, Christopher underscores the lessons from Four Loko's tumultuous success while detailing the birth and rise of Koia. He covers topics such as retail partnerships, product innovation, distribution expansion, and more.


Christopher Hunter is a seasoned entrepreneur best known for creating Four Loko, a caffeinated alcoholic beverage that caused a stir across college campuses and beyond. Currently, he serves as the CEO of Koia, a leading plant-based protein drink company that has achieved over $100 million in annual retail sales nationwide.

In this episode of DTC Pod, we uncover tactics for rapid growth in the CPG space. Christopher highlights the importance of adapting to market shifts and consumer demands, which steered his brand from a costly initial direct-to-consumer model to a more sustainable retail focus, eventually re-introducing multi-packs for platforms like Instacart and launching shelf-stable products on Amazon.

With Koia now available in approximately 30,000 retail locations—including a recent nationwide partnership with Starbucks—Christopher reflects on the brand’s product development and scale-up process.

Shop Koia on Amazon.

Interact with other DTC experts and access our monthly fireside chats with industry leaders on DTC Pod Slack.

On this episode of DTC Pod, we cover:
1. Startup Challenges and Solutions
2. Retail Partnerships and Scaling
3. Adaptation to Regulations
4. Four Loko's Market Evolution
5. Koya's Strategic Growth
6. Distribution and Manufacturing Strategies
7. Direct-to-Consumer Shifts and Trends

01:48 Christopher Hunter’s background, how Four Loko and Koia started
07:14 From managing Phusion Projects to investing in Raw Nature 5 to creating Koia
09:28 How a partnership helped launch and scale Koia
12:12 Troubleshooting initial production challenges at Koia
14:41 Starting with natural retailers, then going to specialty and conventional ones
17:23 The evolution of Koia’s supply chain and operations
19:57 Moving from DTC to retail, addressing customer requests, discovering an opportunity to sell on Amazon
22:22 Expectations for Koia’s launch on Amazon, looking at product competition
25:41 Lessons learned from Four Loko, product iteration and scaling
31:16 Dealing with government agencies, building a solid business foundation
33:56 Consumer research and how it factors in making business decisions like product line expansion

Show notes powered by Castmagic

Past guests & brands on DTC Pod include Gilt, PopSugar, Glossier, MadeIN, Prose, Bala, P.volve, Ritual, Bite, Oura, Levels, General Mills, Mid Day Squares, Prose, Arrae, Olipop, Ghia, Rosaluna, Form, Uncle Studios & many more.  

Additional episodes you might like:

• #175 Ariel Vaisbort - How OLIPOP Runs Influencer, Community, & Affiliate Growth

• #184 Jake Karls, Midday Squares - Turning Your Brand Into The Influencer With Content

• #205 Kasey Stewart: Suckerz- - Powering Your Launch With 300 Million Organic Views

• #219 JT Barnett: The TikTok Masterclass For Brands

• #223 Lauren Kleinman: The PR & Affiliate Marketing Playbook

• ​​​​#243 Kian Golzari - Source & Develop Products Like The World's Best Brands

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Projects the DTC Pod team is working on:
DTCetc - all our favorite brands on the internet
Olivea - the extra virgin olive oil & hydroxytyrosol supplement
Castmagic - AI Workspace for Content

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Christopher Hunter - Co-Founder of Phusion Projects and Koia
Blaine Bolus - Co-Founder of Castmagic
Ramon Berrios - Co-Founder of Castmagic

Episode Transcript & Castmagic Chat

John Carter - Radio Webflow Template
Ramon Berrios
Founder and CEO at Trend
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Ramon has Co-Founded Trend. It is a curated marketplace of creators and brands. We help brands source high quality custom content. We love working with new, innovative companies that are changing the game.

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Co-Founded Seated,COO at Omnipanel
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Blaine Bolus is the Co-Founder of OmniPanel, the first software platform connecting CX & Internal teams.OmniPanel, backed by top Silicon Valley VCs, is building software infrastructure that powers cross-functional work, in an industry projected to be a $641 Billion Market in 2022.