Touting 16 ounces of recovery in a can, formula O2 has moved up the ranks to become a top-seller at grocery stores and CrossFit gyms across five states. The pivot from hangover cure to recovery drink has proven to be a good move for the business. Rising from the ashes of formula AM and its 20-30 store local reach, formula O2 has amassed over 200 retail locations – many at which it’s top sipper.
When Founder Dave Colina recently spoke with The Metropreneur he discussed the transition of slinging the Orange Mango and Grapefruit Ginger flavored beverages out of the back of his Prius, to conquering location after location. It’s no small feat considering the one-on-one approach that has expanded the beverage’s network. With a team of nearly 50 employees, brand ambassadors and professional athletes formula O2 is ready to shed the quietly conquering and up the ante.
Find out what Colina has to say about the drink’s success and what to do the next time you see a Gatorade or a Red Bull.
[M] When Metropreneur last checked in with formula O2, you were just getting ready to launch. Take us through the last two years and how things have grown.
DC: In 2014, we launched O2 at The Arnold Sports Festival in Columbus. We weren’t sure what to expect, but when we went through our entire weekend’s supply in the first few hours we knew it was a good sign. Since then, we’ve gone from slinging O2 out of the back of my Prius to becoming a top seller at nearly 200 CrossFit gyms and Whole Foods stores in Ohio, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, DC and Maryland. We just recently partnered with the largest sports nutrition distributor in America, and we’re looking forward to seeing where that takes us in addition to expanding within our current markets.
[M] formula O2 is now a top seller at Crossfit Gyms and Whole Foods across several states. How did you build this network?
DC: We built our network of retailers from the ground up, literally approaching each of them one by one. On the CrossFit side of the business, I managed to talk a few friends in stocking O2 at their CrossFit gyms when we first launched in 2014. After O2 became a top seller in their gyms, they were happy to help connect us with other CrossFit gym owners they felt might benefit from O2 as well. We grew from there.
As for Whole Foods, I walked into the Upper Arlington store with a backpack full of samples in the summer of 2014 and asked to speak to someone from the grocery team. That person liked our product and story, and once we were approved to retail there, we spent every weekend at the store for a month or two handing out samples and building sales. As O2 started flying off the shelf, it made it much easier to approach other Whole Foods stores and repeat the process all over again.
The approach we’ve had in both gyms and grocery stores has stayed the same – do everything we can to ensure the partnership is successful with our current retailers, and new retailers will follow. We’ve chosen to only bite off what we could chew since day one, which has meant a very organic approach to growth that’s served us and our retailers very well so far.
[M] What factors do you think have contributed to formula O2’s rapid growth?
DC: formula O2 is a product that was four years in the making. We literally spent nine months refining the flavors alone, and the development of the overall formulation took years before we felt we had perfectly executed what we set out to create. So that’s where I’d start with respect to our rapid growth – having an extremely high quality product that tastes great and delivers on its functional promise. That said, I personally don’t believe that anything sells itself these days, particularly when coming from a small startup. In order to standout from the pack and grow, you have to hustle. We’ve worked our asses off to achieve the success we’ve had so far, and we definitely have a chip on our shoulders.
The next thing I would contribute to our rapid growth is our grinding work ethic. Finally, our small but growing team is nothing short of incredible. Our advisors are some of the most accomplished people in their respective fields in the world, and we’re extremely selective with respect to who we bring on to the team of employees. I’m also convinced we have among the best Brand Ambassadors in the food and beverage industry, and they help us sample and spread the word about O2 in a very authentic way.
All of these people have one thing in common: they’re truly passionate about the product, brand and lifestyle, and they all contribute to O2’s growth in a very untraditional, unorthodox manner. We are a team of underdogs, and we know and like that.
[M] What’s next for formula O2? New flavors? Expanding your reach?
DC: We’re going to keep doing what we’ve been doing, but on a much larger scale. Stay tuned.
[M] Anything else you would like to add?
DC: Next time you see a friend walking around with a Gatorade or Red Bull in their hands, smack some sense into them then tell them about formula O2.