We asked and hiyo answered! Read below our conversation with founders Evan, George, and Cygne.
1. How did you know that there was a place in the market for a brand like hiyo?
We had a profound need for a drink like Hiyo in our own lives when one of my co-founder and I both had family members hospitalized with alcohol-related issues back in April 2019. This pretty scary experience caused us to start researching the NA scene. While it was simmering in North America, we saw that it was really gaining steam in the UK. We combined that with the fact that all of our friends were starting to drink a little less due to hangovers getting pretty severe and decided that we were going to dive headfirst into this incredibly exciting and rewarding journey of bringing Hiyo to life.
2. Your design and branding are so beautiful. Where did the inspiration come from?
I can take little credit for this as it was almost entirely the brainchild of my co-founder and our Chief Brand Officer, Cygne Cooper. That said, Hiyo is very much a product of our environment, inspired by Venice, where the urban jungle of Los Angeles meets the white sand beaches of the coast. We joked around that it’s pretty hard to be in a bad mood looking at a sunset sinking into the Pacific, so those “sunsets” made their way onto our cans with the intention that Hiyo will transport people to a happier, healthier state of mind.
3. What made you initially choose the three flavors? I know it is like picking your favorite child, but which is your favorite flavor?
Someone told us that 3 is the magic number with launching a beverage. If you only have one, you might be missing out on a demographic that just doesn’t dig that flavor. If you have two, retailers will ask which one sells the best and just choose that one. If you have 3, you can showcase a range of flavor profiles and Retailers very rarely request to only carry one or two. I think when you get into 4+, retailers get picky, which makes it tough to forecast! My favorite is and always has been Watermelon Lime. It’s just so damn refreshing.
4. How is hiyo different from everything else on the market?
The easiest difference is that we’re the only USDA organic certified social tonic on the market. We think that’s pretty cool, but beyond that, what makes Hiyo unique is the floaty feeling that our ingredients produce. By incorporating the most bio-available functional ingredients, Hiyo not only delivers a delicious flavor, but a feel-good functionality that puts you in a great state of mind. When I was cutting out drinking, I didn’t like that everything felt like a sacrifice. We think that with Hiyo’s flavor AND function, you get to feel good and prioritize your health. We think that is very cool ;)
5. Do you think hiyo would be different if it wasn’t completely 0% alcohol, vegan and low calorie? How important were those characteristics during the ideation process?
Our whole thing is being an alternative to alcohol, so a low-abv version of Hiyo just wouldn’t be Hiyo! To answer the other part of the question, everything about Hiyo ladders up to our intention of changing the way the world drinks. We live in a new category and we’re trying to dramatically shift the general population’s very engrained consumption habits around alcohol. Shifting behavioral habits is not easy, so we tried to make this invitation to a new way to unwind as enticing as possible. It’s kind of silly to list out, but we wanted to check every box: Organic, Low Cal, Low Sugar, Vegan, Gluten-free, Cool Packaging, Cool Brand, Accessible flavor profiles, Accessible price point, etc.
6. Was the experimentation process grueling for a functional and alcohol -free beverage? Did either of you have experience with this in the past?
Grueling is a pretty darn good way to describe it. I look back on that period fondly, but it was pretty brutal and kind of scary tbh. It took us about 14 months to get it right; we tried to raise some money to get us off the ground with Hiyo version 1, realized that Hiyo version 1 wasn’t that great, went back to the drawing board with another development partner, pushed our launch date back 6 months, meanwhile spending both our life’s savings on this formula that we couldn’t seem to get just right. Finally, after a slog of 14 months, we felt like we found the perfect balance of flavor and functionality. While it was really difficult to delay our launch and go back to the drawing board, we joke that that was the best decision we ever made (and money we ever spent) because it made the Hiyo that we have today.
7. What does the future of hiyo look like?
We like to stay pretty focused on our side so don’t have any big plans for new flavors or lines in the immediate horizon although we have a pretty long list of ideas ;) Right now, we’re focused on learning more about our customers and how we can continue to influence culture to be more supportive of, and hopefully even celebratory of, this new more mindful way of consumption.
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