Waterloo sips different. This one-of-a-kind, totally irresistible sparkling water company crafts premium products with unmistakable flavor. This week on my podcast, The Irresistible Factor, I talk with Waterloo’s dedicated and talented CEO, Jason Shiver, to figure out how the brand has broken into a crowded field, overcome challenges and, ultimately, found cult-status success.

If there’s anything that growing food and beverage companies should take away from this conversation, know that bold flavors are key to elevating new brands, and that authenticity starts at home. 

You can listen to the full podcast online, on Spotify or in the Apple Podcasts app.

Here are the highlights:

Bold flavors, big rewards

What are consumers looking for? When it comes to the food and beverage space, bold flavors bring a brand into the premium category. That’s certainly the case for Waterloo. As the company’s CEO, Jason Shiver wouldn’t settle for lackluster quality — instead, he wanted a drink that even he wanted to drink, something that tasted like nothing else on the market. 

What sets Waterloo apart from other companies, is that Waterloo prioritizes Pure Flavor Artistry, and crafted a catalogue of their own flavors. Many companies use existing flavors, but Waterloo is different. When it came to their Strawberry, for example, Jason described going through 100 iterations to find the perfect flavor, a process that took months and months. He told me that the company will not allow for the flavor to “escape” the Flavor Room without it being perfect, and that you should know a flavor as soon as you crack open a can, just by the scent alone. (I can attest to this. My favorite flavor is Grape — it’s totally irresistible.)

Standing out with authenticity — it comes from a strong team

Jason told me that people describe Waterloo as, “Just different.” That comes from the beverage’s bold flavor, and from their big bubbles. 

But standing out and rising above the noise also stems from the company’s culture. With around 40 employees, compared to companies with a similar size who have 100, Waterloo strives for authenticity. A big part of that is Jason. He has connections to a lot of his colleagues through years in the food and beverage business — did I mention that he helped build SkinnyPop Popcorn, and worked his way up at AriZona Beverages? — and knew 70 percent of Waterloo’s team through previous work.

That knowledge and experience brings trust, which builds genuine relationships. In my experience as a marketing guru, company dysfunction is a huge turnoff for investors.  Shared vision is important to building capital. At Waterloo, Jason’s been able to raise capital to scale because he understands the importance of consistency and collaboration among the management team. Employees and managers understand each other, and they’re told to play to their strengths. At the same time, the right hand always knows what the left is doing.

Don’t be afraid of the action, lean into it

Waterloo’s success has been like an action movie, Jason told me. I just love that. Entrepreneurship can certainly feel action-packed, with its risks, rewards and non-stop motion.

At the beginning of Waterloo’s journey, Jason stayed true to his high-standard goals, and his COO delivered: They both knew they had to make a product that was BPA-free, they needed to ensure that Waterloo became a premium brand, and they had to deliver that bold flavor that customers now love. But they also needed to bring the price of the products down, so that the business would be profitable, and so that consumers could access the irresistible Waterloo experience. Within the first six months, Jason raved that Waterloo’s COO was able to achieve all of that. They didn’t compromise.

To give the company the runway they needed to take off, Waterloo’s team signed a major deal with the largest independent bottler in the US. Waterloo told them: We’ll do a million cases within the first year. That was another big goal, and a big risk, too. If Waterloo didn’t reach that goal, they’d have to pay a penalty. The bottler thought they were crazy, like cowboys, Jason told me. But Waterloo succeeded.

The bigger your goals, and the more you stick to your brand values, the higher your rewards. Now that’s the Irresistible Factor.

If you’d like to be featured on The Irresistible Factor or need help figuring out how to make your brand Irresistible, reach out to me, Kristi Bridges, at kbridges@sawtoothgroup.com.