“When you think about the notion of bottled beverages, it’s a little bit archaic to take this stuff and ship it in plastic and have all this weight and carbon footprint,” Cirkul CEO Garrett Waggoner tells Fast Company. “We think of this as the new way to distribute beverages in the 21st century. It’s 84% less plastic, it’s 96% more efficient to ship, and it’s 100% customizable to the end user because you can infinitely dial up and dial down the amount of flavor you want, at your discretion. We think of it as the future of beverages.”
Co-founders Waggoner and company president Andy Gay came up with the idea for Cirkul while they were teammates on the Dartmouth College football team. These latest launches—which includes electrolyte-and BCAA-infused branded sports drinks—represent a full circle moment, harkening back to their student-athlete days, when powder drink mixes were the height of beverage technology. After years of research and development, Waggoner and Gay came up with a solution for creating and delivering completely customizable flavors and function for everyone—for use both on and off the field.
“Cirkul has been about customization, but it’s also been about choice—especially throughout the family, where you have your mom who likes a certain flavor, the dad, the kids, your neighbor, and everyone drinks for a different reason,” Gay tells Fast Company. “Now, instead of thinking of Cirkul as having great flavors, you can think of Cirkul as a system. We have these different brands that are bringing people beverages they can use in their daily lives, whether it’s an electrolyte formula that they have when they’re working out or if they’re recovering from a workout. If the teenage kid wants a Gateway Tea or a Fusion energy drink, it’s all there.”
Since expanding beyond direct-to-consumer and debuting on the shelves of domestic Walmart stores in April this year, the retailer has sold more than 1.5 million Cirkul bottles.
#cirkul #Walmart @Walmart @Cirkul #CatOnALeash #momsoftiktok
♬ original sound – Vikki Anderson-Toste
“I think that’s proof positive of the kind of mass market demand, and it was enough for us to say: okay, it’s time to really showcase our wares on the branding side,” Waggoner says. It was this enormous success in brick-and-mortar retail that propelled the team to take a page out of the Keurig playbook and bring branded beverage cartridges to market.
“When Garrett and Andy first invented this, no one was lining up to say: Hey, we want to be the beverage brand that’s in the cartridge–and so they invented a few flavors,” Cirkul COO Philip McKeating says. “So much of the innovation at Cirkul [comes from] consumers, who tell us or they give us insights into what they want and how they want to use it. We’ve constantly heard: iced teas, iced coffees, sports drinks, unsweetened. They tell us all the things and then it’s our job to say: okay, what’s a great version of that?”
So many delicious blends to choose from! ????What does your order look like this month? ???? Thanks to @vanessabright_ for sharing her order with us!
♬ original sound – Cirkul
As for Cirkul’s continued growth and success in a crowded CPG marketplace, it’s the company’s focus on quality control and vertical integration that enables it to invent, pivot, and deliver in a nimble and cost-effective manner.
“We don’t use external manufacturers; we do it all ourselves because we’re big believers in being able to control the product experience for the customer,” Waggoner says. “You have to control what the product is—and given how fast we’ve grown in such a short time-frame, I don’t think we ever could have achieved what we’ve achieved if we were relying on external partners.
“We’ve got fantastic external partners, but time and time again, we’ve internalized things: we’ve built up our core competencies, we built a team. We’re happy to be manufacturing stateside, bringing jobs back to the U.S. As we continue to expand, the way we’ve thought about supply chain and the decisions that we make and the route that we take is very unconventional for most large CPG companies. But it’s worked really well for us, we’ve been doing it from the beginning.”