Founder’s Gut Health Inspires Poppi, a Soda

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It started with a stomach ache. In 2018 Allison Ellsworth, experiencing abdominal pain, searched Google with her symptoms. She read that drinking apple cider vinegar could provide relief. She tried it and hated the taste, so she formulated her own version, a healthy and flavorful soda.

She told me, “I went to my kitchen and created the first version of the soda, which I called Mother Beverage. My friends and family were excited and wanted to try it.”

Fast forward to 2022 and Mother Beverage is now Poppi, a prebiotic drink with sales of $300,000 per month. It’s among the fastest-growing beverage brands in the U.S.

In our recent conversation, I asked Ellsworth about the company’s launch, Shark Tank appearances, plans, and more. Our entire audio conversation is embedded below. The transcript is edited for clarity and length.

Eric Bandholz: Tell us about Poppi.

Allison Ellsworth: Poppi is a prebiotic soda. It’s good for gut health, glowing skin, and boosting immunity. And it tastes good. I’m the founder and chief of the brand.

I started the company in 2018 because I had health issues. My stomach always hurt. I Googled my symptoms and read that drinking apple cider vinegar could reset and detox your body. I began drinking it every day. I felt amazing but hated the taste.

I would add honey, lemon, and water. It was great but not sustainable for the long term. I went to my kitchen and created the first version of the drink, which I called Mother Beverage. My friends and family were excited and wanted to try it.

I took it to the local farmer’s market in Dallas, and we started selling out. A Whole Foods buyer came by our booth and said, “I never do this, but here’s my card. We need this product in Whole Foods.”

Soon after that my husband asked me, “You want to quit your job and go all in with this crazy vinegar drink ?” And I said, “Yes, let’s do it.” But we needed funding. That’s when we decided to go on Shark Tank, in 2018.

The staff at Shark Tank was trying to match us with Rohan Oza, a Shark with a lot of beverage expertise. He’s behind Bai and Vitamin Water, for example. We ended up getting a deal with him.

At the time, we had a great product but not a brand. We decided to take eight months off and go through a complete rebrand. We named it Poppi — in colorful cans. We found out who we were as a company and our target consumers. In March 2020, when Covid started, we had to pivot quickly to online sales because Whole Foods and Sprouts were focused on stocking essential consumables. They kept pushing our launch. So we went all in on Amazon. It’s been widely successful for us.

We were in the right place at the right time. We did an update on Shark Tank with the new brand. We filmed it in December 2019, right before Covid. The episode aired in April 2020. Then everything went crazy. Our website broke. Our monthly Amazon sales went from $9,000 the day we launched in March to over $150,000 one month later to well above $300,000 three months after that.

Bandholz: You mentioned the colorful cans. How are they packaged?

Ellsworth: We sell in 12 packs. It’s $29 for 12 cans of soda. It might seem expensive, but our customers want to drink it daily. They buy it in bulk.

Bandholz: Did you have to raise more money?

Ellsworth: Yes. We’ve been raising money for three years now. It’s never-ending. We’re one of the fastest-growing beverages in the U.S. It’s been a crazy ride.

We’ve experienced a lot of out-of-stocks, a lot of hustling, and a lot of expenses. It’s not always efficient because we’re scaling so quickly. Aluminum can be impossible to get. More cans. Supply chain issues. It’s now a bit better. But looking back, I don’t know if I could do it again.

Bandholz: What’s the future for Poppi?

Ellsworth: We see ourselves as disruptive for the soda industry, which has been more or less the same for 70 years. We’re revolutionizing soda. I don’t see us slowing down any time soon. We’re on a great trajectory. We could partner with a massive company someday. We’ll see.

Bandholz: Where can people buy some Poppi and follow the company?

Ellsworth: Our site is Drinkpoppi.com. We’re on Amazon and in physical retailers such as Target, Whole Foods, Sprouts, Publix, Kroger, and Albertsons. Listeners can follow us on TikTok, Instagram, and Twitter.

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