Hiyo is a California-inspired modern way to drink. The LA-based company just launched its new low calorie, low sugar, and no alcohol better-for-you social tonics that relieve stress and boost your mood. Hiyo’s ready-to-drink beverages are made with organic, high-quality botanicals and real fruit juice and come in three tropical flavors, Peach Mango, Watermelon Lime, and Blackberry Lemon. Hiyo is changing the way the world drinks, empowering people to prioritize their health in the social occasion and feel happy in your own.
Co-founder and CEO Evan Quinn came to UCLA Anderson to pursue entrepreneurship and his MBA after an earlier career in finance. Both Evan and a friend from USC, co-founder and CRO George Youmans, had people in their families that began recovery for alcohol dependencies at the same time, and Evan and George both decided to spend some time sober out of solidarity. During this time, they both went out with some friends to a bar on Venice Beach, where they were disappointed with the lack of good non-alcoholic options available to them. Sodas with lime were a bit bland, the mocktails were very high in sugar and can be quite expensive, and just having water or a Coke didn’t seem to fit the occasion. Evan and George knew there had to be a better alternative for those who wanted to enjoy the social atmosphere of a bar or a friend’s gathering without having to drink alcohol. Even better, they knew there had to be a way to get positive health benefits at the same time.
Hiyo contains a number of novel, organic ingredients to produce a social feeling for the alcohol occasion. Hiyo uses nootropics such as lion’s mane and L-theanine to improve cognitive function, memory, creativity, and motivation, adaptogens such as cordyceps and ashwagandha to reduce stress, and functionals like ginger and turmeric to aid digestion and reduce inflammation. The proprietary botanical blend gives drinkers both a calming and a lifting effect without the comedown that alcohol has. Hiyo is pursuing certifications as USDA organic, certified vegan, certified gluten-free, and non-GMO project verified,. And all of this comes in just 25 calories per can, with 5 grams of total sugar.
Evan and George know that their product and these ingredients are new to many of their customers, and as such spent many months perfecting their formula so Hiyo’s great taste would speak for itself. Both founders used their background in health and wellness plus original research conducted and reviewed for a masters thesis to create the first iteration. They sought out more experts in the field, including Blaire Edwards, a medicinal herbalist in Venice, and a beverage formulator in order to refine their product to where it is today. The resulting blends are sophisticated and fresh and far beyond the alternatives available in the market today.
Hiyo is a part of the burgeoning NOLO market, or no- and low-alcohol beverages. Increasingly, it has become more and more trendy for younger Millennials and Gen Z to cut back on drinking or to avoid it entirely. Whether due to economic stress shrinking budgets, alcohol dependencies in their families, bad experiences of themselves or their peers, social media’s ever-permanence, or simply a change in the ways that people socialize, Gen Z in particular is even less likely to drink. The generation on average drinks more than 20% less than millennials did at the same age, and a full 64% anticipating drinking less during their lives than those in older generations that they know. While the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a fairly dramatic rise in alcohol consumption, with online sales increasing by 234% from 2019 to 2020, it is likely that once the pandemic is behind us these long-term, generational trends toward sobriety will continue. As of 2019, the NOLO sector had $904 million in revenue each year (compared to alcohol’s $181 billion), and is projected to grow at a massive 32% by 2022 while the number of alcohol drinkers has declined steadily since 2000. Hiyo is well positioned to create a new category of product within the growing segment, the social tonic.
Another trend that Hiyo is well-positioned to take advantage of is ready-to-drink beverages. Brands such as White Claw revolutionized the space for alcoholic beverages, taking hard seltzer out of the bar and into bar-b-ques around the world. The NOLO space doesn’t have many ready-to-drink alternatives at this time, although the category is growing rapidly with investment from alcohol companies seeking to capitalize on the NOLO trend. Today, most of Hiyo’s competitors are sold in spirit form, requiring the drinker to use other ingredients to make mocktails or otherwise have the right materials and ingredients in order to create a drink. You can drink Hiyo straight from the can, or it can be poured in a glass and garnished for a cocktail-like experience. The team at Hiyo wants to make it as easy as possible for people to switch to a non-alcohol alternative, and that means making a drink that tastes great as-is and comes at an accessible price.
Evan and the Hiyo team received a great deal of initial support and guidance from UCLA Anderson in the early days of Hiyo. Evan received the prestigious Wolfen Fellowship for the summer between his first and second years at Anderson, providing him with funding to work full-time on Hiyo. He and George brought Hiyo through UCLA Anderson’s Venture Accelerator in the summer of 2019, which gave them early access to advice, resources, and industry leaders. They also brought Hiyo through UCLA Anderson’s Business Creation Option, a capstone project for business school students to create their own companies. The Hiyo team then went on to win UCLA’s Knapp Venture competition, the premier venture competition in Southern California, in 2020. Hiyo went through several rounds of judging from venture capitalists and fellow entrepreneurs before winning the top prize and being awarded $40,000 in non-dilutive capital. Hiyo was also featured as one of Poets and Quants’ Most Disruptive Startups of 2020.
While the pandemic disrupted Hiyo’s original launch plans, the change in focus and the added time helped Hiyo to continue to refine both their product and their launch strategy. All of their efforts to date have culminated in their launch in stores and online this week. If you want to try Hiyo for yourself, head to their website and order yourself a 12-pack! An added perk of being a non-alcoholic beverage is that Hiyo can ship anywhere in the United States.