Starting a beverage company and creating a niche beverage category took nearly 3 years of research and development for Kirk Bardin to create, test, and market a first-of-its-category protein water.
Spartos All-Natural Protein Water is sold regionally in Whole Foods throughout California, Arizona, Nevada, and Hawaii in addition to Raley's Markets, Bristol Farms and other select retailers.
Kirk Bardin was a kicker at Hart High School in Newhall, California from 1996 to 2000 and played for Cal 2000-2001.
"My concept and idea of protein was fundamentally flawed. I ate many grams of protein but the strength coach at Cal showed me I needed to protein throughout the day since the body can only consume limited amounts at a time."
After 9 months, Kirk said he became healthier than he had ever been in high school. Later, in law school he looked at protein shakes and vitamin fortified water and decided the ingredients and sugar weren't useful.
RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT
He graduated law school in December 2007 and started Spartos Water in January 2008 and worked with top food scientists to blend the right mixture of protein and water.
The R&D phase took 2 ½ years with 8-hour days in the lab searching for the right formulations.
"We put parameters around the drink, like it had to be all natural and perfectly clear. The taste had to be great and it had to have a pleasant feel for the mouth."
Kirk, 31 years old, said creating a beverage requires blending art, science and technology in formulation.
"People see a beverage show up on the market without knowing the behind-the-scenes work."
He personally funded the research process with money he had saved from working at age 16, pushing a lemonade cart at Magic Mountain, to when he was 25.
GETTING SPARTOS TO MARKET
Kirk did initial test sales on Amazon to see if the product would attract any interest and there were 2000 debut sales with constructive feedback to improve the product.
It took 1 ½ years to get shelf space in Whole Foods and during the next year, the plan is to expand nationally primarily through retail outlets. Kirk said the patience in developing the product was worth the effort.
"When someone opens a Spartos and drinks it they're in disbelief there's protein in the drink. There's no mouth feel and no negative attributes."
Kirk says he's passionate about changing the beverage industry and credits supportive relationships for sharpening his entrepreneurial skills.
Now click here to read Kirk's advice on starting a business with supportive people.