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Founder Highlight: David Lester

22 November 2021

A Conversation with the Co-Founder of OLIPOP

After nearly a decade consulting with leading digestive health experts, OLIPOP Co-Founders David Lester and Ben Goodwin landed on the foundational recipe for “a new kind of soda” that would redefine how consumers perceived the category. Today, OLIPOP is responsible for 87% of all sales in the functional pop category and boasts a fast-growing, dedicated customer base. When the business revealed its Orange Cream soda to an exclusive group of SMS subscribers, it sold a staggering $30k of the new flavor in under 30 minutes.

OLIPOP has been highly successful in getting consumers to swap out sugary, familiar favorites for their healthier alternatives. Co-Founder David Lester shares more on effective brand building in Dwight’s latest edition of Founder to Founder.

1. In your opinion, what makes an exceptional brand? What are some tips you would give founders looking to develop one that is strong and lasting?

An exceptional brand has to start with an exceptional product. Here are the first and most fundamental questions to ask:

  • What human problem are you solving?
  • Does this product need/deserve to exist?

Initially, I believe your job as a marketer is to clearly articulate the concept and outline the dissatisfaction you are solving for. Great brands emerge over time, and it is hard to fast-track that process. This can often become a distraction in the early phases of a business. If you look at brands like Nike and Patagonia, they developed over time (a matter of years) with clear vision from the founders.

2. What are some keys to creating an effective social media strategy? Which Social Media platforms have been the most beneficial to Olipop and why?

It’s critical to tailor your approach to the specific social media platform. Instagram and TikTok, for example, are chalk and cheese in social media terms. I think mastery of the platform is more important than the platform itself.

Instagram has been a great tool for us since we launched three years ago, but I’ve seen brands be successful in a lot of different channels. The key is not to outsource and make sure you bring it in-house.

3. Aside from Social Media, what are the marketing strategies that helped increase Olipop’s brand awareness in the market?

Strategic distribution build and in-store activation are critical for awareness and brand building for early-stage brands. I think a lot of first-time entrepreneurs underestimate this and lack the necessary discipline in their approach. In fact, we were guilty of this in our first venture.

The explosion of our eCommerce channel in the last year has also opened up a range of new digital marketing techniques that are pretty measurable and allow you to toggle up and down based on their efficacy.

4. Any additional thoughts?

LinkedIn remains one of the few social media platforms with true organic reach. It requires a lot of work and commitment, but if you invest over time you’ll see incredible results and have a platform to communicate at scale to your industry. This has been extremely valuable for us as we build a new category.


About OLIPOP

OLIPOP is ‘a new kind of soda’ that offers the experience of enjoying cola without the guilt. OLIPOP was formulated alongside a team of leading scientists who developed a tonic that combines the classic soda taste with the benefits of plant-based fiber, prebiotics, and other botanical ingredients proven to balance out the body’s microbiome and promote overall well-being. OLIPOP is available in a variety of flavors including Vintage Cola, Orange Squeeze, Strawberry Vanilla, Cherry Vanilla, Lemon Ginger, Root Beer, Orange Cream and Classic Grape. OLIPOP is Non-GMO, paleo, vegan-friendly and gluten free and is available online at www.drinkolipop.com as well as more than 7,000 grocers nationwide including Whole Foods, Sprouts, Kroger, Safeway, and Wegmans.

  • OLIPOP will be in over 8,000 stores by the end of 2021, an astonishing 1135% increase since 2020
  • The brand grew their DTC sales by 25% in 2020, bringing its sales mix from 5% eComm / 95% retail to 30% eComm / 70% retail
  • As the leader in the functional pop segment, OLIPOP represents 87% of sales in the category, which happens to be the fastest-growing branch of the entire beverage industry


About David

David Lester is the Co-Founder of OLIPOP, working alongside business partner Ben Goodwin. David brings to OLIPOP two decades of experience in the beverage industry. After nearly 10 years at Diageo, David left the drinks giant and headed to Northern California to pursue an entrepreneurial career.

In 2013, David and Ben launched Obi Probiotic Soda, a line of water kefir-based sodas. Following the sale of this business, David and Ben took the learnings they’d gained and embarked on their second venture together: OLIPOP. Exercising the “break one rule, and break it hard” approach, he’s helped OLIPOP forge new territory as retailers and consumers identify prebiotics and fiber as the next big thing in digestive health.

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