CJ Rapp knows a thing or two about being ahead of the curve. A beverage industry veteran who launched his first brand in 1985, Rapp has created several disruptive drink concepts that, while possibly slightly too novel for their time, were predecessors to mainstay categories today. That list includes Jolt Cola, a highly caffeinated soda brand that became a cult hit among software coders and third-shift workers and was a forerunner to the energy drink category.
While Jolt, along with some of Rapp’s other inventions like DNA, an alcohol-spiked spring water, have been discontinued, his latest project, Karma Water, is thriving. Launched in 2011, Karma is a brand of immune-boosting wellness beverages that feature a patented push cap which keeps flavor and functional ingredients separate from the liquid until the point of consumption. Although Karma Water was not the first of its kind, Rapp has drawn upon his decades of experience to build a brand that has outlasted similarly positioned and better capitalized competitors, developed a broad retail footprint and landed a key strategic partner in beverage alcohol giant Constellation Brands.
In an interview included in this episode, Rapp spoke about cutting his teeth in the industry and how lessons learned from his days building Jolt have supported the development of Karma, including the critical importance of distribution partners. He also explained why he defines himself as a “marketer,” and what he believes to be the guiding path for any entrepreneur.
In this Episode
|0:41: Interview: CJ Rapp, Founder & CEO, Karma Water — Taste Radio editor Ray Latif opened the conversation with Rapp with a discussion about the entrepreneur’s background growing up in upstate New York and how his exposure to the beverage industry at a young age drove his interest in brand building. Rapp also spoke about how Jolt Cola was conceived, the innovative distribution strategy that paved the way for other independent drink brands and the key lesson learned from launching several ahead-of-their-time beverages. Later, Rapp discussed how Karma was influenced by the success of Vitaminwater and how the company sought to create a more efficacious beverage than existing functional products, as well as its measured approach to growth and raising capital, why consumer education has been a consistent challenge and how he attempts to find a balance between work and family life.