One of the first things Kara Goldin, the founder and CEO of Hint Water, learned when the coronavirus hit was just how difficult it would be keeping water products on the shelves of retail stores.

“I started to see a lot of out of stocks and people were starting to really stock up on essentials—not just the toilet paper and the soaps, but also water,” said Goldin.

Hint, a maker of unsweetened, fruit-flavored waters, has for the past 15 years built a rapidly-growing business, and throughout that time Goldin herself has gone into stores to check stock. As the coronavirus hit, she found herself going into the back room of San Francisco area stores, pulling cases and stocking shelves herself. The out-of-stock wasn’t a one-time thing, either. “Auto-replenishing” that was supposed to be working at stores around the Bay area was not. And not just for Hint, Goldin found as she talked to fellow food and beverage manufacturers. So the company reached out to retailers, offering to fulfill orders directly instead of through distributors using the ecommerce side of the business.

“What I've seen is that the smaller scrappy companies like us that are able to actually do what we're doing and really monitor it, even to some extent manually, are the ones that are winning,” Goldin told NetSuite’s Kendall Fisher in a recent Zoom interview.

Hint was able to move employees who usually supply offices and campuses with water to help monitor stock levels and provide donations to first responders. It also engaged distributors in areas that have slowed, like fashion, to help ship its water. Having cloud-based tools such as NetSuite so employees have key data such as inventory levels has helped the business.

“I think actually making sure that people have the tools to be able to do their business no matter where they are is so critically important,” she said. “

Watch the video below for more details on how Hint is encouraging customers to order directly at www.drinkhint.com, what the fallout from coronavirus will mean for distribution and Hint’s expansion and working with large retailers.