How to Build Brands that Give Back with Sean Lavin, VP of Impact, Liquid IV

In this episode of Beyond the Shelf: the Product & Packaging Podcast, Laura Foti speaks with Sean Lavin, VP of Impact of Liquid IV, on how the company got started, the impact-business model, and about driving sustainable packaging innovation.

Posted on 
August 3, 2022
Laura Foti
CMO, Specright

Ask anyone about Liquid I.V. and they’ll likely tell you it’s the best hangover remedy out there.

And while the product is well-beloved by consumers for this very reason, it’s also doing a great deal in the world beyond keeping party-goers and pickleball players well-hydrated.

I learned firsthand about the work the company is doing to save lives through hydration from Sean Lavin, the company’s third employee and current Vice President of Impact. The company is an early pioneer of the give back model, where the company matches every consumer purchase with a product donation to those in need.  

In Sean’s role, he explores ways that Liquid I.V. can give back to the community, create more sustainable products and packaging, and inspire other companies to do the same.

He joined the podcast to share insights into the early days at Liquid I.V. when it was just a startup (the company sold to Unilever in 2020) and shared best practices for how every business can make a positive impact on the world.

I hope you walk away from this episode as inspired and ready as I am to make an impact!

Below are some highlights from our conversation – you can listen to the full audio on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Google Podcasts. And be sure to subscribe to our channel to get the latest episodes as soon as they drop.

You can catch the full episode here – and be sure to leave a rating or review if you liked the show – it helps others find the podcast.

On the “Oral Rehydration” concept that Liquid IV was born out of

“Oral rehydration, which was actually invented during a Pakistani civil war many, many years ago, was adopted by the World Health Organization several years later. And it really is just as simple as a certain ratio of – and I’m going to keep it very simple – glucose and sodium. So that co-transport, which is a certain amount of glucose with a certain amount of sodium, actually pulls water into the blood system. And so you can imagine it as a delivery mechanism. The basis when you go to the hospital and you’re getting an IV, is that blend, that mix of water, sodium glucose, going into your veins, that’s the fast track into getting your body hydrated.”

On the benefits and innovation behind the powder packets instead of a “ready to drink” beverage

“When powder became an opportunity, we realized that there were [a few] things. One is we could control the flavor. Two, we could control the dosage. And three, it was far more stable as a product. So you hit those three, it was amazing already. That fourth was really the sale piece, which is it reduced our sustainable impact. We were able to ship, it cost us far less. It was far easier. And it opened up an entire new category, which you didn’t even think about at that time, which was travel, transportation. It was so easy to grab a few sticks, throw it in your bag, in your pocket, throw it in the car, put it in your tennis bag or your sports bag.”

On what he focuses on as VP of Impact

“Impact to me and impact to the company is about literally that word. How can we impact the world? How can we impact our customers? How can we impact everything that we do and be able to share it, be able to live up to it and track it? What’s the metrics behind it? And we really do believe in everything that we start, we have to see it funnel into a close. We have to see that circular completion.”

On why the company is looking to impact societal challenges around water

“So when you look at Liquid I.V. and its logo, right in the middle of the logo is a water droplet. And you asked before… “Where else could Liquid I.V. go?” Well, we’re a powder that needs water to be mixed. And water is crucial. This water stewardship is critical to our business, let alone people’s wellbeing. So what I’m excited about next is really focusing on water. What is water? Where is water? How can we help communities in any way, shape or form?”

On how to think about packaging and sustainability

“And so when you think about the company and the impact negative, positive, any way you want, or the diversion away from landfill, you think about “what is our packaging?” Where does it stand and what are the improvements we need to make? And so, yes, spending a lot of time – from back in the day when we first started creating those packages to today – is that cycle of constant improvement that we have to think about where we’re going to source these types of packaging, where it comes from, what’s the story behind it, what companies are producing it, what’s their footprint. We just keep digging deeper and deeper and deeper.”

On best practices for driving innovation AND impact

“Well, first of all, I think you have to love collaboration and I think it’s probably an old word that we use and use and use, but I couldn’t emphasize that enough. Today’s concept of collaborating, collaborating internally, but also with your partners. Think about that as like, if you have a vendor or you have a manufacturer or anything, treat them not as a vendor or a manufacturer, treat them as your partner, because when you think about scope one, two, and three, especially three, that’s kind of like your extended arm. And when they buy into, just think, most of them are even trying. They’re really trying hard to make a difference already. Through a collaborative partnership you’re working together to accomplish great things for both parties.”

And on this segment of Kill, Keep, Change, we made Sean choose between baseball cards, mayonnaise, and orange starburst.  

You can connect with Sean on LinkedIn and follow Liquid I.V. on social media platforms.


Laura Foti

Laura leads marketing and investor relations at Specright. Prior to Specright, she led advertising and analytics at GE Digital, GE’s Industrial Internet software business. Before that, she was a consultant at Deloitte Digital working in enterprise digital transformation, where she helped clients design and deploy eCommerce experiences, develop revenue-driving mobile apps, and reimagine their global digital marketing strategy. Laura was named to the Forbes 30 Under 30 list for marketing and advertising and Brand Innovators 40 Under 40 and 100 Women to Watch lists. She graduated from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. She resides in Newport Beach, CA.

Protecting Medical Devices Rod Patch Podcast

Laura Foti
Listen Now

Unveiling the Path to Food Safety and Transparency with Katy Jones

Listen Now

Explore More Topics

Get Started

With Specright’s Solution Suite, you can digitize, centralize, and link your specification data to drive efficiencies, intelligence, traceability, and collaboration within your organization and across your supply chain network.
Get Started