Boost Drinks Punching above its weight in a fast-moving category

Boost Drinks has made its name as an innovative and independently owned energy, protein and sports drink producer which keeps close to independent retailers and wholesalers. Its best-selling Boost Original Energy 250ml SKU is the number 2 largest Sports and Energy SKU. Simon Gray, Founder of Boost Drinks spoke to Wholesale Manager:

“2018 was a great year for Boost! We saw success across the board and now have the number one take-home stimulation SKU and the number two Sports and Energy SKU, which is great for an independent business that continually punches above its weight against some pretty big competition!

“As we venture into 2019, we’re keeping our focus on looking at ways we can pass our success back to our customers. This year they can expect to see new products that are not only right for them but are right for the changing market. As our customers know, ‘We Love Local’, so we’ll also be delivering a huge programme of promotions to directly support our customers and help them keep their sales up.”

Boost is up against some big competitors in energy drinks, with huge brands and budgets. Simon Gray’s strategy is straightforward:

“We keep it simple and give consumers what they want – a great tasting product at a good price, with no compromise on quality. Not only this, but our point of difference from our competitors is that ‘We Love Local’ and our products are only available in the independent channel. As we are an independent company ourselves, we get it! We understand the opportunities and challenges and are always working hard to find more ways to support retailers and help increase sales. This has led us to create a range of products which have mass market appeal and provide independents with the margins they are looking for. With Boost you are getting brilliant products and a brilliant brand, dedicated to help retailers maximise their energy drink sales.”

Simon Gray started Boost Drinks in 2001 in very humble beginnings, with just a small office and two phones:

“After completing a marketing degree, I joined a small local food and drink wholesaler which gave me my first exposure to bar codes and shelf life! However, it was my time at University that led me to move into energy drinks. I approached a fairly big soft drinks manufacturer, told them I had a trademarked brand and asked them to manufacture it – luckily, they said yes!”

Boost Drinks has continued to go from strength to strength over the 18 years since it was established, says Simon Gray:

“We now have thirty-two brilliant staff working for the brand, in a big office with lots of phones! We distribute to the majority of wholesalers in the UK, have started to import globally and are always looking out for what more we can be doing in the UK, the Republic of Ireland and beyond.”

Simon and his team believe in working closely with retailers and wholesalers to help them make the most of the Boost opportunity:

“At Boost, we love local, so we’re constantly talking to retailers and wholesalers, finding out about the challenges they face and then, as a team, looking at what we can do to help. We run popular promotions which retailers have told us work well for them in their stores and constantly look for new ways to stay ahead of what’s happening in the market so we can support them. We also make sure we’re supporting wholesalers by creating and designing vibrant, eye-catching POS and creating a bit of theatre in depots! One thing the whole business looks to do is get out and meet our customers face to face.”

The Boost team attend trade shows and exhibitions and have even started holding their own bespoke retailer events, working with NFRN among others:

”Over Christmas we sent teams of elves into wholesalers to help customers find their stock, load their cars, give out gift product and generally bring some festive cheer from Boost.”

Boost offer three main products, Boost Energy, Boost Sport and Protein Boost. Simon explains:

“Boost Sport is a hydrating product that can work for everyone, not just extreme sports enthusiasts. Our sports range is the fastest growing in the UK, appealing to a wide range from skateboarders to runners and even those who walk to work. The range includes three vibrant flavours; Mixed Berry, Tropical Berry, Orange and Citrus. Protein Boost appeals to consumers looking for a protein hit and everyday shopper looking for an on- thego snack. The government recommend we have 50g protein a day, so we made sure each drink contains 20g of whey protein, putting our customers well on the way to achieving this. Our energy range performs well because it appeals to a wide range of consumers, we keep the price low and the taste great.”

As well as their energy drinks perform, Boost believe it’s important to keep refreshing the offer. They launched 250ml sugar-free Cosmic Glow at the end of last year and are launching Red Berry in February, also sugar free:

“Originally the trend for protein and sports drinks was confined to fitness fans, who were looking for ways to supplement their workouts and diets. That has definitely changed as the modern-day consumer has become more aware of nutrition and what they should and shouldn’t be eating and drinking.

“Take home is also a key consideration for helping retailers increase sales. Boost Energy 1 litre is the top take home Stimulation SKU and accounts for 63% of all take home sales. We also have Boost Original Energy available as a 500ml. we brought Boost Sport and Protein Boost to the market to help retailers who are looking to enter these categories and are confused by the many different options on the market. “

With the sugar levy coming into force, Boost’s main priority has been ensuring consumers get the same great taste from their favourite soft drinks without having to pay a higher price:

“We took the decision to reformulate our recipe, reducing sugar levels in our range to below the sugar levy but never deviating from our mission to supply great tasting energy drinks at an exceptional price for both retailers and consumers. We will also endeavour to make our new products sugar free going forwards. Our new Punch Power and Cosmic Glow 250ml SKU are both completely sugar free and have been flying off the shelves!”

Flavours are also important, says Simon. 70% of all Stimulation sales are Original variants whilst 18% are flavours and growing 16% annually, “so it is important to make sure we have plenty of flavour options to keep up with this trend. Limited edition variants like Cosmic Glow performed well and build relationships with consumers.”

Simon is closely following the ongoing restructuring of the wholesale sector and advances on the tech front: “The wholesale sector is going through significant change at present, faster than in many years, and as a business focused on this sector, we are acutely aware of it.

“Change doesn’t only come in the form of ownership change or company structure, we’re also seeing accelerated adoption of new technologies, digital media and initiatives to drive efficiency and promote more sustainable business practices. All these factors impact on the way we do business, and with the convenience market in growth, our category in growth, and wholesaler and retailer standards being raised all the time I’m confident in the future of the sector.

“Change is something we’ve been dealing with in one way or another since I started Boost nearly eighteen years ago. It’s how we adapt and respond that will define the future success of our business. I’m proud to say my team have a very positive attitude towards change and are working more closely than ever with our wholesale customers to navigate the changing landscape and dynamics. The Boost brand continues to grow and we still have significant headroom for further growth.”

Promotion is a key part of Boost’s strategy. Boost has previously been running two very successful wholesale promotions, which they have brought back in 2019 due to demand from retailers. Up until March, retailers can buy 12 bottles of 500ml Energy Original PMP SKU for the price of 10. Boost is also offering the one litre Energy Original SKU as a £1 PMP.

Simon and the Boost team were presented with the best Digital Partnership at the Unitas Wholesale awards at the end of last year and are now looking at new opportunities to make ‘digital’ work for them and their customers. But the commitment doesn’t stop there:

“We believe it’s an important role of suppliers to help retailers maximise sales and navigate the challenges and opportunities in the category. Not only do we host and attend events to speak to retailers face to face, we also offer a wide range of guidance on our website.”

After last year’s huge success, Boost are now planning an equally big 2019. On the product front in February they are launching new Red Berry sugar free energy 250ml, the second bestselling soft drink in Northern Ireland, to mainland UK customers.

“Although we’ve historically introduced more than one piece of NPD a year we’re aware that there’s an appetite among our customers not to do too much and dilute our range. Last year we undertook a huge summer marketing campaign including the launch of our first live TV advert to huge success. We’re looking to do even more this year, going back on TV and bringing out trade promotions and on pack promotions that keep tills ringing.

“We see Boost growing more and more as a business as we continue to strive to support local retailers and wholesalers as much as we can. It’s a tough market out there, but we are here to help.”