Huib Van Bockel Tenzing Natural Energy, Founder

Before Huib Van Bockel founded Tenzing Natural Energy, in his words he was instrumental in transforming Red Bull into “a media company producing amazing content and developing brand partnerships – and selling some drinks along the way.” Huib spoke to Wholesale Manager.

Huib, when did you set up Tenzing? What were you doing before this?

I launched Tenzing in 2016 after leaving Red Bull, where I was Head of Marketing in Holland then the UK and Europe.

What’s your day to day role in Tenzing?

In ‘normal’ jobs you get pigeonholed, but I’m involved in everything – managing sales, dealing with key customers, marketing and launching into new countries.

How do you compare Tenzing with other energy drinks? What’s different?

It’s the first plant-based, low-calorie energizing drink. The key ingredients are green coffee, green tea and rock salt, and have extremely low sugar levels, 60% less than the market average.

What products are in the Tenzing range? What are they made from?

We have our signature Tenzing Natural Energy (250ml), we have recently created a multi-pack for this and in July, we’re launching our first new blend, Raspberry & Yuzu (250ml). Both products contain natural caffeine from green coffee, green tea and guarana, vitamin C from lemons and gooseberries, electrolytes from Himalayan rock salt and beet sugar.

Our recipe is inspired by a traditional Himalayan Sherpa brew, which contains strong tea, salt and lemon providing a mix of caffeine, electrolytes and hydration. I travelled to Nepal to find out more about these teas and met the family of Sherpa Tenzing Norgay, who used them to help him become one of the first men to summit Mount Everest.

He became the inspiration behind the brand and the family are now partners in the business. We also donate 5% of our profits to environmental projects, the first being in Nepal where we’ve worked with the family to build litterbins on the route up to Everest Basecamp.

Where do you make the Tenzing drinks? Do you sell them outside the UK?

We make them in the Netherlands and sold them here first, then in Nepal. We’ve recently launched in Ireland, Belgium, Portugal and Spain.

Who is Tenzing Natural Energy aimed at?

It’s for anyone looking for that daily uplift. We have a slightly older, more mature profile than the usual energy drink consumers. The average consumer is 20-39, split evenly between men and women. It does well in offices, universities and wholefoods outlets. It’s not specifically for athletes, but we support running events and triathlons because of the benefits of electrolytes for rehydration post-exercise.

Your website says you’ve had to move mountains and climb them. What challenges have you faced getting the brand this far?

The biggest challenge was finding the right ingredients. Red Bull was there first, and all the other energy drinks in the category have similar ingredients. We want to look at ingredients from another direction, ones that allowed us to create not just energising drink, but a drink with additional functional benefits too. The challenge for us, was how to make it taste good when you remove the sugar and don’t replace it with chemicals and sweetners.

Is Tenzing available in wholesalers? What about retailers?

We’re in Bestway, Marigold, Brakes and Bidfood and in retail we’re in Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda and Co-op.

How are you doing so well, in such a crowded market?

It’s a combination of two things – the right product, at the right sugar level.

We saw the long game and asked ourselves, will people need energy drinks as they are now in years to come? Or will they prefer them to be plantbased, with less sugar and low-calorie? I think you know the answer. How are you promoting Tenzing in the UK?

We’re doing on the move advertising in London and digital activity on YouTube, Facebook and Instagram nationwide. We’re also advertising in Time Out. We’re focusing on London for the moment, but planning our next ad launch in Bristol.

How are you working with wholesalers to help them make the most of Tenzing?

Wholesalers are a tough market. The independent retailers they serve, have small stores and we appreciate it’s a hard challenge. The most effective way of communicating our message to them is to do depot days with the wholesalers and use an external field sales force to visit the retailers directly.

What are your ambitions for Tenzing? Where do you see it going?

I’m enjoying my independence and not having to play politics anymore. When you reach a certain point in a corporate hierarchy, the politics get even worse! I started Tenzing to build a business I wanted to work for, with a positive impact. Yes we have to grow, but the UK will be our main focus for some time.