Boost Drinks began in 2001 with one product, 1 litre Original Energy, with the goal to make an energy drink as good as the market leader but at a fraction of the price.

Over the years, the range has expanded to include a 500ml bottle, a 250ml can and numerous flavours such as cherry, red berry, fruit punch, citrus and exotic fruits. Boost has also widened its proposition into sport, protein and iced coffee too.

Through it all, Boost has stuck to its original decision to only be sold through independent retailers, meaning the brand has always enjoyed a close relationship with independents and the wholesalers that supply them. Adrian Hipkiss, Boost Marketing Director, explains how having a close relationship with wholesalers is integral to the company’s success.

How would you sum up Boost’s history?

Simon Gray founded the business two decades ago now, from humble beginnings with an unwavering commitment to the independent retail sector. Twenty years later, our commitment hasn’t changed, and we are still the only soft drinks brand that sells exclusively to the independent channel.

Back then, we only sold a 1L energy SKU whereas today, we are a pioneering functional drinks brand, offering a strong proposition. In fact, our portfolio now boasts over 20 products spanning four categories. We’re now extremely proud to be the number three brand in the independent convenience channel1, competing against multi-national brands.

2021 is going to be another big year for Boost as we celebrate our 20th birthday and thank those that have helped us get where we are today. We’re also committed to continuing to support the independent convenience category by offering great margins and category leading prices for retailers and wholesalers.

Can you talk us through your brand portfolio?

At Boost Drinks, we offer a range of exciting functional drinks to ensure that retailers and wholesalers alike are giving their customers exceptional quality at a reasonable price. Our portfolio includes Boost Sport, Boost Protein, Boost Iced Coffee and of course Boost Energy. On top of this, we offer a comprehensive range of pack formats to cater for every occasion and in-turn drive sales to help grow customer and retailer businesses.

In the last year, we are one of only three brands in growth in the sector, so we are proud of how we have performed given the challenging conditions2. Our original energy product is currently the third largest energy SKU by volume and we also hold the title of the fastest selling sports drink brand where sold in the independent convenience market3.

In addition, we launched into the fastest growing ready-to-drink Iced Coffee market in March 2020. We’ve already seen huge success in Northern Ireland, where we’re already the number two iced coffee brand4. We’re excited to continue to support this category with some exciting innovation later this year.

What is the value of the UK energy drinks market?

The soft drinks market is currently worth £1.8 billion. ‘Energy and sport’ is the largest sub-segment of this total market, worth over £500 million, growing 7.2%5 in value sales.

Despite this being the largest segment, there is still plenty of scope for growth. Wholesalers must ensure they stock trusted brands that offer great value and exciting NPD, to ensure they meet the ever-changing retailer and customer needs.

What trends are driving the market?

Flavours make up 39%6 of the stimulation market and are in 17% growth7. As such, we have seen a significant demand from retailers for new and exciting variants to entice shoppers in the stimulation and wider functional category.

We continually evaluate consumer and market trends to identify the next exciting flavour to add to our range. We currently have six flavours in our stimulation portfolio and one of our best performing is Red Berry, which is the number one soft drink in Northern Ireland8.

In addition to this, the ongoing trend for healthier alternatives has had an impact on the energy drinks market over the past few years. With 13% of energy sales being Sugar Free, growing 35% YOY9, no-and low-sugar drinks are now a must-stock to maximise growth opportunities.

To cater for this trend, we launched our own sugar-free range. We reformulated our recipe and reduced the amount of sugar across our entire portfolio. We’ve focused on maintaining the same delicious taste and brilliant value that Boost has built its reputation on. Our sugar-free variants are particularly popular with the younger generation and we know that amongst 18-30-year olds, low sugar content is the most important factor when choosing a soft drink, with 86%10 of young people believing that sugar is bad for their health.

The sport occasion is also particularly important for sports and energy drinks as consumers search for a product that quenches their thirst and benefits their performance. As younger generations also focus more and more on their health and fitness, they’re purchasing products that keep them hydrated before, during and after their workout.

Has Covid-19 had an effect on the market?

COVID has had a huge impact on the independent convenience channel over the past year. Shop opening hours have decreased 79% and footfall is down 55%11 which means that consumers are making fewer trips to their local shop. Despite this, basket spend is up 77%12 so it is evident that consumers are stocking up on more when they do visit stores.

Aligned with this shift, we’ve seen an uptake in sales in both multipack and larger formats, seeing double digit growth on our four-pack multipack offering. With the shift in take-home packs in mind, we also offer our 1l in original and sugar free original variants.

We also know that value is of utmost importance for shoppers right now. As a result, it is key that retailers are offering products that clearly state their price on them, making this PMP format a ‘must stock’ for wholesalers too.

Recent research shows that more than ever before, retailers are finding PMPs and promotional activities hugely valuable. Forty-three per cent (43%) will offer more PMPs as a result of coronavirus and 50% of retailers have less time to explain promotions to their customers13. With less and less face time between retailers and their customers, it’s vital that they are able to communicate value effectively and PMPs are a great way of doing that.

At Boost Drinks, we have always understood the importance of PMPs in the independent sector. It is because of this that we offer every single one of our energy, sport, protein and new coffee ranges in price marked pack formats.

Finally, we cannot forget about the impact Covid-19 has had on depots over the last year. We also must commend our partners for how they have diversified and adopted new technologies to support retailers and suppliers. We expect to see a much bigger focus on B2B digital communications in 2021 so ensuring this is front of mind and effective to ensure ongoing success for wholesalers.

How has your brand portfolio performed this year?

Despite 2020 being a difficult period for everyone, it has been a successful year for Boost, and we’ve performed strongly despite the pandemic. We have continued offering great margins across our range, knowing the importance of this for our retailers in the independent sector. As always, we’ve done everything we can to help our retailers plan ahead and make the most of our range.

In 2020, we launched our biggest and most exciting marketing campaign to date ‘Choose Now’, as an ongoing commitment to the independent convenience channel, together with a complete brand refresh that was designed to encourage stand-out on shelf and make the range more ownable and consistent to the brand.

We invested £1.2 million into the “Choose Now” campaign, spanning across TVC, digital, social media, and OOH. The campaign helped us drive awareness across our portfolio, aligned with the new brand positioning, meaning wholesalers and retailers could stock a range with strong consumer appeal.

In March 2020, Boost expanded into the ready-to-drink coffee market, broadening our appeal to our consumers and generating incremental margin growth for our customers.

By continuing to grow our offering, we’re able to help wholesalers offer products that are on trend and popular with their customers.

How has Boost Iced Coffee performed since launch?

Despite being a fairly new market, the total ready to drink iced coffee category is worth over £156m14, which highlights the scale of the opportunity for independent retail. In independent convenience, the RTD iced coffee segment is worth £25.6m and is growing at 49% value year-on-year15 so to cater for the growing market, in March 2020 we launched two new, chilled ready to drink coffee SKUs – ‘Silky Smooth Caffe Latte’ and ’Full Bodied Double Espresso with Milk’, both available in £1 PMP cans.

The launch has been a great success so far. We currently hold the number three position for branded unit rate of sale in independent convenience in Great Britain16 and are the number two iced coffee brand in Northern Ireland17. The trend for chilled coffee is one that we know is continuing to grow at a fast pace and it’s really important that wholesalers and retailers future proof the merchandising space to capitalise on this opportunity.

How do you work with wholesalers to improve sales?

Having a close relationship with wholesalers is integral to our success. We have joint business plans with many of our key partners that focus on digital communications to ensure retailers are kept up to date with our latest news and product innovations. This has been a focus for us since COVID first hit, and we saw in-depot visits decrease, as it helps to future-proof our joint performance.

We are also committed to having strong distribution levels in wholesale and retail stores. Stock availability is key for our customers and consumers so it is something we look to continuously improve YOY and in 2021, we will almost double our distribution investment from 2020.

How can wholesalers maximise sales of your products?

Making products stand out on shelf is vital. We would always recommend supplier POS to help them do just that. From our relationships with retailers, they’ve told us first-hand how important strong POS is. It’s vital for them to be informed of the margins of the product but it’s also important that they stand out in-depot. It may sound really simple, but warehouse layout is also really important. Signposting the aisles and directing people to what they need with ease will make it even more likely for them to purchase more in store.

In ‘normal’ times, we would also recommend in-depot sampling with engagement activities such as competitions to drive retailers in-depot and give them the opportunity to try products first-hand. At Boost, this is something we love to do as we also recognise the importance of engaging in-depot employees and converting them into passionate brand ambassadors.

Finally, we would also recommend a strong digital presence – something that is increasingly important to be successful. More and more retailers are looking online for offers and products so it’s key that wholesalers maximise digital output through banners, apps and email campaigns to keep customers engaged and coming back for more.

What marketing support do you have for your range this year? Will the Choose Now campaign be continuing?

“Choose Now” was such an important campaign for us and we’ll be continuing to offer support to the channel with a second follow-up campaign in 2021. Targeting an audience that personifies ‘Generation Hustle’, the “Choose Now” campaign is all about living in the moment and grabbing life by the horns, all while juggling multiple jobs, numerous hobbies, and various passions. Launching at a time where hustling is the ‘new normal’, in 2021 we’ll continue to celebrate the nation’s go-getters, who strive to make the most of each day.

2021 will be the year of even more hustle as we (hopefully) begin to emerge from Covid-19 and people continue to expand their lifestyles. We also celebrate our 20th birthday in 2021 so there are some other exciting things ahead!

Do you have any NPD planned?

As much as I would love to tell you all about the exciting plans for 2021, I can’t unveil all just yet. We’ve got a brilliant year ahead including some exciting NPDs, a full year of celebration for our 20th birthday, as well as further investment from the brand into the category to continue to show our support for the independent convenience channel. Watch this space!

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