Boost Drinks celebrated its 20th anniversary last year, a huge milestone for a brand which has never stopped developing and growing.

Beginning in 2001 with just one person, founder Simon Gray, the company has expanded to a team of 34 staff.

From launching in 1L PET bottles, there are now a huge variety of flavours and pack formats under the Boost brand, plus a brokerage deal with Rio Drinks.

Adrian Hipkiss, Marketing and International Business Director at Boost Drinks, reveals some of the highlights from the last 20 years and tells Wholesale Manager what the next steps are for the brand.

Boost Drinks recently celebrated its 20th anniversary. What have been some of the biggest highlights from the last 20 years?

We’ve had a lot of highlights across the board over the last 20 years, so it’s tough to narrow it down! We’ve come a long way since we launched 1L PET bottles in 2001, with us being recognised as Yorkshire Evening Post’s ‘Small Business of the Year’ in 2018, something which we’re incredibly proud of still to this day.

Then in 2009, we went from small business, to coming in at No. 44 in Virgin’s ‘Fast Track Awards’ as we saw our turnover hit 12 million pounds.

In 2013, we launched our first overseas exports. At the time, the team felt this was a mind-blowing step, that we were going global, whereas now it’s a day-to-day part of the business. Exporting internationally paid off for us, as by 2018 we were the No. 1 soft drink across all Northern Ireland.

Fast forward to 2021, where we celebrated not only 20 years, but we also agreed our first brokerage deal with Rio Drinks, something which is a huge step in a new direction, branching out the Boost family even further.

Finally, and most importantly, we have built a team of 34 staff demonstrating our significant growth from where we started as a team of 1 with our founder Simon Gray. The people behind the Boost brand are our business, without them we wouldn’t have had the success we have had to-date. Our culture is so important to us, and we are proud that despite our growing size we have managed to maintain and nurture this. This will help us evolve and continue to grow over the next 20 years!

What are the next steps for the brand as it begins its third decade?

We have a range of goals that we’re setting out to achieve over the next decade ranging from brand awareness, expanding the range with NPD, trade activity and highlighting the Rio brand. There’s so much to look forward to and work on, which makes this an incredibly exciting time for Boost.

We’re hoping to drive further awareness and aspiration of the Boost Drinks brand by ensuring we have relentless focus on developing our penetration strategy. We’ll also be establishing our famous range, by growing our Original/Sugar Free SKUs and extending the brand reach with Flavours and Sport. We’ll be championing the new 500ml Juic’d proposition and driving incremental distribution and growth, something that we’ve had in the pipeline for a while and feel will be a great success and help us occupy a space we’re yet to infiltrate.

We’ll be driving strong trade engagement as a supplier who shines a light on local community and grassroots efforts as part of our CSR work, developing a strong position in complementary functional drinks categories such as Iced Coffee and Protein and supporting Rio and further building on our diversification strategy with other potential new acquisitions.

We have various roles in place in order to help us achieve these goals such as Amy Ankrah, our Customer Marketing Manager, who helps to build marketing strategies that bring the Boost brand to life within the wholesale channel, working closely with customers to improve plans and maximise growth and Jack Taylor, our Retail Development Manager who champions brand presence in store, retaining space and impact and maximising brand experience.

With these goals in place and the support of a great team, we’re confident that there are exciting things on the horizon for Boost, Rio and beyond.

What are they key products in the Boost Drinks range that wholesalers should be stocking?

We’re proud to be the only brand that operates in four beverage categories -Energy Stimulation, Isotonic Sports, RTD Iced Coffee and Protein Shakes. In addition to this we are a top 3 brand in all 4 of these categories1.

Taking a closer look at the Boost brands themselves, Boost Energy is the 3rd largest energy stimulation brand1, Boost Sport is the 2nd largest selling sports drink brand1, Boost Iced Coffee is the 2nd largest selling and 1st fastest growing RTD iced coffee brand1 and Boost Protein is the 3rd largest selling protein shake bottle brand1.

These functional drinks categories are also the fastest growing within the soft drinks industry1 and we’re proud that this offers wholesalers a wide range of products from within the Boost range, knowing they’re purchasing popular products from a trusted brand.

Securing our first brokerage deal with Rio also means that we can satisfy the growing appetite for more benefits from everyday products, such as natural ingredients, provenance, and easy nutrition2. Looking at the fact that flavoured carbonates are the 3rd largest category, it provides an important opportunity for wholesalers to maximise their Flavoured Carbonates offer by stocking a brand like Rio that meets today’s consumer wants and needs.

Providing both retailers and consumers a wide range of choice within soft drinks is of huge importance, to cater for a multitude of shopper missions and personal tastes. We continue to help educate retailers through our retail development programme, offering free category insight through merchandising and sales information. Ultimately, giving retailers the greatest opportunity to maximise their space on-shelf with best-sellers. What NPD does Boost Drinks have coming up?

We’re excited to be launching more new products across our range this year, in both coffee and stimulation. We’re building on our RTD Iced Coffee range with the addition of a Mocha variant. Within the RTD Iced Coffee sector, 75% of the sales value is made up of just 4 flavours – Latte, Caramel, Espresso & Mocha3 – by adding Mocha to our portfolio it allows us to capture the consumer demand and provide more choice for our customers.

In the stimulation market we have recently developed one of my favourite flavours, ‘Fruit Punch’ by adapting the formula. This is a top trending flavour, as fruit punch is the largest stimulation flavour on unit sales, holding a 28% share4. It offers an exciting point-of-difference for us compared with our other SKUs, by offering a medley of flavours as opposed to an individual such as Mango.

Lastly, we’re expanding our larger format Energy Stimulation range, a space we’ve always occupied but one we’re keen to expand into. The NEW Boost Juic’d 500ml can range will feature a range of drinks with their own twist and unique personality, Mango and Tropical Blitz, Pineapple and Guava Punch, Watermelon and Lime Twist. With Boost Juic’d we want to shake up the 500ml can sector while developing products that will complement our existing 500ml and 1litre resealable range, something we have no doubt Boost Juic’d will do.

Launching to trade this month, the new range will be available to buy for a very competitive £1.00 RRP. This price marked pack will help retailers to communicate great value on fixture, amidst increased consumer price consciousness, while still delivering excellent margins to sellers.

To support the launch, we have a 360-marketing plan that we’ll be rolling out across trade and consumer, with a full POS sales rollout, display competitions, demo and sampling days in depot, trade press boxes and support at retail level, all underpinned by an exciting and expansive consumer campaign this summer. All of this will combine to make a vibrant and multidimensional release for the range, definitely one to watch!

What marketing support do you have planned?

For me it was important to ensure that when we’re launching our NPD, we make sure we’re considering the full consumer and customer journey. I want to leave no stone unturned to make sure every single person, whether they’re a journalist we’re sending a sample to, or a wholesaler reading about them in a trade magazine, I want everyone to know.

We plan on rolling out a range of trade and consumer advertising both digitally and in print, alongside a social media launch and some exciting OOH advertising. The most important factor is getting people to taste the products, because once they’ve had a sip, I have no doubts they’ll be obsessed! We plan on hosting a range of sampling activations, from city centre to construction sites, to sports clubs and events for students. We want to Boost everyone, everywhere and every day!

At the beginning of the 2021/22 Premier League season, we were over the moon to announce our partnership with Leeds United, as official energy drinks partner. As a local brand, the opportunity to partner with this iconic football club is a real honour and one we hope will be beneficial for both parties.

The Boost brand has been promoted throughout Elland Road and Thorp Arch Training Ground, with a range of Boost products available on matchdays at the stadium and at the official Leeds United retail stores. The partnership also sees the Boost branding on the LED advertisement boards around the pitch, advertising on the big screen and billboards outside of the ground. The Boost Drinks logo also appears on the media backdrops used for interview opportunities with Jesse Marsch and the first-team squad.

To round off our plans, we’ll be continuing our extensive CSR programme, with two main areas of activity and the aim of encouraging change in the community by supporting individuals, groups and organisations that make a real difference. To do this, we’ll be supporting a range of community groups and helping them to positively impact their local area to facilitate change. We’ll also be supporting talented young athletes by nurturing and recognising their abilities through sports and beyond, all of this will be underpinned by the goal of supporting those that are benefiting themselves, their communities, and others.

How has the overall sport and energy drinks category been performing in recent years?

As a result of the various lockdowns, the sport and energy category was hit hard. With people not going out as much or partaking in sports it dealt a real blow and decline to the sector. However, I’m happy to say that in the last 52 weeks we have seen +36% value growth YoY5, with sports drinks becoming the fastest growing category within Soft Drinks5.

Energy Stimulation is also back on the rise, with it being the largest contributors to growth in Soft Drinks, contributing 42% of soft drinks growth with £1 in every £3 spent on Soft Drinks in Independents being spent on an Energy Drink5. With +24% YOY5 growth, this shows no sign of stopping anytime soon.

What are the biggest trends driving the category?

As we look towards the summer, and brighter weather, people are seeking fruity flavours to help them feel more refreshed. We know that flavours now make up 38% of stimulation sales6 and 39% of stimulation shoppers make their purchase based on flavour alone7. So, this is a huge trend for wholesalers to keep an eye on to help increase sales and draw in customers. To help hit this trend, I’d suggest stocking a wide variety of flavours to meet this growing demand and maximise on sales.

Another interesting piece of insight we have found is that by increasing flavour ranges, it helps entice new customers into the category. The important thing to note here though is that it’s no use bringing in flavours if they’re not on trend or adding something new to the market. As I mentioned, we are increasing our flavour offering yet again with the addition of Fruit Punch to our energy line-up, a flavour which we know is in great demand, as well as the new 500ml Boost Juic’d flavour combinations, with something to suit everyone’s tastes!

Lastly, we know that the thirst for drinks that incorporate natural ingredients, provenance and nutritional benefits is on the rise8, Rio is a Top 5 ranked SKU in Fruit Carbonates based on unit rate of sale and has the second largest wholesaler sales rates to retailers9. This shift in consumer appetites is only set to keep growing, so it’s vital to take this into account and ensure your range stocked reflects this.

How are protein drinks performing?

I’m incredibly proud of how our protein offering has grown and held its own within the market. The protein sector continues to be an important part of consumers’ functional drinks repertoire and Boost Protein is still the fastest growing brand. There’s a huge opportunity within protein to secure repeat custom, as protein shake drinkers consume 9.1 units per month7 which is higher than Energy, Sports, or Iced Coffee. So, this is where stockists want to ensure they’re providing reliability with this product, so the consumers can always find it available on shelf.

It’s also a really nice link into the rest of the market, with 98% of protein drink consumers also purchasing sports and energy drinks7. Currently, we’re sitting as a top 3 value and volume brand10 within the symbols & indies and we’re growing at a rapid rate of +115% YoY in units11, making us the fastest growing brand.

What tips do you have for wholesalers to grow the sports and energy drinks category?

We have a range of tips we recommend to maximise sales of sports and energy, such as clear and effective POS in depot, something we really pride ourselves on. It’s essential to remember that retailers are busy and don’t have time to stop and read every piece of information so keeping things simple yet visually bold will grab their attention. Merchandising in depot is also key, ensuring products are sited within the right areas by brand, size and need, kept clean, fully stocked and with clear POR messaging where applicable all combine to make an enjoyable and convenient shopping experience for retailers.

It’s also important for wholesalers to understand the needs of not only retailers but core consumer groups and offer a broad range of products to meet their differing budgets and tastes. This can be something that takes some work, so we offer demo days in depot with sampling opportunities and help on hand to select the best range of products for specific audiences. Outside of this, we aim to drive consistently helpful and meaningful comms via our website and apps for retailers.

This strategy and the importance we place on it hopefully combines to give us a 360 view of the wholesaler experience and allows us to tap into the ways we can help with knowledge of the Boost portfolio, picking the best product selection for them and in turn, helping them achieve the best sales rates possible.

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