With a portfolio including Boost Sport, Boost Protein, Boost Iced Coffee and Boost Energy, Boost Drinks seeks to offer great quality, functional drinks at value price points.

Over the last year, Boost has been one of only three energy drinks brands to be in growth.

The brand’s original energy product is currently the third largest energy SKU by volume and Boost also holds the title of number two sports drinks brand.

Al Gunn, Sales Director at Boost Drinks, tells Wholesale Manager how wholesalers can best merchandise energy drinks in depot.

What is your background? How long have you been at Boost Drinks and where did you work before that?

My entire working life has been in sales. 41 years this year, in fact! I’ve been part of the Boost team for over 10 years and it has been great to see the business grow from strength to strength, without compromising on its core value of exclusively supporting the independent channel.

Prior to Boost, I worked at Kimberly-Clark for almost 30 years. I started my career as a trainee salesman and worked my way through a range of sales roles until I was promoted to Channels Director and Head of Ireland, where I was responsible for the commercial sales plans for pretty much everything apart from the Top 5 and discounters – very much like Boost just with a smaller team!

I’ve been very lucky to have had a career with two fantastic and very different businesses, surrounded by exciting brands and talented colleagues.

Tell us about your role. What is a typical day for you?

There is no such thing as a typical day in sales – that’s why I love my job at Boost so much. It usually does involve an early start as I like to get in the zone and be organised as best I can before what I know will be a diverse and interesting day.

I love to be out and about in the trade speaking and listening to both retailers and wholesalers to get insights and a ‘feel on the pulse’ of what’s really happening, but obviously many days centre in and around Boost HQ in the day-to-day running of the sales business and in management meetings – mostly now on Teams or Zoom!

Can you give us an overview of the company’s brands?

At Boost Drinks, we pride ourselves on offering excellent quality functional drinks at great value price points. Our portfolio includes Boost Sport, Boost Protein, Boost Iced Coffee and of course Boost Energy. We also 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 sector1. Our original energy product is currently the third largest energy SKU by volume and we also hold the title of number two sports drinks brand2. In addition, we launched into the fast growing ready-to-drink Iced Coffee market in March 2020. We’ve already seen huge successes as we have the third highest unit ROS in the UK and are the number two brand in Northern Ireland3.

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, worth over £500 million, growing 7.2%4 in value sales.

It is paramount that wholesalers and retailers recognise the opportunity for growth within this key category and stock a range of products that cater for different tastes and budgets.

What trends are driving the market?

Flavours make up 39%5 of the stimulation market and are in 17% growth6. As such, we have seen a significant demand from retailers for new and exciting variants to inspire shoppers and grow sales.

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 Ireland7.

Another trend we’re seeing in the soft drinks category, is the growing demand for ready to drink iced coffee. We know that two thirds of 18-24-year old’s see chilled coffee as a good alternative to traditional soft drinks8 and retailers are buying into this exciting category. The market is already worth over £25.6m, growing at 49% value year-on-year9.

In March, we expanded into the ready-to-drink coffee market, launching two variants, Caffe Latte and Double Espresso. The launch has been great; Boost is already the 3rd fastest growing brand. We have lots of exciting things in the pipeline as we continue to drive growth into this category in 2021.

Finally, COVID has completely changed the way we live, consume and shop. We’ve seen footfall decrease by 55% but despite this, basket spend is up 77%10 so it is evident that consumers are stocking up on more when they do visit stores.

As a result of these changing consumer habits, we have seen an uptake in sales in both multipack and larger formats, seeing double digit growth on our four-pack multipack offering. With the shift to take-home packs in mind, we also offer our 1l in original and sugar free original variants and recommend that wholesalers stock up on these formats to enable retailers to meet their shoppers needs and capitalise on this opportunity.

How has business been for Boost Drinks during Covid-19?

COVID has had a huge impact on the independent convenience channel over the past year. In ‘lockdowns’ the public’s mobility has been restricted. This has had a negative impact on impulse sales and many of the categories that serve this occasion. That said, when the world opened back up over the summer months, we saw a great bounce back from the category that was also aligned with our performance.

I’m pleased to report that the market and Boost have recovered well. We’re proud of the resilience that our team and customers have displayed against these unprecedented challenges. One of the key factors that played a huge role in overcoming these challenges was our close working relationship with wholesalers and retailers, offering regular stock updates and advice for those that needed it.

It was also important to us that despite the pandemic, we continued to support the independent convenience channel which is why in September last year, we launched our biggest marketing campaign to date, “Choose Now” which was aligned to a complete brand repositioning.

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, meaning wholesalers and retailers could stock a range with strong consumer appeal.

We’re extremely proud of the “Choose Now” campaign, and the positive impact it has had in such a turbulent time.

How do you think the coronavirus crisis has affected consumer perceptions of PMPs? How important is communicating value to consumers at this time?

Value is going to be high on the agenda for consumers this year as we all continue to face uncertainties in the economic situation. Retailers can convey value to their shoppers by ranging products that clearly show their price. This means that price marked packs (PMPs) are ‘must stock’ items for retailers and wholesalers.

Research has shown that 43% of retailers have been offering more PMPs as a result of coronavirus, as 50% of retailers have less time to explain promotions to their customers11. 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.

Here at Boost, we also believe PMPs are a simple way for retailers to gain the trust of their consumers. It gives shoppers’ confidence in the store’s pricing in comparison to larger outlets which will ensure that consumers look to their local retailer more often.

How do the margins compare to non-marked stock?

As an independent business, Boost has always understood the importance of PMPs and strong margins in the independent sector. It’s because of this that we offer every single one of our energy, sport, protein and new coffee ranges in a price marked pack format and we’re committed to offering great margins across all our stock, whether that be a PMP or not.

We provide a helpful calculator on the Boost website to help retailers calculate the margin for our products. We know how important margins are to retailers and do everything we can to help them plan ahead and make the most from the range. The calculator can be found at www.boostdrinks.com/boost-trade/whats-my-profit/

What advice do you have for wholesalers on merchandising energy drinks in depot?

Rule number one is remembering that retailers are shoppers themselves! Wholesalers need to attract their attention and clearly signpost deals and offers as much as a retailer would in their own store.

At the simplest level, we would recommend making best-selling brands accessible and positioning them at eye-level. Signposting the aisles and directing people to what they need with ease will also make it even more likely for them to purchase in-depot.

We would also recommend using POS displays such as pallet wraps and FSDUs to draw retailers’ attention to brand NPD and promotions. We also see great value in sampling products in-depot to convert retailers and wholesale staff into passionate brand advocates – one to bear in mind for when COVID restrictions are lifted and it is safe to do so. In addition, it’s important to consider the shopper missions that your retailers will be purchasing for, and merchandise in-depot accordingly.

Finally, we would also recommend a strong digital presence. More retailers are looking online for offers so it’s increasingly important that wholesalers maximise digital output. Banners, apps and email campaigns are really important to keep customers engaged and coming back for more.

How do you work with wholesalers to improve sales?

Working closely with wholesalers is integral to our business’ success. We work with them as true partners, as we always have and always will. One of the ways we do this, is ensuring we develop joint business plans with our wholesale partners. In these plans, we consider in-depot activation, communications and digital activity to ensure retailers are up-to-date with our latest news and product innovations.

We also love to host in-depot activations that drive retailer footfall. This year we celebrate our 20th Birthday, and we wouldn’t be here today without the support of our wholesaler and retailer partners. We have a lot of exciting activity planned in-depot this year, to thank these partners and drive footfall.

Do you have any NPD coming up?

We’re always looking for ways to innovate and keep our product offering fresh and exciting for consumers, retailers and wholesalers alike. While I can’t spill the beans on exactly what this looks like just yet – all I can say is we have some exciting new product variants that we’re looking forward to bringing to the market in 2021.

What marketing support do you have planned?

As I’ve mentioned, this year, we turn 20! So, we have lots of exciting things in the pipeline to celebrate the milestone and thank everyone who has helped us along the way. Keep your eyes peeled for that! In addition, Choose Now will continue to live through 2021. It was such a huge campaign for us, so we’ll be continuing to utilise the platform to drive awareness of the brand, consumers into stores and celebrate ‘Generation Hustle’.


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