Simon Gray started Boost Drinks with one windowless office in 2001, when the energy drinks market was just starting to take off.

His concept was to create a great tasting energy drink which would be cheaper than the market leader.

He also decided Boost would be available exclusively to independent retailers.

Today, Boost is the no.1,2 and 3 soft drink brand in Northern Ireland and have the 2nd fastest selling energy drink in independent convenience.

Gray spoke to Wholesale Manager about how 2020 is going to be even bigger and better for the brand and how the company is providing care packages for independent retailers during the Covid-19 crisis.

Tell us how you started Boost and how you grew the brand to its current position?

After completing a Marketing Degree at Leeds Metropolitan University, I joined a small local food and drink wholesaler which gave me my first exposure to the world of Wholesale – things like margins, WSPs, and barcodes that helped shape my understanding for the years to come with Boost.

However, it was my time at University that led me to move into energy drinks. I approached a big soft drinks manufacturer, told them I had a trademarked brand and asked them to manufacture it – luckily, they said yes and in 2001 Boost Drinks was born!

In almost 20 years, it is incredible to think that we’ve come from a business offering one single product in an office with no windows to a business worth over £33million, with over 30 staff members and an ever-growing portfolio of products.

We keep it simple and give customers what they want – a great tasting product at a good price with no compromise on quality. Our success is testament to the hard work and dedication of all our staff as well as our commitment to supporting independent retailers, by selling our products exclusively in the convenience sector.

How has Boost performed over the last year?

I’m pleased to report that 2019 was another record year for us. Where stocked, we are now the number three fastest selling soft drink! Our core energy products also continue to go from strength to strength, being the second fastest selling stimulation energy SKU in symbols and independents.

Sport and Protein were also incredibly successful for us last year. We’re now the fastest growing sports drink1 and the third largest RTD protein drink in the market2. We’re really proud of our achievements as we compete against some huge players in the market!

How is the energy drinks market performing? What sub-sectors make up the market, e.g. stimulation drinks, protein drinks, sports drinks?

The soft drinks market continues to perform well. The overall convenience market is worth £1.7 billion3, making it a top three category for most independent retailers. Split between the categories of stimulation, sport and glucose the sector grew by 2.7% value sales in 20192.

At Boost, we offer a huge portfolio of functional drinks products including Sport, Protein and Energy that allow wholesalers the best opportunity to encompass the entire market from a tried and trusted brand. Sport in particular is the largest sub-category worth about £500 million2. Our Boost Sport is the fastest growing sports drink and, where stocked, Boost Energy is the third fastest selling soft drink brand and one of only three energy brands in growth year on year in wholesale2.

Who is the typical energy drinks consumer?

I don’t think there is such a thing as a ‘typical energy drinks’ consumer. The industry has been around for over 25 years and continues to perform well as there is such a breadth of people enjoying the drinks for a multitude of reasons.

One growing audience who we know enjoy the Boost combination of taste and value are the ones that tend to pack a lot into their day – we have the hustlers working a 9-5 while running a business of their own as well as the parents juggling work with home schooling. There is no typical consumer – but we know they are all looking for a boost.

We’re proud to be able to offer a product delivering great quality without breaking the bank so we appeal to those looking for exciting flavour combinations as well as the value shopper.

Do you have any NPD planned for this year?

We’re continuously looking out for ways to develop our portfolio and provide new and interesting products to help retailers drive sales. Earlier this year we launched into a brand-new category, which has been incredibly exciting for us as a business. It was important to us that after such a successful year in 2019, we were continuing to build on this by investing in new product development to remain ahead of the curve.

In March we launched two new SKUs into the fastest growing functional drinks category, chilled ready to drink coffee. We saw this as an opportunity to support retailers in increasing sales by providing great tasting, top quality chilled coffee at a fraction of the price of the brand leader.

What support for your brands is coming up?

We always want to make a big splash for any of our campaigns, to ensure our range is seen by consumers far and wide so they’ll be driven into store, but 2020 is going to be even bigger and better. We’re incredibly excited to be launching a brand-new marketing campaign that includes a new creative look and feel for the brand. It’s going to be a busy year, and we’re excited to be supporting the brand in such a big way.

We also have lots of exciting in-depot activity planned for later in the year to really drive home our exclusively independent, We Love Local message. Watch this space!

How are you active in the wholesale sector? Do you do end of aisle activity for example?

Nearly one quarter of the customers cite soft drinks as the reason for their visit to a depot4, so it’s key for us to work closely with wholesalers to make the shopping experience for retailers and easy and engaging as possible. We regularly run huge promotions in partnership with wholesalers to drive retailers into the store in addition to providing exciting and eye-catching POS and pallet wraps drawing retailers’ attention to key new products or promotions.

What impact is COVID-19 having on the wholesale sector? Initially, consumers were stockpiling through the multiple grocers? Did this have a negative effect on independent retailers and wholesalers? Are there any ways the crisis has had a positive effect on wholesalers?

The impact of COVID-19 on the UK as a whole is unprecedented having totally changed the way we live our lives. It has also meant that retailers and wholesalers have had to completely adapt their ways of working. However, despite these changes, we’ve not seen any negative impacts in the channel – in fact, it’s thriving! Footfall may be down, but basket spend is up and the increase in direct-delivery is off-setting the footfall decreases which is incredibly positive.

The agility and innovation seen in the sector over the past few months has been amazing. We have some exciting foundations for the new world that will be incredibly valuable in the post-COVID world.

For us as a business, demand for Boost has settled to a new normal and we’re delighted that retailers and wholesalers continue to see Boost as part of their core range, even in trying circumstances. We are now better able to forecast this demand and manage our stocks accordingly. Our Boost Energy, Protein, Sport and Coffee SKUs remain popular and we advise continuing to stock best sellers like our Red Berry 250ml Energy SKU and two new Coffee SKUs, Silky Smooth Caffe Latte and Full Bodied Double Espresso with Milk.

How can retailers apply for the Boost care package?

Retailers can claim a care package from themselves, or nominate someone who they think deserves one by emailing our team at: enquiries@boostdrinks.com

What do the care packages consist of?

It was important to us that we both thanked and supported retailers during this time – they’re heroes for the work they’re doing to support their local communities and they don’t get same level of support as the big mults. The packages include guidance on how to help signpost stores ensuring that they and their customers can remain safe in these tough times, in the form of posters, shelf POS and floor signs.

The packs are also made up of treats and gifts to share amongst shop workers to help keep morale high – these include Amazon vouchers so they can treat themselves, jigsaw puzzles to keep them entertained in quieter times and of course some Boost to keep them fuelled!

How did you decide which retailers should receive a package? Did you consult with wholesalers?

We pride ourselves on our relationships with retailers and wholesalers to initially send out packages to those that we’ve worked closely with in the past that are going above and beyond for their customers. We are now monitoring social media and utilising our connections with industry associations to identify others who have played a vital role in supporting their communities, to thank and reward them!

How many care packages will you be giving out?

We’re keen to support as many retailers as possible during this time so will continue to flex as demand increases.

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