Super Juice: How The Berry Company sells half a million cartons a month
15 years! Congratulations, Khaled! Take us back to the start. Why did you found The Berry Company?
Whilst working at my father’s food distribution company, I became exposed to the grocery market. This coincided with the market shifting towards more colourful and adventurous consumer choices. The antioxidant phenomena was booming, and all things berry seemed to compliment that superfood revolution. I saw the opportunity and launched a blueberry juice, rich in antioxidants and without added sugar. That product's initial success shaped the brands medium term destiny and before the end of the first year we launched four more products, Acai, Goji, Superberries Purple and Superberries Red.
How was that first year of trading?
Exciting! To the extent that we got listed in some of our key accounts very quickly and whilst I was learning on the job. We captured the zeitgeist of the moment by plugging the antioxidant rich benefits of our product range, and to a market that was clambering for exactly that.
Tell us about your approach to manufacturing
We contract co-pack with our trusted partner Framptons Limited, based in Somerset and who produce over 500,000 cartons per month for us across various lines. The factory runs 24/7 and is an outstanding market leader that we’ve worked with since the start of our journey.
Where do you source your berries from?
All over the world and in territories as far reaching and exotic as, Brazil, Tibet, North America, and Western Europe.
Let's talk marketing. What works?
We’re big proponents of in-store activities and B2B activity. This almost always ensures increased sales, since customers are already on the premises. To that extent, promotions, samplings and in-store deals have proven very valuable. A good social media arm is mandatory today; it allows brands to speak to their consumers from all over the world, as well as allowing us to develop and communicate funky content for any and all to see.
And what doesn't?
Everything works as part of an overall implementable strategy but nothing works in isolation.
How did you develop an export market?
Free trade has become more accessible all over the world. British products carry an inherent premium, and especially in foreign markets. This has allowed The Berry Company to acquire market share in places as exotic as Philippines, Dubai, Iceland, Caribbean, Hong Kong, Kenya, Nigeria etc. Additionally, we discovered that many distributors tend to scope out UK products that are listed in premium retailers like Wholefoods, Waitrose, etc, so we’ve been lucky in that regard.
Supermarkets are notoriously hard bargainers. What's the secret to dealing with Carrefour and Waitrose?
Confident persistence is the key to any negotiation, as long as the product ticks sufficient retailer boxes and your supporting mechanisms are strong, social media, brand presentations, PR, then eventually, you will get face-time with the buyers.
Tell us about the business model
We are committed to running a very lean operation and not buying the hype surrounding massive spending and/or ignoring the noise surrounding new trends every week. We believe in hiring excellent multi-taskers in house, defending and protecting our margin at all costs, limiting vanity spend at all costs, needless overheads, like large offices, out-sourced retainers etc. But always being committed to new product development.
What is the work culture like at The Berry Company?
We encourage a friendly, relaxed working environment at The Berry Company. The work environment is flexible, our staff are allowed to work from home - we only ask the KPIs be met, but are not overly fussy about how, where and when. Friendliness and courtesy to one another is mandatory.
What's really made the difference for The Berry Company?
From the very beginning we have been committed to unique product development with a strong emphasis on exotic ingredients and botanicals. This has allowed us to create our own niche space in the market. We are not fully mainstream, which makes it easier to defend our brand and territory.
Plenty of young entrepreneurs think they can crack the drinks market. What advice do you have?
One must ensure they have segmented the market significantly before evaluating where their product will fit. A key focus and investment in product design is encouraged, alongside a strong dedication to product formulation. There are so many entrants in the market today that finding your niche is that much more important, however, once achieved, the rewards can be tremendous and fulfilling.
It's always educational to hear of a mistake you made, or challenge you faced. What springs to mind?
We have probably made more mistakes than we have successes! We try to keep the mistakes small, even when plentiful. For every 10 products or ideas we conceive and launch, we are lucky to have 2 succeed. Our biggest mistake was aggressively launching a super low-calorie extension to our brand in 2016, believing this was where the market was headed. We underestimated the importance customers place on taste and mistakenly predicted the lower the sugar, the better. This was a very costly lesson that we learnt from subsequently.
What's the five-year vision for The Berry Company?
To continue being innovative, to continue to develop delicious, exotic and innovative flavours to an adventurous and excitable global consumer base. We have plenty of plans afoot to also launch into new bottling formats including cans, glass etc., as well as launching a range, especially for the on-trade market.