Recently one of our dear colleagues, beverage innovator Marc Miller together with his team HUMAN (International Beverages) published a book on building your beverage brand. It is called “The World’s Greatest Guide to Building your Beverage Brand” and after reading it I could not disagree that it is something less than that.
This book is actually based on interviews with lots of different successful beverage entrepreneurs and start-up companies from around the world talking about their insights of launching a brand and creating a successful product. The whole book is amazingly engaging and easy to read. The authors share their multiple years of experience, describe main problems and solutions to them, in a lively and fun style. I would recommend this book to all of our clients and product developers as it is indeed a great guide to building a beverage brand.
I personally had the honour to Interview Marc Miller who is now living and working from Phuket, Thailand, about his projects, his book and beverages.
After being asked about his first involvement in the beverage industry Marc told an interesting story. He was working with patents and Intellectual property when he came across an interesting project with coffee. It was a patented coffee cup lid that changes colours to show temperature. Mark realised that beverage industry is becoming more and more interesting and dynamic because of human nature and drink consumption habits. He noted that beverages are becoming more and more intelligent and complex, and the manufacturing technology now allows smaller minimum order quantities to be produced, lower market entrance costs and less barriers as well as new opportunities for innovation.
The involvement in the beverage development got Marc settled down in Hong Kong for more than 7 years because of its convenient location to China. It is a perfect place to be for product developers as it is an international manufacturing hub with great access to people, materials and resources.
Then again, Marc still agreed that United States still lead as the best place to start a beverage brand due to access to capital, domestic market size and maturity. But this situation might change as there are different markets for different emerging products all around the globe. He noticed a huge change in global beverage start-up activity and could go on and on listing the brand names of exiting and complete products and enthusiastic teams. UK, Eastern Europe, China, Hong Kong, Thailand and his home country New Zealand were mentioned as countries with extremely interesting and innovative products.
Marc agreed that difference in health regulations are quite significant in every country and he had experience of explaining what is a gooseberry to surprised Thai FDA before launching a product there. But still these differences are manageable by cooperating with product development companies that are usually aware of these regulations and can quickly help the Brand owner to avoid future problems.
His advice to new beverage brands is to be sure to tick all the boxes before putting the money on the table. With an enormously high burn rate beverage entrepreneurs have to be sensible enough to prepare themselves. Marc listed 6 boxes that every beverage business should tick before stepping into the manufacturing process:
1) Make sure that the product is scalable. The ingredients must be right and adaptable for different regions and countries and have the right shelve life for the chose market. Marc recommends to work with beverage development professionals to achieve scalability.
2) Make sure that your packaging actually works. There has been loads of failed products that had great qualities and perfect content, but with packaging problems. It needs to be fit for purpose, no denting, no scratching, labels well made and applied and the closure has to work and be user friendly.
3) Make the branding clear and understandable. The presentation has to be perfect, the story of the product has to be significant and attractive to both business partners and your consumers.
4) Test the product with your target market demographic. You will not spend much on focus group surveys and a little research but it will help you to see the potential problems before it is too late.
5) Search for the lowest possible MOQ for the first batch. Even if you have a proven brand but you are entering a new market – be sure to test it with the lowest possible expenditure.
6) Do not overspend before actually making money. Marc has seen companies with rooms full of staff without even having a final product. Try to spend you capital on the product development rather than fancy office spaces and employees that you do not need yet.
Marc stressed Branding and Presentation as the most important factor for beverage entrepreneurs to focus on. Most of the product development process can be easily outsourced but Branding has to be done with heart and you target market has to connect with it.
Being asked about his current projects Marc showed me his own Product “Hotel Drink” and spoke with sincere passion about the actual benefits of it to the consumer. It is a beverage exclusively for hotel guests who need to be either revitalised or calmed down if they suffer jet lag or insomnia. Luxury hotels around the world have professionals to help you to go to sleep, some of them offer a range of pillow choices just to help their guests relax. This is a perfect luxury and stylish addition to increase the comfort of international travellers. We can’t wait to try this product out next time we are in Bangkok!
Another project that Marc is working on is a Centralised Distribution network for beverage entrepreneurs. It would be multinational and multilingual set up to help smaller companies to achieve product listings on the retail. Most of the brand owners face a lot of barriers – multiple languages, cultural differences, lack of connections and many more. These barriers frequently lead to disappointment, loss of capital and morale. Marc’s idea would help to reduce this risk by having one source network, for both distributors and brand owners, with the right people for many different countries.
I am glad that there are beverage entrepreneurs with such an amazing passion for this industry trying to provide consumers with healthier and more intelligent drinks. Again I recommend to read his book as it is surely a nice twist to all the old product development guides. Nothing gives you better practical knowledge than actual people and the stories of their roads to success and sustainability.