Beverage Startups

Vieve – Naturally Flavoured Protein Water

Veive - Naturally Flavoured Protein WaterProtein drinks have been a trending product for a while now. However, it’s really hard to develop highly functional protein beverage with great taste. Vieve – the United Kingdom based protein drink brand with impressive mixture. Today, I have the opportunity to talk to Rafael Rozenson, Founder at Vieve.

1 . How did the whole story of Vieve start?

Vieve was born out of a state of frustration with the products which were out on the market at the time. I had been taking protein powders & other supplements for over 20 years and have always hated the taste, experience and work involved with them. I found protein drinks to be too full of sugars and artificial flavours. I am also lactose intolerant and I struggled to find a suitable product to increase my protein intake that wasn’t dairy based. In short, nothing on the market at the time really met my needs for an easy, tasty, healthy protein supplement.

A few years ago, I was working for a water company and trying to bulk up so I was taking lots of powders, raw cans of tuna, chicken breast, etc. It was gross!  I remember looking at a bottle of water and thinking wouldn’t it be great if you could get your protein from something as refreshing as water without having to bother with mixing powders or consuming milky drinks. What if there was an easier and tastier way to get your 20g of protein?… So the idea for Vieve was born!

2. There is a pretty big variety of different protein drinks. What makes Vieve stand out?

Vieve was the first high-protein drink in the world to use collagen as our primary protein source. Most ready-to-drink protein drinks use a combination of whey or other milk-based proteins. Using collagen allows us to create a completely dairy free product. This is really important as one in five adults in the UK identify themselves as being lactose intolerant. Also, collagen proteins are much easier to absorb as they are already broken down from amino acids into peptides.

Our drink doesn’t leave you bloated, which is sometimes a side effect of whey-based drinks. Collagen is also fairly taste neutral compared to other proteins, so it allows us to create a superior tasting product and not have to use loads of sugars to mask the taste. Our product also contains 20,000mg of collage which is 4-5x the amount found in most expensive beauty drinks at roughly 1/5th the price. So all of this makes us unique! We give people the benefit of a product that is both high in protein and collagen at the same time.

Veive - Naturally Flavoured Protein WaterThe other things that makes Vieve unique is our packaging and flavor profiles. We really aim to appeal to a mass market audience of consumers, so we tried to make our packing really disruptive and not look or feel like other protein drinks. Also for our flavor profiles, I took inspiration from the world of fine foods with flavor combinations you would not normally find in other protein drinks. For example, we add Rhubarb to our Strawberry flavor and Apple & mint to our Citrus flavor. We also launched the world’s first watermelon flavored protein drink, which has quickly risen up to become out top seller and a consumer favorite.

3. Vieve has 3 tastes. Can you tell us more about them? Which one is your favorite?

Well I obviously love them all but I would say that wouldn’t I! I spent over two years developing Vieve and trailing various different flavor combinations with a mission of creating the world’s best tasting protein drink. I really think these 3 flavours deliver on that mission with a slightly different taste profile for each profile. Our Strawberry flavor, as an example, is quite sweet while our Citrus flavor is a bit more neutral. Watermelon is somewhere in between. I’ve found through doing trade shows that there is a flavor for everybody, although to be honest at least at trade shows Citrus tends to be the favorite from a taste point of view.

4. 20g of protein in 500 ml sounds a lot. How did you manage to keep such mixture with great taste?

20g protein is really the ideal amount you want post a work-out or to keep you fuller during the day to prevent cravings for snacking. Again, we worked over two years on the formulation so it was trialing a lot of different recipes before we nailed the correct one to really deliver on the taste profile so it was really the result of a lot of iterations in the recipe until we got it 100% perfect.

5. It’s no secret creating beverage concept is a long and very difficult process. Did you face any difficulties creating Vieve?

There were so many – where do I start?!?!  There are several challenges which I’ve listed below:

  1. Manufacturing the drinks was challenge as it’s quite complicated to make and there are very few manufactures who can produce it in the UK.
  2. The other key challenge was really recipe development, as I real set out to do a great tasting product, this required countless iterations in the formulation which delayed our product launch for quite a long time.
  3. The other challenge was getting our initial physical retail distribution going, our category is quite competitive and there are only so many protein drinks that retailers are looking to stock.   We focused on a direct-to-consumer strategy initially, which allowed us to generate some initial revenue, brand awareness and social proof to start which allowed to have some credibility we could take to retailers to gain some initial traction (E.g. The brand has 150 5 star reviews already in just under a year!).
  4. The last challenge is the initial marketing and driving awareness with consumers given a limited budget is really challenging.  We trialed a lot of different tools, most of which if I’m going to be honest didn’t’ deliver the return for us so it took a while before we could settle on the right marketing mix.

6. Being a startup in beverage market is a challenge. Did you have any experience in beverage industry before starting Vieve?

Yes I did thankfully I had worked at Danone Waters and Monster Energy so had a bit of a background. I also worked in consumer goods for almost 15 years at a variety of big companies like P&G, Disney, Bacardi, GSK & Mars which was really useful as well. I did a variety of roles including sales, marketing, category, strategy and commercial so it gave me a good breadth of experience to take on the challenge of launching Vieve.

Veive - Naturally Flavoured Protein Water7. Where can consumers buy Vieve? Are you planning to enter global market?

At the moment we available to buy in the UK across about 150 stores as well as through Amazon and Muscle Foods. We also sell through our website where we also operate a very sackful subscription program where consumers can get Vieve delivered every couple of weeks right to their door.

We have just launched in Ireland are about to launch in the Middle East as well. At the moment we are in discussions with about 12 other markets across Europe and the Middle East so watch this space as hopefully 2019 will see explode our global distribution to make it easier for consumers around the world to get  the benefits of Vieve.

Our big ambition is to launch in the USA where the protein drinks category is worth about $1 Billion dollars or roughly 20x the size of the UK market. Hopefully by being featured on Drinkpreneur we can start to get some conversations going with some manufactures, retailers and investors in the US who might be interested in the product. We are only a year old, but I actually predict that our export business will eclipse our business in the UK in less than 12 months.

8. What is your advice to other beverage startups?

Don’t do it!  Haha kidding… I think some of my top tips would be the following:

  1. My biggest advice is halve your sales forecast and double your cash flow requirements. It is really, really hard getting a beverage brand off the ground to start and the many expenses you have at the begging (e.g. warehousing, marketing, shipping, etc.) will generate a substantial cash flow drain which could completely cripple you.
  2. Think strategically about growing your business. There’s a tendency for most drink start-ups to devout all their energy to getting the first big supermarket listings which is great but not necessarily the only way to grow your business.   We focused on export markets, DTC and even places like the National Health Service (Vieve was the first sports supplement brand invite to pitch for a procurement contact for the NHS).  All of these channels could be bigger (and more profitable) than a listing at one of the major super market chains.
  3. Get some good strategic partners in place. WE spent the good chunk of a year going through various agency partners, fulfilment houses, sales agents, etc. until we found the right people who were as passionate, competent and dedicated to growing our business as we were.  Having a really good screening process in place initially even through you are a small brand is key, otherwise you will waste a lot of time and resource trying to find new people.
  4. Don’t spend money foolishly. It’s very easy at the beginning to get sucked into spending money on things which won’t generate any a return (e.g. trade shows, marketing investments, etc).  We used to spend about £2000 per month on marketing when we started – our budget last month as an example was only £200 but we drove 120x more revenue.  Think about what the key, key things are you need to drive the business now and in the long term.
  5. Let other be your brand advocates and do your marketing for you. If you have a great product, people will naturally want to talk and shout about it these days.   Most of our marketing efforts now rely on user generated content and reviews.   Vieve has had about 500+ social posts and 150 5 star reviews in over a year, so we let others do our marketing for us.
  6. Find yourself a really good co-founder. I launched and still doing everything on Vieve including all the day-to-day management and longer term planning.   It’s tough and mentally draining and I wish I had someone else to support me and to bounce ideas off.  A good shoulder to cry on wouldn’t hurt lol!

For more information visit Vieve website.

About Ugne Butkute

Ugnė Butkutė is a project manager at DrinkPreneur. Ugnė is responsible for attracting contributors, maintaining quality of content and keeping readers satisfied with DrinkPreneur

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