Hearing from the latest up and coming start-ups always provides food for thought, and the recent ‘Shaking up the drinks industry’ event was no different. 

A panel of start-up founders, put together by isobel, and consisting of WOW drinks, Seedlip, and Ugly provided the opportunity to hear about the journey that each of these emerging brands has been on. While each had their own distinct story to tell, there were some striking similarities which other start-ups (whether in the drinks industry or not) would do well to learn from:

  • Get the product right: Find a way of being meaningfully different from the existing competitor set.

Notably all three of these brands have hit upon emerging trends in the drinks industry, allowing them to take a meaningfully different stance from the existing competitor set. For WOW drinks, this was the introduction of a new ingredient (Chia seeds) into their chilled drinks range. For Seedlip this meant introducing an alcohol free spirit aimed at non-drinkers in social settings who are looking for a more sophisticated drink than the traditional bar offering. While for Ugly this involved producing flavoursome and fun soft drinks which are nutritionally the same as water meaning that consumers can drink Ugly without needing to worry about sugar intake or any other nasties associated with soft drinks. In a world increasingly health conscious, it is noticeable that all three of these brands have tapped into health. Rather than paying lip service to health, such as by producing diet versions of classic drinks, each of these brands have fulfilled this need in a unique and meaningful way, and in so doing they are reaping the rewards.

  • Get the brand right: Know your audience to create strong brands that resonate with customers.

Looking across the three brands on display there is a variety of branding tools and messages on display. That said, simply by looking at each of the brands one at a time it becomes easily possible to guess who the target audience is for each brand, and the focus on what makes these products meaningfully different helps to grab attention. This clarity of branding will speak directly to the intended audience so that it ends up in the shoppers basked and in so-doing giving their product the best chance of shining.

  • Get the logistics right: Put in place a supply chain that can keep up in an agile world.

Notably all three of the founders devoted a portion of their talk stressing the importance of getting the supply chain right. While the more established players in the market might take this for granted, start-ups need to be confident that their supply-chain can keep up with them in an agile world where decisions come thick and fast.

After strong early success the obvious question is what next for these brands? The transition from disruptor to established market player is inevitably tricky, but by continuing to focus on the ‘magic triangle’ of ‘product—brand—supply chain’ each of these brands look like they are here to stay, and it would be well worth keeping an eye on them to see where they go next!


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