The energy drink market is on the rise, with volume sales accounting for 5% of the soft drinks market in 2018 compared to 3.8% in 2011. And with Coca-Cola entering the market last month, competition is only set to increase.
However, Huib van Bockel, the founder of Tenzing, tells Marketing Week there is still nothing that competes with his brand.
“The market has always been competitive but we are still sure that nobody has a healthy plant-based alternative like ours,” he claims.
This confidence comes from van Bockel’s belief that Tenzing is tapping into a vastly different market to its competitors with an older target audience than most energy drinks.
“If you think about the typical energy drink user you might think 19-year-old skateboarder but you need more energy if you’ve got young kids and are working hard,” van Bockel explains.
Van Bockel is somewhat of an expert in the energy drinks category having spent eight years as a marketer with Red Bull. He left in 2014 to create his own energy drink and it was while travelling in Nepal that he discovered the ingredients to make Tenzing.
The drink, which is named after the first man to climb Mount Everest, Sherpa Tenzing Norgay, contains Himalayan rock minerals, green coffee, and lemon juice. It has the same sugar level as coconut water.
Tenzing launched its first marketing campaign in April last year to coincide with the introduction sugar tax, which van Bockel says was a resounding success.
“What is so nice about having your own business is starting from scratch you see the impact you and your teams actions have more than at a big company,” he explains. “If you’re a huge brand you can do big campaigns but you hardly see uplifts at all.”
During the campaign, which relied heavily on out-of-home and digital ads, plus a partnership with Time Out magazine in London, Tenzing doubled its rate of sales. Because of this, van Bockel says Tenzing will “stick to [its] philosophy” and has no plans to up its media spend or invest in TV.
Expanding the Tenzing brand
But that doesn’t mean that the brand doesn’t have big plans. Last week, Tenzing launched a new flavour: British raspberry and Japanese yuzu. The dusty pink can has been a long time in the making, with van Bockel concerned that having different flavours would limit cut-through.
He explains: “We hadn’t done it before because I was scared if we launched all these different flavours at the beginning people would think it was just another flavoured drinks brand.”
The decision to launch a new drink was based on a combination of van Bockel’s “gut feeling” there would be a market for it and information from retailers.
“In the beginning all you’re worried about is, are we selling enough? But now we are at a place where we are selling enough. We’re happy with our retailers and now it feels like it’s from a positive place,” he explains.
He adds: “When you’ve got s small team and a limited budget you just basically go, what do you think is right?”
The brand is still “unsure” if it will launch a marketing campaign around the new product but van Bockel thinks the combination of the beloved British raspberry and the health benefits of the yuzu will help it stand out on shelves.
We were worried they were going to launch a plant-based alternative but it effectively is just Coca-Cola with some extra caffeine.
Huib van Bockel, Tenzing
It is also supported by changing consumer preferences, with concerns mounting about some ingredients (such as sugar) and tastes broadening.
“Originally [when Tenzing started] a lot of people said cutting sugar and replacing it with nothing was never going to work and it wouldn’t be a viable product as it would taste less sweet but now palettes are changing,” he explains.
Van Bockel’s ambitions go beyond innovation as he wants to build a community surrounding the brand. Later in the year, Tenzing will launch a running club in the hope of impacting consumers’ lives and so it can learn more about its customers. The brand will organise runs and map the least polluted running routes in London to improve peoples fitness and help them avoid pollution in the capital.
“We wanted to add something to people’s lives. I am a big believer in doing something good but also people expect brands to have a positive impact,” he says.
“We know we had a lot of fans out there but we don’t really know them. This is a way to get to know them and find out what new things we should be doing.”
It’s a far cry from his previous role with Red Bull: “In my old job I was speaking to the mayor’s office about stunts with motorcycles and now I am speaking to them about how to map the cleanest routes in the city.”
Waving off competition
While Tenzing had some initial worries when Coca-Cola launched its first energy drink in March, van Bockel is less concerned about the competition now.
He explains: “We were worried they were going to launch a plant-based alternative but it effectively is just Coca-Cola with some extra caffeine. Their USP is that no other energy drink tastes like Coca-Cola and then you taste it and it doesn’t even taste like Coca-Cola.
“They’ll make a huge splash because they’ve got huge marketing teams and huge distribution. But for us as a brand it will not have a lot of impact because our role in the market is very different.”
However, van Bockel believes there is still work to be done in the energy drink category. He concludes: “If we had 100% succeeded I don’t think Red Bull would sell any cans anymore. It is a journey at the end of the day.”