Kris Ingham, founder of the amino acid enriched water brand Rejuvenation Water, launched in 2016, says the market today offers the ‘perfect storm’ for entrepreneurs as both consumers and retailers are welcoming new ideas.
“You have consumers who are open to new, innovative products and a lot of retailers wanting to differentiate themselves by launching innovations.”
But this, by no means, makes it easy to launch new products.
“I think a lot of people think the life of an entrepreneur is really glamorous but the reality is very different so I think it’s important to manage your expectations.
“You have to remember Murphy’s Law – anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.
“In our first year after launch we suffered two product recalls and we were victim to a scam.
“The product recalls were due to a capping issue which led to products spoiling. For a business in its complete infancy doing a 20,000 bottle run that’s recalled is bad enough but having that happen twice within the first six months of launch pushed us to the limits of survival.
“Then, to make matters worse, we were hit by a scam which hit about 30 different food and drink companies in the UK. We lost £7,500 which, for a small business, is the difference between survival and failure.”
After this series of blows, Ingham was in a desperate situation so he carried out emergency crowd funding and thankfully managed to raise £190,000 in 30 days.
This good fortune seemed to signal the start of a lucky streak as shortly after that the brand was listed in John Lewis as well as a few retail chains in Dubai.
“We were just in one food hall in John Lewis Oxford Street and we sold 1,000 bottles in one month. Because of that, we were then contacted by the front of store buyer at Waitrose who wanted to give us a front of store listing which was a massive win.”
The former banker explains that every retailer has a completely different approach when it comes to taking on a new listing.
"Tesco took five meetings over two years before I gained the listing. They wanted to see momentum in the brand and strong ROS. With Morrisons, however, I simply received an email from a distributor informing me that Morrisons were listing us."
He adds that startup founders have to deal with ‘vicious cycles’ where the retailer won’t stock the brand unless there’s already a distributor and the distributor won’t distribute it if a retailer doesn’t ask specifically for it, or similarly, investors like to take the last slot in a funding round rather than the first.
He says the answer to this is to find partners who understand and are passionate about the brand.
“Find a retailer that’s so clued onto your brand that they will go and speak to their distributors in order to get it listed. Find an investor that believes in your brand enough to take the risk.”
He adds that it’s essential for startup founders to be flexible and versatile in order to be able to react to unexpected hurdles and don’t take too much time to celebrate when you achieve a major retail listing.
“Getting a major new listing is great but it’s also when the hard work really starts. Factor in that we usually get little or no indication of order sizes and store distribution prior to major retail launches, demand planning is an almost impossible task.
“When one retailer increase our store distribution by 50%, the week before launch, and ordered our entire back stock, we simply had to stop selling, including cancelling a roadshow with one of the World's largest retailers.”
Rejuvenation Water is now available across major retailers including Tesco, Waitrose, Morrisons, Ocado and Costco as well as exporting to eight countries.
The brand launched with bottled flavoured still waters with added amino acids and was recently expanded with canned sparkling variants with added electrolytes and natural sugar beet instead of stevia.
The new canned range aims to bridge the gap between sugary soft drinks and sparkling waters. Ingham says the cans provide the flavour of a soft drink with the low-calorie health status of a sparkling water.