Shades of Gray

Simon Gray speaks to ELIT ROWLAND about balancing old-fashioned ways with natural evolution

BW: How do you differentiate yourselves from your rivals?

SG: All the energy-drink and soft-drink suppliers are fighting over the ‘throat pound’ [the money spent on drinks] but we offer a channel-specific focus. Our packs aren’t driven by the multiples – they’re tailored specifically for the independent channel. We also offer good margins, and the ability to listen and react to our customers in a way that some suppliers don’t – if wholesalers want us to participate in promotional activity for a trade day, it will take us hours, not weeks, to sign it off.

How have you been working with wholesalers to grow sales?

We are sharing data with our wholesale partners to target stockists and benchmark performance. Historically, we’ve been driving products through wholesalers, without tracking where it’s going, but now we will be working together with them to decide on which stockists to target and how. We will also be feeding back the information from our ‘Brand Health’ report, which captured responses from wholesalers and retailers on how we’re doing as a business.
Is price-marking working for everyone?In principle, price-marked packs (PMP) should work when the right margins are retained by all parties in the chain. We don’t want our products to just sit on the retailer’s shelf, so we’ve positioned them at the right price-points – one that still earns retailers a big enough margin, while retaining consumer confidence.
How important is the foodservice channel to your business?

Foodservice is on everyone’s radar at the moment but energy drinks are still only being sold by a small number of outlets. The main focus for us in foodservice is the on-trade, where energy drinks are high on the agenda as a mixer. We will look into growing our presence there in the future, after we’ve achieved our targets in the independent retail channel.
What advice would you give to wholesalers and their customers?A quarter of soft-drinks sales in the independent channel are derived from energy drinks, but this is not always reflected in the depot. We’re seeing a similar situation in independent retail, where chillers are cluttered with foreign brands, which, in some cases, are just gathering dust.

Energy drinks are seen by some in the soft-drinks world as the ‘golden nugget’, but it’s vital to remember that 75% of energy-drinks sales in impulse come from the top 20 stock-keeping units: wholesalers and retailers would benefit from allocating more space to them.
What trends have you noticed in the channel?In the past few years, we’ve seen a wave of technological advancement, ranging from the sharing of sales data to social media. But despite the rise of technology, some wholesalers and retailers like doing things the old-fashioned way. A successful wholesaler will find a way to balance both worlds for now, but going out in time, it’s critical that the evolution is embraced by all.

Also, it’s been refreshing to see the ‘next generation’ within wholesalers coming into the channel, with fresh ideas and a new ways of working. People like Zahier at BA, Nikkita at Imperial and Marcus at Hyperama to name just a few – and even Better Wholesaling


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