Continuing our series of interviews with awesome FMCG start-ups, allow me to introduce the ‘Willy Wonka’ of the sauce industry…Blend Bros!
We sat down with Martin, the head of marketing, to delve a bit deeper into Blend Bros and find out where they came from and why everyone wants to get their hands on a bottle of their delicious sugar-free sauces!
So Martin, where did the idea for Blend Bros come from? Where did it all start?
Blend Bros is the brainchild of Charlie & Scott, grandsons of the Dixon family (who own the Flava people). Charlie and Scott are quite different. Very close to one another but also very different which I think works great. Scott’s strategic, has a blue-sky mindset and is real foodie. Charlie, on the other hand, is black and white and process driven. He is also very much into fitness and passionate about helping people live a healthy lifestyle. Charlie had always seen a gap in the market for products that had strong health benefits but also taste great. Something that health-conscious people/gym goers could enjoy guilt free.
The first step for the brand was a range of savoury blends, you could make smoothies, soup, or just use them as seasoning. The brothers felt that this was just the beginning though. You can see by branding that it was aimed at gym goers and protein junkies in the main. The products contained pea protein so had the health food credentials as well as tasting awesome. As fantastic as the blends where, the guys still felt there was a gap for a healthy, good tasting product to help a much broader range of consumers and that’s when they started looking at sugar free sauces. Some of the bigger brands are toying with half sugar or honey sweetened varieties but no one is truly sugar free like Blend Bros!
“Ultimately, the success is down to the quality of the sauces and how they’re filling a gap.”
When did you launch into retail? What was the initial reaction like?
We launched in ASDA around July and our initial order sold out straight away! This was with very minimal marketing, purely word of mouth. Slimming world got in touch and got involved. They loved the product and gave it ‘hero product’ status. So, went from being very much a niche product for Bodybuilders, weightlifters etc and started to see a much broader range of consumers buying the products. It’s been tough but after 2 deliveries to ASDA we have finally caught up and have full availability across the range, although the sales continue to grow and we are working hard to keep it on the shelf and develop the range.
Why do you think the sauce caught on so quickly and outstripped supply?
Because it was a UK first to market for sugar free sauce we expected some interest but not quite to this level! I suppose the product has a great, rational USP and that itself is enough to peek someone’s interest. What’s unique is we just didn’t have plans in place to shout about the sauces. It slipped under the radar. We’ve given the consumer the power and tools to find the product and then they talk about it. It’s performing really well and I do feel like the consumers love it partly because they have found it themselves.
Do you think the ‘Indie’ vibe of Blend Bros brings a bit more trust? Like when you find a record no one has heard of and you just have to tell everyone!
We’ve found that consumers are quicker to bond with a brand like us over a huge corporation. Our consumers have found the product themselves. As a result, they’re more passionate and shout about Blend Bros more. There’s nothing worse than a massive corporate beast forcing products down your throat everywhere you walk. Ultimately, the success is down to the quality of the sauces and how they’re filling a gap.
What’s been the biggest challenge?
The surprising level of demand! Initially, we were under the impression no one would go to ASDA specifically to buy Blend Bros sauces. We had education pieces planned as well as a host of other marketing activities to drum up demand but a few days in we knew these wouldn’t be needed. Influencers were approaching us asking to try the product and we even had customers travelling to ASDA just to pick up flavours for the week. It got to the point where we had 20-30 people a day contacting us to try to find the product. In the past, it’s been finding demand for supply so it’s certainly been a nice challenge!
What’s your ambition for the product? What does the future hold?
To be the UK’s first completely sugar free sauce is great but it has a lifespan. There will inevitably be copied products/different versions so we want to establish a bond and relationship with our customers as we have quite clearly brought what they want. We have the ability to listen to our consumers and we can turn around products very quickly. We’re constantly looking at ways we can help our customers with other sugar free products and we want Blend Bros to become the brand of choice for healthy food products. One great advantage to Blend Bros; we can turn ideas into products very quickly. The consumer has an opportunity to drive the brand forward and get products they really want and need.
You’re very active on social media…what piece of advice would you give to someone looking to stand out from the crowd online?
Try speaking to a huge company online and you’ll feel like you’re shouting into the Grand Canyon! When you speak to Blend Bros through our various channels you are actually speaking to ‘the man’. It’s very personal. Don’t underestimate the power of a social media connection. Social media is a massive part of people’s lives and if we can be there for them and have a strong online relationship, showing that we listen and care, you’ll be surprised at how strong a relationship can form.
In terms of the company, what’s great about working here?
I like the autonomy, the Dixon family a very trusting and give us the freedom to take the brand and products in the direction we feel best. Also, the key thing I love is that ideas come to reality very quickly. We see it as the Willy Wonka factory of the sauce industry. We can turn a dream, vision, or concept into something ready for the consumer at speed and to me, that’s extremely exciting!
In terms of the near future, where can we get blend bros from?
Next stop is e-commerce! Lots of people are asking for this so we’ve pushed it forward. The possibilities online are endless. We could do limited edition flavours, collaborations and even ask our customers to create some flavours! Online is a key avenue for it because it just makes it things much easier for our consumer.
Here at Logical, we’re excited and can’t wait to see what the future brings for Blend Bros, their amazing sugar free sauces can be found in the Sauces Isle across the ASDA supermarket network now. They are currently in talks with a host of retailers for further distribution.
You can find out more about Blend Bros products on their website http://www.blendbros.co.uk/