Founder and managing director Huib van Bockel says to serve Tenzing’s expansion and main home market he is seeking more environmentally-friendly out-sourcing options which will then run alongside current production in the Netherlands. The move follows 300 percent year-on-year growth for the SME that since launching in 2016 has struck a chord with health and eco-conscious customers in search of some sparkling zing. Six leading grocers including Tesco, M&S, Sainsbury’s and the Co-op are among 6,500 stores stocking its recyclable cans which from next week will feature a new raspberry and yuzu (an aromatic Japanese citrus fruit) blend. With a £6 million turnover forecast for this year, times have never been more on van Bockel’s side.
Inspired first by his experience drinking the uplifting ‘soups’ brewed by Sherpas to help them scale the Himalayas’ highest peaks, Tenzing’s core recipe includes natural caffeine, electrolytes (minerals critical to body health such as salt, calcium and potassium) and vitamin C as well spring water.
“Traditionally energy drinks contain a mix of taurine, caffeine, vitamin Bs and high levels of sugar or artificial sweeteners. We’re the first to create one from plants and that’s low calorie without replacement sweeteners, so essentially a new taste profile,” he explains.
A simultaneous increase in consumers’ interest over the past couple of years in health, fitness and green issues gave the energizer sales momentum at a vital point in its development.
“Shoppers are more concerned about the impact of synthetic ingredients these days and their sugar intake,” says van Bockel.
“Having a drink that is 48 calories a can, is 60 per cent less sugar than the average soft drink and falls below the sugar tax have certainly worked in our favour.”
Hundreds of cafes, offices and gyms are clients. Individual subscribers are also driving growth and awareness along with universities – 70 at the last count.
Customers generally are spread across the ages and media partners such as Exterion, YouTube and Instagram have come on board.
“Social media is key for a new brand like Tenzing so it can spread the word about plant-based energising drinks,” he adds.
Van Bockel’s confidence to start a brand with no budget or office stems from the blue chip expertise he acquired from working for Unilever, MTV and Red Bulll, a Tenzing rival these days.
Funding first came from pitching in the proceeds of a book he has written, The Social Brand.
Today Tenzing, which was named in honour of Tenzing Norgay, one of the first two individuals to reach the summit of Everest, has a team of 14 and is backed by a group of private investors. Support for cash flow will be their next contribution following the drinks’ launch in western Europe.
The from-scratch strategy van Bockel took is paying off, but with hindsight if there were one thing he might have done differently it would have been to have maximised the connections he had at the product testing stage and carried out bigger trials, saving him a few months of development time.
“It was hard at first convincing people re-invention in this way was possible,” he reflects.
“The competition we faced was huge, but we’re more than holding our own.”