The competition in the juice and smoothie marketplace, already fierce, intensified further before Emma and Tom’s even launched.
“Nudie launched the weekend I had the idea for Emma and Tom’s,” says Griffith. “It wasn’t a deal breaker as we took a year to set up rather than three months. I’d walk around, look into shops and think ‘Lucky Nudie.’ But I also thought ‘Bring it on.’”
“Nudie is very different to us. They focus on the major supermarkets, while we focused on the high-end trade.”
“Customers who tried Nudie were very enthusiastic about Emma and Tom’s. We’re a fun brand with a healthy angle to it. If you aren’t confident about what you can offer, you just run away and hide.”
Finding a point of difference
Griffith says that Emma and Tom’s has several points of difference – the unadulterated amount of fruit, the above-average size of the bottle, the premium price point and a shorter pasteurisation process that gives the product a short, three-week shelf life but, crucially, a claim to greater freshness than its peers.
Convinced the product would fare well, Welsh and Griffith put in $500,000 of their own money to start the business. They drew up a “hit list” of high-end delis in Melbourne to target.
“The retailers were like us, in a way. They were entrepreneurial and they knew what they wanted,” says Griffith. “We didn’t spend money willy nilly. There was a level of desperation there to make the product saleable. Within a few months, we were selling our minimum order.”
“We launched in September and by Christmas we had 400 customers, which was a nice effort. We sponsored a lot of events and retained PR agency to generate publicity for us.”
Welsh recalled the initial push in an interview with SmartCompany in 2007: “We started walking the pavements, presenting every shop with a six-pack holder and asked them to taste it, returning in three days.”
“We focused on selling into stores owned by people like ourselves. That way we could have direct interface with the customer and it was good brand association.”
“We also gave away free samples at amateur sporting events such as fun runs, ocean events and gallery openings. It was difficult to guess the results but we felt that if we gave away juice to 2,000 runners we knew that every single one of them had tasted it; if we put an ad in the paper it was far less targeted.”
Building the brand
In order to get into more locations, and to increase the chances of being picked up by consumers, Emma and Tom’s has greatly expanded its range in recent years.
Adding to its portfolio of eight juices, the brand has now moved into bottled water and energy bars.
“We’ve got to keep innovating,” insists Griffith. “We’re a bit like the English rugby team used to be – we have to do everything 1% better than everyone else.”
“We’ve got eight juices – anymore and you cannibalise yourself. In July last year we brought in the raw fruit and nut bars as we realised people might buy them with a coffee. We get people emailing us asking where they can get them.”
“Our sales team upsell the water. It’s marginal sales and it’s ambient too. You always want to sell what you haven’t got and it’s easy to lose focus, so we took a long time deciding how to add to the range.”
“We have focus groups and we trust ourselves a bit when we do something new. There’s not a great cost in launching something – the challenge is getting out there.”
“You have to be ubiquitous to do what we do. We’re in 2,500 stores in Australia. If you’re in a couple of hundred, it’s not enough to sustain you.”
Emma and Tom’s sales grew by 20% last year and, with a bit of luck, Griffith feels that trend can continue. He calls the brand a fast-growing “minnow” in a $800 million market. Following successful forays into Sydney, Adelaide and even France, the aim is to increase the brand’s presence beyond 40 supermarkets.
While Griffith is sanguine over the future, he is adamant that the company’s progress wouldn’t have been possible without the partnership with Welsh.
“It’s great having a business partner,” he says. “It’s a great comfort. I would’ve hated doing it by myself. It’s great to have someone there to disagree with you and someone to enjoy it with.”