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Q & A

How we started our fruit smoothie disruptor business

Luke Johnstone (left) grew up on a housing estate in South East London. He excelled at football and tennis, but dreams of turning pro faded with injury. He had a strong interest in nutrition. “My eureka moment came when I was working full-time and playing football on the side,” he recalls. “I wanted natural, targeted nutrition to fuel my performance at work and in sport.”

To help fund development of his smoothie business idea, Johnstone worked two jobs and saved money by living in his parents’ garden shed. He received mentoring from The Prince’s Trust and asked Virgin Start Up for a loan, before spending two years trialling recipes at various London markets.

He was joined by former schoolmate, Alex Stewart, whose had worked for business service heavyweights, Deloitte and Capita. The duo launched PACK’D in October 2015 and their subsequent success has been phenomenal. So, how are they disrupting the UK smoothie market?

Why smoothies?

Luke Johnstone (LJ): “I was always interested in nutrition growing up, because I was really into sport and fuelling my performance with the right nutrition. There were lots of bottled drinks and smoothies that claimed to be healthy, but weren’t. Obviously, you can make your own smoothies at home, but not everyone wants the hassle or has the necessary understanding of nutrition.”

What makes your product so ground breaking?

Alex Stewart (AS): “PACK’D offers nutritious, convenient, options designed with a sports nutritionist – the world’s first frozen smoothie kit. They contain 100% natural, whole fruit and vegetables, superfoods and protein, which provide a targeted health hit.

“Each pack contains two pouches of fruit and veg, plus two sachets of superfoods. You use one of each per smoothie. You simply add these and 200ml of liquid of your choice to a blender and blend. The ultimate smoothie can be created in under a minute.”

LJ: “To develop our smoothie kits we worked with Matt Lovell, a well-known nutritionist who’s worked with England Rugby, London Wasps, London Irish, Saracens and Leicester Rugby, as well as Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester City and the England women’s national football team.”

How many units have you sold?

AS: “We’ve produced more than two million frozen smoothie kits and we have more than 1,500 product listings, sold by Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Holland & Barrett, Iceland, Lidl, Ocado, Costco, Planet Organic, Whole Foods Market and others. About 20,000 PACK’D frozen smoothie kits are bought every week and our sales have grown by about 2,000% since 2016. We’ve so far made sales worth almost £1.5m.”

LJ:We’ve grown rapidly, but we’re far from finished. We need more stock to meet demand, bigger marketing to reach more people and new products to stay ahead of the curve. We’ll continue to innovate and further disrupt the UK smoothie market. We’re a challenger brand.”

What else sets your smoothies apart?

LJ: “They combine freshly frozen chopped fruit and vegetables with a targeted blend of organic whey protein and/or superfoods. They’re filled with essential vitamins and minerals for functional health benefits. And, they have half the sugar of leading bottled smoothies. We’re doing something entirely different, which gives consumers a clear reason to choose our products.

“We’re on a mission to ‘Fuel Potential’. These core beliefs inform our products and our business strategy. We started PACK’D because we believe that everyone deserves the tools and opportunities to reach their personal best – and we know the right nutrition is key to this.”

Do you describe PACK’D as a disruptor business?

LJ: “Yes – proudly so. We started PACK’D because there were no alternatives available, so, we’ve always set out to do things differently and stay ahead of the curve. That requires maintaining a different approach and turning the industry on its head.”

Tell us about your investors?

LJ: “They include David Krantz, our chairman, who’s a retail entrepreneur with a proven track record of building successful companies, including Space NK, Racing Green and Blazer. Another is Robert Porter-Smith, founder of Natural Balance Foods, which makes Nak’d and TREK nutrition bars; Jamie Jackson, chairman of MySale Group Plc, a leading international online retailer and Paul Bentham, a payment services specialist who founded CardSave and Retail Merchant Services Group.”

How else have you funded the business?

AS: In the summer of 2018 we launched a crowdfunding campaign which raised £538,000, which will enable our next phase of growth. It will pay for new product development, stock for new listings and marketing to increase awareness of our brand, online shop and home delivery service.”

What advice would do you offer to others who wanted to become a disruptor?

LJ: “Carry out thorough research. Look closely at other challenger brands and disruptive businesses and identify what makes them unique. Then find a niche where you can add value and do things differently. You must do something that’s genuinely pioneering, not just a variation. To be heard against the noise, you must come at things from a different angle.

“It takes a lot of passion, too. You must be 100% behind your business, because you need a lot of stamina when starting and growing a business, especially if you’re a disruptor or challenger.”

AS: “You can’t be afraid to take risks either. Try new things and learn from your mistakes, because you will make them. If you’re not making mistakes you’re probably not doing anything differently. You’ll get lots of advice along the way. Listen carefully and soak it up, but realise that sometimes you have to just go with your gut instinct.”

Read more:

What is a disruptor and could your small business become one?

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