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Did you know that it’s NOT a Coke or a Pepsi-owned brand that holds the title of the UKs best-selling functional drink, but an Irish brand called VITHIT! The best-selling functional drink in terms of rate of sale per store per week, recent market testing proved that VITHIT is outselling some functional drinks owned by Coca-Cola by up to 400%! VITHIT is also the fastest-growing brand in the UK functional drinks category, so definitely a brand you need to get to know.

I really enjoyed talking to my old buddy and fellow-Irishman Gary Lavin, Founder of this super-charged, low calorie vitamin drinks range

VITHIT currently sells in nearly 20 countries around the world, with market sales soon at 50m Euros.  With a growth rate of 35% year on year, VH is the best -selling functional drinks brand in the UK where it is stocked, as well as being the he market leader in its home market of Ireland.

I’ve known Gary and followed VITHITs progress for over 15 years now, and what really intrigues me about this story is that most of this growth has been unlocked over the 5 past years. I’m also really inspired by Gary’s sheer honesty about mistakes he thinks he made and the sheer doggedness that has been necessary to get the business to where it’s at today.

Listen to Gary take us though what the drivers of this recent transformational growth have been, how he recognised them, and what he’d do differently if he had to start over.

Episode 6 Timestamps:

[00:28] – Introducing today’s guest, founder of the vitamin drinks range VITHIT, Gary Lavin.

[01:25] – VITHIT has gone from strength to strength selling 20 million bottles a year. What is it, what is the range like, who buys it, and where is it sold?

[02:02] – The importance of on-shelf visibility and the role of his colourful packaging.

[02:02] – Do most of VITHIT’s sales come from impulse buy channels or major grocery stores?

[04:28] – Gary talks about how insight and hard work at store level helped VITHIT become the bestselling functional drink in some of the UK’s biggest stores.

[05:30] – What is it about VITHIT that allows it to outperform big companies like Coca-Cola and Pepsi in this segment? Gary explains that its partly the brand itself, partly his obsession with getting the right product and flavours, and finally, his dogged competitive nature and desire to succeed.

[07:57] – VITHIT sells 100 units per store per week. Is this a large number when compared to drinks in general?

[08:46] – Gary talks about building credibility with the retailers and how numbers alone sometimes aren’t enough to convince them.

[10:00] – Even though VITHIT has been around for 20 years, most of the transformational growth has happened in the last 5 years. What have they been doing differently during this time? Gary talks about the 10 years it took him to learn how to succeeed in this market, about his persistence and lessons learned.

[12:31] – Gary talks about the importance of getting the right distributors.

[14:47] – How important was market readiness for this incredible growth? Are people today more aware of the effects of too much sugar in the diet than they were 20 years ago?

[16:15] – Did Gary do anything differently in terms of his team to drive this growth? How does he manage his team? Gary talks about the importance of having a high-performing team, on the ground in key-markets, made up of individuals who have a real sense of entrepreneurship and pride in their wins and personal successes within the business.

[18:44] – To achieve maximum growth, VITHIT is currently focusing on its drinks and expansion to other markets, rather than diversifiying into other products.

[20:34] – Why are large companies not performing as well as the small emergent brands such as VITHIT? Gary talks about brand relevance – in time and across countries -and the care and love that an owner-founder can inject into his start-up brand

[22:20] – How much effect does Gary’s hands-on approach have on learning about what customers want? He shares an example where his work on the ground produced valuable information that he wouldn’t have acquired otherwise.

[26:00] – The most important thing you can do is sell. Gary’s advice to young entrepreneurs is to get out there and try to get their product in as many stores as possible.

[26:00] – What is VITHIT’s marketing strategy when entering a new market? How do they leverage social media? Gary explains the importance of social media in their marketing efforts.

[27:42] – Gary explains why marketing is pointless if you’re not already present in a large number of stores.

[29:54] – What are Gary’s ambitions for the business? What does the future hold for VITHIT?

[31:42] – How does VITHIT plan to address the backlash against plastic? Gary explains his strategy to move towards a more sustainable model for his packaging requirements.

[32:46] – What would Gary do differently if he started over?

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