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How to start a Drinks Brand the Warrior Way

December 2, 2020 by Jonathan Paxley

The trends in the drinks industry are constantly evolving which has a massive influence on the desirability of a product, pushing for functional alternatives.

Gone are the days of the product being the anchor, there is much more to it – the branding, the marketing, the delivery and the values. But as long as you have a vision, passion and the determination you are ready to take the leap.

I’m sure big brand names like Pepsi, Coca-Cola, Red Bull, Lucozade, and Innocent come to mind…the list goes on. There is a large number of established players, but that’s not to say it’s unsusceptible to innovation.

We recently spoke to Rosh Amarasekara, founder of Humble Warrior. Not only did she reveal everything we need to know about how to break into the challenging drinks industry, but also the wellness drinks industry; and made it sound pretty easy too.

Rosh, along with her co-founder Andy, created a series of sparkling tonic wellness drinks, with a mission to bring functional plants out of the shadows and into the everyday.

She has taught us that if your company ‘stands for something’ people ultimately gravitate towards it, simply creating a strong identity that goes hand in hand with the brands tone of voice, recognition and passionate customers who feel part of a community.

If you’ve not come across Humble Warrior, check out their range of kickass plant goodness products.

Where did Humble Warrior begin?

I was with Andy, my co-founder, in a health shop in Islington. We were looking for a delicious plant-based drink I’d grown up with, in Sri Lanka. But after being told by the shop assistant that we could only get the plant in a processed powder or tablet – we knew we had to change that. Humble Warrior was born!

For those who haven’t heard of Humble Warrior can you tell us a little a bit about what makes your drinks so unique?

We make plant-powered drinks with less sugar and more vitamins than other soft drinks and juices. We use extraordinary plants from around the world to give our drinkers kickass taste, without compromising on sugar or health. Our mission has always been about taking functional plants out of the shadows and into the everyday. We aren’t afraid to go where others haven’t, in fact that’s what drives us!

Wellness drinks are still a relatively new category. What’s your history with this category and what inspired you to start your own company in this area?

Where I grew up in Sri Lanka,  I grew up with functional plants in my daily diet. We never thought of these plants as medicinal but as normal and very every day. So humble warrior is all about bringing these incredible plants out of the supplement aisle and into the every day where they belong!

Why do you think that Wellness drinks are so popular at the moment?

I think we’ve all become more aware of our health over the last twenty years with technology making it easier to get information on what’s good and bad for us. Covid has probably made most of us realise how important it is to take care of our health, so I think anything that helps people do that is going to be in demand.

How long did it take you from deciding to start the business to selling your first bottle?

We spent two years researching and developing our drinks before we went to market. We’re still learning, discovering and experimenting!

I think I’m right in suggesting very few of our readers have started their own drinks business but I’m sure they’d be interested to know what’s involved. Could you tell us a little bit about the process? What hurdles did you have to overcome when building your brand, did you come across anything that wasn’t expected?

There have been many hurdles. It’s the life of a start-up! A big learning curve for us was realising that it is not enough to have a product you think is great, you need to have distribution too. There are lots of great products out there that no-one has ever heard of. Having a plan for distribution – how you are going to get your drink into as many hands as possible – is super important.

Your brand has a very consistent image and tone, how did you decide what was the right fit for Humble Warrior and is this something you have to put a lot of effort into maintaining?

Humble Warrior was always about challenging people’s traditional understanding of so-called “alternative plants” – and creating something fun, modern and genuinely kickass!  So it was easy to build our brand identity and tone of voice. We never take ourselves too seriously but we aren’t just about selling drinks either. We stand for things – and I think that’s what people ultimately gravitate to in a brand. But we try to keep it light, with a healthy dose of tongue and cheek!

It’s been a tough time for the drinks industry recently for fairly obvious reasons. Has coronavirus and lockdown affected your plans in any way? What have you had to adapt to survive (or even thrive)?

It has been very tough – particularly for our friends in the hospitality industry. So many of our customers have had to shut and it’s been genuinely awful to watch that. For us, we’ve spent the time building our ecommerce platform, and also our grocery line. We’ve got an exciting new drink coming out in Q1 next year. It was planned pre-Covid, but hopefully is even more desirable now.

What do you hope to achieve with the brand going forward?

For us, we want to keep bringing plants out of the shadows and into the mass market so everyone can enjoy them. One day, we want to see the supermarket chiller filled with plant-powered drinks – a category in and of themselves. The days of only being able to buy high sugar fruit juices and smoothies will be gone, and people will be able to finally drink something that ticks every box on health.

What is some advice you’d give to someone looking to start their own drinks brand who might not have taken the leap yet? Is there anything you would have done differently?

Before you press go – test and talk to as many people as you can. Everyone has a view – some you take on board, others less so – but it all helps. Because the reality is anything that’s going to be meaningful is going to take a while to build – so listen and learn as much as you can first.

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