Q&A: Hip Pop’s Emma Thackray and Kenny Goodman
Here we talk to Emma Thackray and Kenny Goodman, founders of the fast growing Hip Pop kombucha brand, about their successes to date and their ambitious growth plans.
You started the business in 2019. Why did you set it up?
The business was originally inspired by Emma fermenting some delicious kombucha to help Kenny overcome issues with IBS.
It quickly turned into a passion after experiencing positive results, which led us to explore the massive opportunity of functional gut health drinks that taste good, do good and look good.
This is important because 76% of consumers say that taste is the most important attribute of a premium soft drink, 86% of people in the UK have experienced gut-related health problems and 63% of consumers have consumed a premium soft drink in the last six6 months and are willing to pay more.
What did you both do before that?
Prior to finding our passion in functional gut health drinks, we ran a supplements brand which was acquired in 2021.
For the uninitiated, please explain what kombucha is and how it originated?
Kombucha originated in the Far East about 2000 years ago and is made from fermented tea and any fruits or herbs you choose to flavour it with.
People the world over drink kombucha for its health benefits but there aren’t yet any scientific studies that detail why kombucha is good for you, so we don’t know conclusively whether it’s natural vitamins, antioxidants, organic acids or the living cultures that cause people to come back for more. Either way, Hip Pop is one of the only kombucha brands in the world that infuses all of our drinks with friendly living bacteria called Bacillus Coagulans which has undergone rigorous scientific studies around gut health. We include at least one billion of these proven mighty cultures in every bottle/can plus all the other benefits of fermented kombucha.
You won a Great Taste Award in your first year of trading, how do you make your products?
We produce and package all of our products in our own facility on a National Trust farm on the border of Cheshire and Manchester. To ensure it tastes good we have a team of properly qualified brewers, and we taste test with BBC’s Kate Goodman and her team of drinks experts.
You originally launched as Booch & Brew, why did you choose that name then change it to Hip Pop?
Our original name was actually Booch & Brine as we started testing the market with kombucha (booch) and other ferments made in brine such as sauerkraut and kimchi (brine). We sold the produce on markets in and around Cheshire and Manchester. Kombucha was the clear winner and so we decided to focus all our energy on kombucha and call the brand Booch & Brew.
Then in 2021 we realised there was a big gap in the gut health focussed functional drinks category for a brand that produces a wide range of gut health drinks alongside kombucha that taste good, do good and look good. For this we needed a name that didn’t pigeonhole us with just kombucha, like with Booch & Brew. As a result, Hip Pop was formed and trademarked.
You have doubled your revenue year-on-year since 2021, how has this come about? How have you developed the business?
We were a one-year-old start-up back in 2020 when WeWork took a risk on us and agreed to stock our kombucha on tap in all UK sites.
Following three stalled rollouts (April 2020, October 2020 and July 2021) due to the pandemic, we are only now about to unveil our first kombucha tap at multiple WeWork sites in London. However, the fact that a big brand, like WeWork, believed in us has really helped us get the traction that we needed.
We also developed and launched an ecommerce website in early 2021, which has been a roaring success.
You have secured listings with the likes of Booths, Suma and Health Store and now Harrods. How did the Harrods listing come about?
As all fledgling food and beverage brands discover, it is very difficult to get in front of buyers so you have to keep hustling, send samples out and ensure you follow up vigorously. You will be ignored by the vast majority, but your timing will be right with some. You also need strong USPs so you can stand out from competitors.
Amazon, Google, Booths, THG (The Hut Group) and many others now stock us or work with us on their wellness programmes for their employees, customers, or members, which has helped drive consistent growth.
You also sell the drinks through your own online shop. How is this going?
Direct to consumer has been really big for us and was born out of the pandemic when a lot of our wholesale customers paused or stopped trading. We now have a very strong consumer database, and this is going to be a big focus moving forwards as it is great for building brand awareness.
You seem to have built a strong, loyal customer base. How has this been achieved?
If you have a good product, you will get repeat customers and raving fans. It is important to nurture this relationship through incentives, offers and general content and communication.
How have you funded the business and its expansion?
We have been fortunate enough to have sold our vitamins and supplements brand which helped fund a large chunk of growth. It is now time for us to seek further investment so we can take the business to the next level with further marketing initiatives, investment in equipment and a recruitment drive to bring even more talent to our brilliant team.
What are your plans for 2022?
We are expanding beyond kombucha and will be bringing out an Apple Cider Vinegar Soda range which is an exploding trend in the USA and is something our customers have also requested – but, unlike market competitors, we have taken it one step further by ensuring it passes our rigorous taste tests without adding sugar or sweeteners so it is all natural.
We are also including over one billion live cultures for the added gut health focus to add to the benefits of your daily dose of premium Apple Cider Vinegar. We plan to expand this range along with our kombucha into the US market and across Europe which we have already started. We also have another gut focussed drinks product in development and will be releasing details of this later in the year.
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