An interview by Simon Forester:
With the concept founded in 2014 by Julia Kessler and Kerstin Robinson, Nix & Kix are a London based non-alcoholic drinks brand that have managed to get listed in over 5,000 distribution points over the last 3 years. The brand can be found in restaurant chains such as Wagamama, many supermarket outlets (Waitrose, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Morrisons, Ocado), BP service stations as well as in food service and retail in other countries.
The NIX: no sweeteners, no caffeine and naturally low in calories.
The KIX: a refreshing blend of fruit and a hint of cayenne for a kick-ass day
The two originally met by chance in an airport in 2004 travelling from Germany to London and previous to setting up the company, Kerstin was with HSBC and Julia was the Group Supply Chain Operations Manager with Intuit.
1) What are the most exciting aspects are to running and building an FMCG company in a very competitive space?
What makes us happy is seeing people enjoying our drinks. The feeling of spotting a customer in a Wagamama restaurant with a Nix & Kix is priceless, especially when it’s clear that they are really loving it. Going to restaurants is obviously not possible at the moment so we are very grateful for all the great reviews we get online, be it on our social media or Amazon.
2) What were your biggest successes and challenges in 2019?
We gained a number of great customers in 2019 including new listings in Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, more Tesco stores as well as an increase in distribution within food service for example David Lloyds, also we are now core listed with both Brakes and Bidfood.
3) What were your initial thoughts when you started hearing about the gravity that Covid-19 might impose on business as it spread toward the UK?
The initial thought was: let’s make sure that our warehouse is full and we don’t need to produce in the next quarter! Fortunately we already had some experience with planning for extreme scenarios with our hard Brexit preparation not too long ago.
4) What were the immediate impacts in how it affected your business, both logistically and financially?
A large part of our business is food service and casual dining so there was a big financial impact. From a business perspective we learnt quickly to explore other avenues we never got round to looking into previously so there are some upsides! Also, on the positive side, we have a few new listings in the pipeline and luckily retail has picked up again after the initial focus on toilet paper has shifted.
5) How have you responded and which steps have you taken across Nix & Kix to adapt and mitigate during these very challenging times?
We furloughed some of our staff which wasn’t an easy decision to make but definitely the right one. We looked closer at our cost base and made quick adjustments where we could. Luckily as a small business we don’t have any large fixed commitments on the payments side so it’s easier to preserve the cash we do have.
6) Have you got any plans to rebrand and which new flavours and new products have you got in the pipeline? Which have been the most popular?
We had planned a brand ‘re-fresh’ for spring 2020 – this has now been delayed to later in the year. The launch date very much depends on the economic situation over the next weeks and months but hopefully we have some news to share on this very soon.
Our Mango & Ginger is the most popular flavour across the board but when you dig deeper into the data you’ll find that it does vary a little bit depending on location of store and type of outlet.
7) You sell products through most of all the large UK retailers (Sainsbury’s, Tesco’s, Waitrose, Morrisons) to big hotel brands like Marriott and Mandarin Oriental – who would be 3 companies in particular you would love to start selling Nix & Kix through?
There is a long list, particularly when you consider the opportunities in other countries as well. We recently started selling in the Middle East which has been amazing for our brand given the great fit – non-drinkers in a country with good weather all year round!
Here in the UK restaurant chains like Yo Sushi, Leon and Itsu have been on our hotlist for a while. All of them serve healthy yet tasty food so our drinks would be a perfect match.
8) What do you see as the future for Nix & Kix?
We would love to see Nix & Kix as a successful global brand. Growing globally would mean we could invest in the team and help more consumers drink better when they are not drinking.