NutriWater was the winner of the 'Best natural functional drink' category in the Beverage Innovation Functional Drinks Awards 2012. AlphaBambi's founder Victoria Chirita talks about the creation of this new functional water.
AlphaBambi is a new company, only recently established, and yet you've chosen to enter the highly competitive (and some would say overcrowded) functional water market. What were the factors that led you to making this decision?
Victoria Chirita: The idea behind NutriWater actually resulted from my own need for a really healthy and good-tasting drink, but I couldn't find anything like that on the German market. The idea was to create a drink without sugar or sweeteners that you can enjoy without having a guilty conscience.
What was your background? Why a move into the drinks industry, and why is the business called AlphaBambi?
Victoria Chirita: My main area of work until NutriWater was purely the online market. Six years ago, I founded the company DeinDesign with two friends. You may think that this is quite the opposite to the drinks industry, but I believe that if you have good ideas, diligence and some luck, you can be successful in a variety of different businesses. And yes, I just had the urge to create a healthy and tasty drink.
AlphaBambi is the culmination of six years' experience as a female entrepreneur. At the time of founding DeinDesign, I was 22 and as you can imagine, I had difficulties being taken seriously as a businesswoman. As a consequence, I had to learn to be a bit more 'alpha' but also not forget that a bit of 'Bambi' can also do no harm. This learning process led to the name 'AlphaBambi' being created, and in a way that resembles my attitude to work.
Having decided to 'go for it', where did you start: With branding, with developing the functional recipes, or with raising the money?
Victoria Chirita: It was more a process that sort of developed over time than a case of OK, let's go for it. I was in Hong Kong, and while I was there I got to know the company Healthworks, their philosophy and their products. It got me so excited and something in my head kept on saying, if we could only have something like that in Germany.
Of course, the concept of traditional Chinese medicine isn't possible to implement without long-term knowledge, but I found the idea of healthy drinking so exciting that I started to work more intensively on the idea.
A year after the idea had first crossed my mind, I went to my local pharmacy and I bought the first herbs, flowers and fruits. Together with a natural health professional, I then created the first potential recipes. After my first attempt, I started to think of possible names, always with my credo, let's see what happens, and when I had finally found the right name NutriWater, I was able to secure a European Community Trade Mark, then a potential supplier of raw materials, a beverage technologist and a local filler. After I had managed all of that, I began to realise that I didn't want to stop, and it became clear to me that NutriWater was born.
Up to now, I have financed it all myself and I must also thank my mother who has supported me all the way. She has been a tremendous help.
Did you carry out consumer research to arrive at the three different recipes?
Victoria Chirita: My consumer research took place primarily within my circle of friends. I looked at their biggest health concerns or problems and what plants can help combat these issues. I also had great support from our natural health professional and our drink technologist, who fine-tuned the taste.
Once the product was finished, I organised three focus groups to blind-taste similar products alongside NutriWater. It was quite interesting to see that NutriWater always stood out due to its unique and unusual taste, being not as sweet as the others.
The niche-functional tagging, pack design and point of sale seems to clearly target women. What's been the reaction so far?
Victoria Chirita: Women have been quite influenced by the design. However, this doesn't mean that men don't buy the product, they just tend to hesitate a bit more at first.
I have the feeling that women tend to be more receptive concerning a new product, but let's be honest, what guy doesn't enjoy having nice skin, a great body and a good mood?
Where is NutriWater available and how are you marketing the product?
Victoria Chirita: Right now, NutriWater is only available in the foodservice market here in Berlin and via the online store Trink-Gesundes, but soon you will be able to buy NutriWater via its own online store, so that we can serve our customers throughout Germany.
In addition, NutriWater has established itself in the fashion industry and sports sector. The fashion label Laurèl regularly serves NutriWater at its German events, and well-known personal trainers such as Michaela Okulaja use NutriWater as healthy refreshment during training.
Apart from that, we also have a bright blue branded NutriWater classic VW camper van called Kunibert and a NutriWater Vespa called Kunigunde, which both spread the brand message in Berlin, serving as perfect delivery and product promotion partners.
Of course, all news regarding NutriWater can be found on our website and on Facebook. New fans are always welcome!
Generally, I would like to expand the online business, because I began there and I believe that you can create enormous brand awareness online. Also, I'm a great fan of cross-marketing; positioning your brand with products that fit the image of NutriWater's style. And of course, some guerrilla marketing campaigns are also planned, so please watch this space!
Where else do you hope to have NutriWater on sale in the next year and beyond?
Victoria Chirita: My ambition would be to sell in Vapiano, Balzac and basically all franchises specialising in high-quality and healthy food, because these would be perfect partners for NutriWater. We welcome enquiries!
What other functional niche categories are you tempted to enter, and when are we likely to see new products from AlphaBambi?
Victoria Chirita: At the moment, we would like to focus only on our three varieties: PureSkin, HappyLife and SlimBody, because with these varieties, we've already covered a wide spectrum. Despite this, however, I have some exciting things lined up, but I don't want to give away too much. I do believe that 2013 is going to be an exciting year.
Are you tempted to add products targeting male as well as female consumers?
Victoria Chirita: I am of the opinion that in regard to our ingredients and their effects, we're already addressing men, but concerning the design, it will certainly become a bit more masculine.
You must have looked at a lot of other brands for inspiration. What other functional water brands do you admire?
Victoria Chirita: My role model in a way is Healthworks from Hong Kong, and I also think that the company DrySoda has a very exciting market strategy. They have developed the perfect strategy and you can really see how passionate they have been about creating their products. Actually, it occurs to me right now that both founders are women and that must mean something!
Beyond new markets, new products and perhaps new types of consumers, what's next for AlphaBambi?
Victoria Chirita: We're currently looking for a suitable investor who understands the concept of NutriWater and wants to help us grow and reach our next goals. The issue of distribution is in our minds and for this we're still looking for the right partners.
The Alpha team also is going to grow, and who knows, maybe Kunibert and Kunigunde will get some support in their team. Lastly, I'm really curious to see how 2012/13 will go, but one thing is sure, I'm looking forward to it!
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This article was first published
in Water Innovation.