Alan Barratt - Grenade January 25, 2019 20:33
Grenade is the go-to brand in the active nutrition/healthy snacking space. With its full range of high protein, low sugar offerings, Grenade leads the way with a range of great tasting, healthy snacking products..
Imagine the thick Brummy accent:
I should make this point as I'm sat on a balance ball, so if I tend to do that (*bounces on the ball) it looks really weird and I tend to do that (*sways side to side) as well.
Tell us about Grenade
Grenade is a sports nutrition brand that's moved into a healthy snacking and lifestyle but people think of us as just a healthy snacking brand but actually we are a brand that does healthy snacking, if that makes sense.
How did you start Grenade?
Ok to take you back to the start this is my 29th year in the fitness industry. I've had lots of jobs, I was a fitness instructor, I've managed gyms, I had a distribution business where I imported product from the US, and we'd sell in the UK. I sold that business in 2008 to my best friend as I kind of fell out of love with that business and I always had the idea to do Grenade as I wanted to have my own brand without knowing what we were doing, so Grenade was very much a hobby which turned into an obsession. So it was founded with my wife. It was incorporated in the summer of 2009, we had actually been trademarking from 2006 so to date now we have had 200 trademarks designed and that's been over 10 years of continuous protection. That sounds like a slogan for Durex, 10 years of continuous protection. So next year will be our 9th year. So I was a qualified fitness instructor, my wife had a proper job, she was a school teacher and then she was working for a charity at the time and we gave up everything and followed the dream, followed the brand.
What did you do to get Grenade to this point?
So the first product we did and in fact the only product we ever intended to do was a fat burner call the Thermo Detonator. This was a real learning curve, I knew a lot about weight loss products and if you could pick one thing everyone was obsessed with powders and the powder market, the product is really commoditised and I don't think consumers can tell if it works or not, or they can't really gauge the benefits as such and so you don't tend to get the advantage of a quality product, consumers just think everything is a quality product, so we focussed on weight loss, you can feel something fairly quickly. And the branding we had in mind, Grenade and the Grenade bottle worked, so the idea behind the name was very much opposite to the very clinical, pharmaceutical sounding names. There were no brand names, just stuff in white tubs that looked the same. Having worked in the gym for 8 years, recommending a weight loss product to people they would forget 3 seconds after I told them, especially the name. So if we could have Grenade name, and the bottle, protected it, we would have a name and a bottle that portrayed strength and more importantly memorable. As a brand you need to be memorable. People think you have to be liked, you don't have to be liked, you just have to be memorable. So the worst thing you can have as a brand is that consumers have no opinion of you. Because that just leaves you in no mans land. So whether people love it or hate it, they need to remember it. So the first product was weight loss. We did that for two years. We always referred to ourselves as the Red Bull of sports nutrition. Most brands, in some cases had hundreds of products, and having distributors of these products, 99.9% of them didn't sell but you had to stock them anyway so as a distributor it was a nightmare and really retailers just want the stuff that sells. So I thought do one product, along the lines of Red Bull, portraying the strength and it being memorable and making it really impactful to the point that consumers had an opinion on it and it got the immediate benefit of when you took on of the capsules, you got a slap in the face around 20-25 minutes, you knew you'd had one. We were, within a year, the fastest selling weight loss product in the UK. Still the case now, still number 1 on Amazon, 8 years running and yeah we did that for 2 years, and nothing else. And we started to get a following, consumers and retailers we asking for more products. So we did. Sometimes I regret that, sometimes I don't but we started making more products and ended up with an entire range of products, sold across the world, but yeah it all started with weight loss.
What is scarier, solo flying or business?
Both in different ways. I've actually been in one crash which was years ago, without me flying. We ran out of fuel and landed in a potato field. I actually went and got my pilots license after that. I've never been scared of flying since as what's the chances of being in two! I'll regret saying that now won't I. I'm now going to die in a plane crash.
Most overused word?
This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but there is always someone in-between us the brand and our consumers. So we obviously have a big retail network and we have great partnerships in retail in all the names you can think of. But whenever we want to launch something or do something quickly and the retailer can't that's always a frustation that we can't always pace that we need?
Biggest win for Grenade?
Definitely being in Virgin Fastrack, with all the brands I look up too, have all been in Virgin Fastrack so to be around like-minded people has been brilliant and that has opened up to lots of other opportunities in the Virgin network so that's been brilliant. Getting into retail. Whenever we get a listing in Tesco, Sainsbury's, Co-op we always get a buzz when we go and look for ourselves in store. I think the likes to M&S specifically was a good one. Premium retail, not the kind of space you would traditionally expect to find something like Grenade. That one I am particularly proud of. The team here. One of the hardest things in the business when Jules and I founded this and then you slowly try and find people that are mad enough to come and work for you, especially when you don't have a specific job for them to do, it takes time, 60 people now and watching them grow. Now we have specific jobs for people, so we look for specific people but in the early days we didn't. Employing friends, didn't work. But we just found people and gave them something to do, think they are still here, But seeing them grow and develop into well adjusted adults I guess!
Most embarrassing Grenade moment?
I suspect, there is a few actually. We shut down the New York metro system when someone left one of our Themo Detonators outside a GMC store and the police found it. And so they shut down a sizeable part of New York, Generally when we shut things down, someone leaves one in a room, we shut down a major road in India, that's all quite embarassing. But good PR.
How much was Grenade's first order?
Best bit of publicity for Grenade?
Nothing beats a tank! When we launched the brand, we had no money, we were down to £27 at one point and it was sailing well. It was ok but we decided to trive a tank into a fitness show because it hadn't been done before. That caused a stir! Plus we set all the smoke detectors off. That put us on the radar. Plus driving it through London. That puts a smile on people's faces.
What is your biggest weaknesses?
I hate being told what to do
I don't take no for an answer.
Makes we really hard to deal with. I am getting better. I and trying to be better at focusing on one thing
What is your biggest strength?
Passion in what I do. I don't think myself as a leader, but hopefully the team thinks I will do what is right for the team. Integrity
What would you do differently if you had to start Grenade all over again?
Hard to say, its a different landscape now. Probably some products I wouldn't launch. Some people I wouldn't hire again. They aren't still here! I wouldn't do this interview for one!
How do you motivate and encourage your employees?
We need people who can motivate themselves. But hopefully by making the best products in the industry people aspire to work here. We are always hiring. We get 400 applicants for every job. We need someone to fit in culturally
What legacy would you like Grenade to leave?
Grenade becomes Iconic. Like Red Bull, Nike, Under Armour. I want the logo to become iconic, quality, integrity, a brand that people care about. We have no children, the brand is our baby. I'd like to think this goes to become a monster global lifestyle brand that people aspire to be part of and use. Failing that I'd just go to prison and die in a plane crash.