What on earth drives an entrepreneur to take on the likes of Anheuser-Busch InBev and Starbucks? Full Reach asked two Founders to seek some answers.

Imagine one day the Prime Minister of Luxembourg waking up and deciding to mount an invasion of China. It seems absurd but that’s more or less what tiny start-ups are deciding when taking on the mega companies in the category. AB Inbev has five of the top 10 beer brands by sales and 18 brands with retail sales over $1 billion. Meanwhile a brand like Starbucks has almost 28,000 of its own outlets as well as an aggressive retail channel focus. Full Reach spoke to Ilkka Soini, Co-Founder Galipette Cidre and Andy Deeley, A FITCH Brew Co Founder to understand if they were completely insane, or if they were people we should be investing our pension investments into.

“It may sound cliché; it’s ultimately about thinking differently about conventional facts…”

Is Ilkka’s rationalisation for deciding to take on the global Cider brands who have a vice-like grip on mainstream distribution. Perhaps more so than beer, there are more opportunities for innovation on the edge of the mainstream. Ilkka sees the value proposition of Galipette as it’s authenticity.

Galipette Cidre is free from concentrate, has no added sugar, no sweeteners or anything artificial. Just fresh pressed apple juice made of hand picked cider apples, fermented using traditional methods. We believe cider is ripe for similar revolution in quality and craft as we have seen in beer and spirits over the past decade.”

Below – UK brands in Cider ranked by # users (ooo’s) in 2017 source: statista.com

Andy shares a similar perspective on FITCH who are trying to break into an incredibly tough retail market for cold brew coffee. Cold brew has limited acidity in taste due to some compounds not being able to be extracted at the lower temperature – providing a sweeter and smoother taste for the consumer.

“We embrace competition as we know that the growth and awareness of the Cold Brew market in UK will be determined by more than just FITCH. We focus on what we can control and stay true to our vision.”

Building a brand with authenticity will be critical when competing with Starbucks, as well as multiple market entrants with an existing heritage within coffee such as Nescaffe.

“As a consumer facing brand, we decided crowdfunding was the best method to raise finance. This campaign was a huge success in early 2017 over-funding in just 29 hours. This provided us the footing to really start implementing the vision.”

Successful brand building used to be about nine-figure TV ad budgets. No more.” – Ilkka

Both Ilkka and Andy see the ‘bottom-up’ and niche pools of consumers as being the platforms upon which they’ll build their brands.

As Ilkka sees it; “Today a remarkable product and an authentic brand story can reach armies of consumers and create a tribe of followers without such budgets. As Seth Godin puts it – the question today is whether your brand has ‘’permission to engage its audience’’. Regardless how deep your pockets might be, this is something that is not for sale. You have to earn it.”

“Focusing on keeping a lean operating model and investing in the right areas of the business were key into finding the balance between growth and sustainability.” – Andy

For any start-up within FMCG, balancing the capital costs, brand building and business development can be a huge challenge. However modern ways of getting investment from crowd sourcing and the ability to approach every stage in an agile way can make even the most daunting ideas seem plausible.

“How crazy is the idea that we could play a role in challenging the status quo of this category and bring the real cider to more consumers the world over? I guess the answer to the question is ‘very’, but here we are regardless! We started by asking ourselves how do we design an agile business model that is able to scale fast without drowning us in capex investments? Do we need to own a fermentation tank or can existing capacity be rented? Do we need to invest in supply chain infrastructure or can we outsource?” – Ilkka

Both Andy and Ilkka seem clear on one thing – it’s the stubbornness of their initial vision that will help them overcome the day to day challenges of cash flow, capex, confidence and capabilities. There will be ups and downs but remembering why they started is critical to the long term success of their projects.

“Don’t underestimate what you can achieve with the right mindset and application, even if you don’t have expertise in a certain market. Perfection won’t happen from day 1, and you must be comfortable with this!” – Andy

But what’s in it for the long game? Will either of the Co-Founders we spoke to sell up to one of the big boys? It’s one of the questions that will be for tomorrow, though for now, both are still keen to fight the good fight and build their own brands with no outside interference.

Entrepreneurship is a one hell of a roller-coaster, no question. I guess it’s about throwing hands up and enjoying the ride. If we were approached we’d have to decline, ‘We are truly honoured Mr Brito (CEO of Anheuser-Busch InBev), but will have to respectfully decline the offer.’ We are in this for a long haul.’’ – Ilkka

Galipette Cidre is available in Waitrose grocery stores across the UK as well as multiple on-trade outlets, FITCH Cold Brew has recently been listed on Amazon and is presently on a UK tour coming to a festival or office near you. The author of this article, Martin Best is the former Marketing Director of Carlsberg Group and has launched multiple cider and beer innovations including Somersby flavours across central and eastern Europe. Martin is presently Managing Director of Full Reach.