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Vuka (“Wake Up” in Zulu) manufactures a line of all natural energy drinks, formulated with vitamins and nutrients to give consumers energy for the activities that fill their lives. Vuka is aimed at a more sophisticated audience, providing a product for consumers who are a little more concerned about what they put in their bodies. Vuka is available nationwide at various retailers.
MO: What influenced your decision to add another energy drink to an already competitive market?
Alexia: We executed over 6 months of market research that included “energy diaries”, feel boards, traditional focus groups and on street focus groups. By the end, we were convinced that we had come upon a more unique positioning aimed at a consumer who wasn’t being catered for. Our research also gave us cues as to packaging, flavor and ingredients that have helped distinguish us. And, we’re not afraid of competition. Just because there’s a crowded market, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t enter it. There is always an opportunity to do things better or in a different way.
MO: What’s been the hardest part in developing the Vuka brand?
Alexia: I think that developing the brand was the easy part. We face the same logistical issues that any small companies do, our biggest one keeping product in stock, but we don’t really complain about that. But as for our brand, we have always had a very clear vision and direction. One hard part has been always making sure that we’re “on brand”. Sometimes companies make the mistake of doing something that might look like a good opportunity, but could potentially erode the brand. We don’t even print a sticker if we don’t think it’s right for our brand, so we often have to turn away opportunities to keep our brand integrity.
MO: What’s your strategy for creating brand awareness?
Alexia: First and foremost, we created packaging that billboards itself on shelf. We knew that as we started out, it would sometimes be our only point of contact with the consumer. For the first 2 years our focus really was on getting product into consumer’s hands. Starting from the shelf outwards. Now we’re turning that strategy inside out and are targeting a mass of consumers. Our next 12-month campaign covers everything from increasing our social media to Vuka owned programs. We are also planning to partner with some very unique entities on a national scale. Also, we really believe in using traditional media in a non-traditional way. For example, we produced a TV commercial in the first few months of business, and have used to that show retailers that we’re not a fly by night brand, and to elevate us beyond some of the more basic operations out there. We also entered into a 2 year sponsorship with the City Of Denver, which gave us pouring rights to Red Rocks Amphitheatre and other great venues around our home town of Denver.
MO: How has your background and experience contributed to the development of the Vuka brand?
Alexia: Vuka has been the culmination of my entire career. I was an advertising creative who had made my way up to management at a large agency here in Denver. Throughout my career I had the opportunity to work on some of the world’s major brands, and I was able to bring this big brand thinking to Vuka. Because I really understand what branding is about, our approach was to create a brand from the get go, not just to sell an energy drink. My husband Darian has spent his life as an entrepreneur, and has an incredible business acumen, partnered with huge problem solving capabilities. His career in aviation saw him shipping large helicopters out of foreign jungles, so shipping a pallet of energy drinks across the country was a little more simple!
MO: How did you come up with the Vuka flavors? What kind of natural ingredients are you using?
Alexia: Vuka uses only natural ingredients, no high fructose corn syrup, no preservatives. We knew that our consumer wanted something healthier. We worked really closely with Wild Flavors to develop our formulas and they have been an incredible partner in getting Vuka off the ground. Some of our flavors are more exotic, like Pomegranate Lychee (lychee is my favorite fruit!) and some are more traditional like Berry Lemonade. But don’t forget that we have the functional ingredients in there too, and we provided Wild with a list of ingredients that we felt were appropriate for the functions and they helped us fine tune that.
MO: What professional accomplishment are you most proud of so far?
Alexia: Running a business that is growing leaps and bounds, being able to do that with my husband, and have 3 kids under the age of 8 while we’re at it! Vuka is our 4th baby!
But honestly, I’m proud of bringing a product to market in such a competitive environment and really have every question we had answered. We did the research, we trusted our gut, and now we have a product on shelf that really is getting some attention from the consumers.
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