In customary style, Grenade recently exploded onto the scene at our Birmingham office, as we were joined by Alan and Juliet Barratt, founders of the nutrition and performance company, Grenade.
The theme for the night? Creating incredible growth. And as Grenade celebrate their fifth consecutive year in the Fast Track 100, who better to invite along?
Soundtracked by the live band and the clinking of the cocktail bar, the guests arrived, and the room started to fill. Then, it was time for the Solihull-based duo to take to the stage and tell us all about the successes, decisions and risks behind the brand that has changed the face of sports nutrition.
“We were naïve and fearless at the start, and we’re still fearless now”
The idea for Grenade came from Alan’s time in the sports nutrition industry, importing and distributing American-made supplements into the UK market.
As he sold these products, a few things stuck out to him. Firstly, none of the brands were memorable. They were dry, repetitive, and their branding only appealed to athletes and gym fanatics.
Secondly, there weren’t any products that found the right balance between taste and contents. The healthy products were as flavoursome as the cardboard boxes they came in, and the products that tasted great were full of sugar.
“It started off as a hobby. And then the hobby turned into an obsession”
With Alan heading up sales, and Juliet taking care of the marketing, they set out to fill this gap in the market.
The result? A supplement container that looks exactly like a real grenade. Delicious bars containing over 20g of protein, with names including Caramel Chaos, Banana Armour and Peanut Nutter. And a 55-ton branded tank rolling through Marble Arch in London. How’s that for memorable?
“We’ll be ok as long as we’re together”
The couple’s chemistry really shone through on the night. They laughed, joked and talked about the conversations they had in the brand’s early stages, where they had to throw caution to the wind and risk “losing everything”.
When they launched in 2010, they invested heavily in the products, leaving just £27 in the business bank account. And when they didn’t have enough money for a booth at a high-profile trade show at the NEC in Birmingham, they faced a real dilemma. They needed the exposure, but they couldn’t front the cost.
How did they respond? As we all would – they chose the logical option. And took the tank.
As Alan remarked at our event, “it’s fairly easy to be visible at the NEC when you’re in a tank”, and this move got them noticed by a US distributor and kickstarted their armour-plated journey to success.
“We want to inspire people to get more out of life”
That’s a message that resonates with us a lot here at Cooper Parry, and for Alan and Juliet, it turned out to be a damn good business model.
As a healthier lifestyle became more mainstream, they gave their products a global appeal, moving sports nutrition away from the “big men in small pants” analogy that Juliet used. They targeted not only people who exercise, but also people who wanted low sugar, tasty snacks, with ads declaring: “Whatever your goal, YOU GOT THIS”.
They made sure they always stayed true to their branding, their tone of voice and their image, regardless of where they were selling. And as their consistent Fast Track 100 positioning suggests, the results are astounding.
“Our Carb Killa bar outsells single Mars bars in the UK. And it’s in half the stores”
Crazy, right? They’re selling 1.1m bars a week and they command 70% of the entire category in Holland and Barrett. And that’s just one product from their range.
But it’s not only these specialised locations that are hotbeds for Grenade sales. You can find them in nearly all the major supermarkets, at petrol stations up and down the country, and on Amazon, which is one of their most lucrative outlets.
To evidence their widespread appeal, almost a third of their consumers are over 55, and despite some questions about the masculinity of their branding, 52% of their consumers are female.
In 2017 Alan and Juliet sold a majority share to Lion Capital for £72m, and the brand has continued to grow strongly since then – the icing on the high-protein, low-carb cake.
What’s up next for #HUBCP?
We had some amazing feedback from the guests that came to this event, with praise pouring in for the speakers, the networking opportunities, the food and the array of drinks on offer.
But where do we go from here? We asked everyone who attended to put forward suggestions via an online poll for speakers or subjects they’d like to see at future events. From local growing businesses and tech disruptors, to Theresa May and Robert De Niro – all underpinned by a spirit of entrepreneurialism – you’ve left us with plenty of ideas, and you’ll just have to wait and see what tricks we’ve got up our sleeve.