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Naked Life rides ‘quitting sugar’ wave to crack better-for-you beverage market

Just a year after David Andrew threw his life savings into better-for-you beverage brand Naked Life, the start up has cracked the mainstream market, finding a niche with diabetics and signing with Woolworths Metro.

Naked Life Sparkling is in about 1000 stores, including food service channels, a number predicted to triple by the middle of 2018.

“It’s been a really phenomenal start to our business,” David said. “People are realising they need to get onto better-for-you beverages.”

The drinks are sweetened with a proprietary blend of stevia, erythritol and monk fruit, which provides the same sweetness and flavour profile as sugar.

“There are 1.2 million type 2 diabetics in Australia at the moment and that is growing. The response we’ve had has absolutely blown me away – people are writing in 200 words saying, ‘thank you so much’. I truly believe we’re trying to make a difference. This is an audience that’s felt ignored; it makes all the risk feel worth it,” David said.

David tested his idea for Naked Life with consumers and found 95 per cent of people were trying to reduce their sugar consumption and 99 per cent were avoiding artificial sweeteners, yet 65 per cent said there were no alternatives on the market to allow them to switch. “These are people who wanted to make a change, yet nobody was doing anything about it. I felt almost obliged to go out there.”

Naked Life has found a loyal following among consumers trying to ditch unhealthy options, or “break up with Coke Zero”, he said.

The research, documentaries, health campaigns and consumer backlash against sugar is mounting. A report prepared for the Grattan Institute (which last year called for a “sugar tax”) found about 10 per cent Australia’s obesity problem is due to the consumption of soft drinks with added sugar.  Obesity is a major health problem in Australia with about 28 per cent of adults obese (7 per cent of children) and a further 36 per cent overweight. Woolworths  recently refused to stock Coke No Sugar and it was estimated plummeting soft drink sales wiped an estimated $80 million from the major supermarkets in the last financial year.

The idea for Naked Life and it ethos ‘Living life without nasties’ started with David’s partner Joanne, who is fructose intolerant. “We we’re just sitting in a bar and she was so sick of not being able to have a gin with something, she said, ‘David, just do it’. So I threw it all in and thought I’d give it a go. What I’ve realised is you shouldn’t have to compromise living to be healthy. People believe they have to give up fun or flavour to be healthy, but we’ve realised that’s because there weren’t options out there, so that’s been a real opportunity for us,” David said.

“We launched in December last year; it was meant to be September but flavour wasn’t right. We’ve worked so hard on the flavour. For a brand like ours not to launch before summer was a huge risk, but the flavour had to be right. I hate stevia so much. It’s the equivalent of Brussel sprouts to me. We had to keep going relentlessly; we can be as healthy as we want we can stand for all the right things but if it doesn’t taste good we’d be gone. Our biggest hurdle is people don’t believe it can taste as good as it does”

He said positioning the brand as “accessible” has been critical to it’s success. “You don’t want too alienate people being too in the face about being healthy; the risk is they won’t identify with that tribe, or they think it won’t taste good. We’re saying if you’re going to have a drink, have a better one’. This approach has helped us step into the mainstream space a lot quicker.”

While he’s been approached by several investors, David plans to stick to the self-funded model for now. “I had to really take a step back and decide if it all goes under am I going to be happy I had the full crack? As we scale we’ll have to look at more options but at this point of time I wanted to keep the vision clear and go hard at it myself.”

“The market is going to grow, more people are going to enter it. And I welcome that because it means we’ll be at a point where everyone can have a healthy drink.

“The business man in me knows there will be challenges, but the consumer in me is happy.”