One to watch: Feel Good Drinks Company

A small, tight structure means this team has the flexibility to give everyone a say in product development.

Four years ago three friends - Dave Wallwork, Steve Cooper and Chris Wright - quit secure senior marketing jobs at Coca-Cola to found the Feel Good Drinks Company and make soft drinks from natural ingredients with no added sugar.

Within a year of launch the juice drinks gained a listing in Superdrug, before rolling out to other retailers across the UK. In 2003 the brand entered the Irish market and today has a presence in six further territories - France, the Netherlands, Norway, Greece, Hong Kong and Saudi Arabia. Feel Good drinks are available in more than 14,000 outlets and it has an estimated turnover of £5m. Further expansion looms in the company's plans.

The team is undoubtedly ambitious, but is determined that any growth must not be to the detriment of the company's inclusive atmosphere. 'It's a priority for us,' explains commercial director Chris Wright. 'We have no division between management and staff. We will do all we can to keep the team spirit as we grow.'

While the founders are alert to opportunities for growth, marketing director Steve Cooper is quick to highlight the benefits of a compact team. 'We can make quick decisions. If the numbers add up, we do it. One of the frustrations of working for a bigger company was the layers of management. The last thing we want is that kind of structure.'

The team hopes their dynamism makes them an attractive prospect to potential brand partners. Earlier this year Feel Good Drinks was the official soft drink of The Magic Roundabout film. The trio chuckle when asked whether they plan future tie-ins with children's films. 'We didn't choose it because it was a children's film - it made us feel good.' In a similar vein, the brand recently ran a promotion offering customers a free beauty treatment at salons across the UK.

Feel Good's mantra runs through the organisation down to the last detail. Even its employees' business cards have a 'feel good moment' printed on the back. While Wright's is his two children 'happy on a frosty day', marketing manager Libby Dimeloe's is 'relaxing on a beach in Fiji'.

The company's range of beverages now comprises six flavours, with four sparkling Spritz drinks. The entire team is encouraged to suggest flavours - although some have more of a flair for it than others.

'Chris keeps suggesting mandarin, which I keep vetoing - but apart from that, everyone can chip in,' jokes managing director Wallwork. 'We keep our eyes on what is going on in the market, as well as in food categories.

We use relatively mainstream fruits, but try to deliver them in a way that is different to what is already available.

'Anything we launch the entire team will test,' he adds. 'They test throughout the process. They're our biggest critics and make a really good focus group.'

Staff also chip in with branding ideas. 'An excellent example is when one of our team suggested putting Feel Good in brail on the bottle,' says Cooper. 'We thought it was a fantastic idea and did it.'

The staff posed as models for the brand's poster advertising and provide the voices for its radio work. 'We wanted to produce something that shows how passionate we are about what we do. (Using our own staff) comes across as much more genuine (than using actors),' says Cooper. 'Radio is also quite a feel-good medium. The other angle we took into consideration was production costs - you can do good work at a relatively low cost.'

Feel Good Drinks' 15 employees are currently huddled in its busy North London office, which the company moved to just over six months ago. Such has been the company's progress that it will soon be time to move on again.

Cooper indicates that the founders are keen to explore new avenues. 'You can take the brand into so many categories inside drinks and elsewhere - there is huge potential.'

With such a meteoric start to the venture and a number of diverse projects on the horizon, 2006 is shaping up as a promising year for Feel Good.


Oct 2001: Dave Wallwork, Steve Cooper and Chris Wright leave Coca-Cola to start The Feel Good Drinks Company.

Jul 2002: Superdrug places first order.

Oct 2002: Founders recruit their first employee.

Jul 2003: Headcount reaches six; distribution breaks the 5000 outlets barrier.

Aug 2003: Achieves first international distribution by signing a partner in Ireland.

Apr 2004: Launches second product range, sparkling Spritz juice drinks.

Jun 2005: Launches bigger 750ml share bottle size for the grocery trade, accessing the take-home market for the first time.

Nov 2005: Headcount reaches 16, with distribution through 14,000 outlets in six countries and a turnover of £5m.


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