Frucor New Zealand is an undeniably brand and marketing-led company that has developed a reputation for innovation in product, communications and activation. And that attitude flows through the company directly from the office of chief executive Mark Callaghan.
Frucor New Zealand launched its founding brand, Fresh Up, around 50 years ago when it was still part of the New Zealand Apple and Pear Board. And it’s come a long way since then, with the company developing into a significant international beverage business that has over 20 brands in its stable across the energy, sports, milk, soft drink, fruit juice, waters and iced tea categories.
The company, which was bought by Japanese food and beverage company Suntory in 2008, employs around 900 staff and is category leader in energy drinks (V), flavoured water (H2GO, Mizone) and juice (Just Juice, Fresh Up, Simply Squeezed). It clocked in with annual revenue of over $400 million in the 2012 financial year and it exports approximately NZ$250 million of beverages a year, which, as a point of comparison, is around one fifth of New Zealand’s total annual wine exports.
Mark Callaghan, who joined the company as chief executive following Mark Cowsill’s retirement after 18 years as managing director, was previously the Melbourne-based managing director Australia & New Zealand for Cadbury. He has also held a number of senior sales and marketing roles, including brand director – confectionery, for Cadbury Schweppes in the UK. He also served as a non-executive independent director of Warehouse Group Ltd. and he won New Zealand’s Supreme Marketing award in 1994.
The Manukau-based company is second only to Coca Cola in the extremely competitive non-alcoholic beverages market; it is one of few large consumer goods businesses in New Zealand that has absolute control over brand strategy and investment decisions; it is a magnet for young marketers and talent looking to learn and advance their careers; and it is acknowledged in its sector, by consumers and by trade customers alike as one of the most innovative FMCG businesses in this market in terms of product, communications and activation.
Recent examples include being the first mainstream juice producer to deliver a 50 percent reduced sugar product (Just Juice 50%) that uses natural sweetener stevia; it replaced the entire range of H2GO flavoured waters with a zero sugar product this year, again sweetened with stevia; it recently completely rebranded its H2GO brand with a limited edition designer artwork; and V continues to delight consumers and retailers with its conversation-starting commercial delivery. As an example of how powerful the V brand is, New Zealand is one of the few energy markets in the world where Red Bull isn’t number one and V is also bigger than Coke in the Oils channel, which is also unique to this market.
Frucor New Zealand has never failed to deliver topline sales growth in its history. And creatively, whether it’s building a life-sized skate park pinball machine for Mountain Dew, pitching for and being granted a day with Usain Bolt just a matter of weeks after his London Olympics triumph to launch the Gatorade brand in New Zealand, or putting a cone on top of the Sky Tower for its star performer V, which consistently delivers creative tracking scores that are best in class in terms of the Colmar Brunton database, a willingness to push the boundaries and think big are ingrained in the Frucor marketing ethos. In recent years this attitude has been acknowledged countless times, with regular recognition at industry awards like AXIS, Effies, the TVNZ-NZ Marketing Awards and Cannes Lions alongside its creative agency Colenso BBDO.
In 2013 Frucor has already been awarded the Supreme Nexus Award for the ‘V Motion Project’, with other big awards including The Most Effective Client of the Year at the 2009 Effies and a Gold Effie for Sustained Success in 2011. On top of this there are the dozens of other category awards across multiple brands over the last four to five years that stand as testament to the success of the Frucor marketing organisation. The V brand in particular has continued to deliver and, in a category where it holds a greater than 50 percent share on average across all channels, it’s still charting impressive growth.
While there have been many successes, Frucor admits the fickle nature of the primary 18-24 year old, male-skewed target means that some of its initiatives haven’t made the grade commercially. But as an organisation that prides itself on evolving and developing its unique corporate culture, it brushes itself off, takes its medicine and moves on. The investment it puts into consumer insights and understanding means there is a high level of confidence that it will get it right often enough and big enough to deliver on objectives and to its strategy.
Frucor is also taking its brands further afield and expanding into markets in Argentina, Korea, Hong Kong, South Africa, Spain, Netherlands, Sweden, Belgium and Britain.
“Suntory has a ‘go for it’ attitude like us,” Callaghan told Business Auckland. “They want us to grow not in profit only. They want us to build capacity, be more efficient, and to be great in 20 years time.” And there’s no doubt great marketing-led strategy, execution and excellence will be a big part of that.