Rumble shakes up the nutritional drink category

The Supershake maker is introducing new packaging and vying to position itself in the sweet spot between recovery drinks and meal replacements.
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Victoria, B.C.-based Rumble has been making a bit of noise in Canada ever since the company’s founders made an appearance on CBC’s Dragons’ Den late last year.

Now, as the nutritional drink company prepares to launch in California this summer, it is set to unveil a new package design on its aluminum single-serve bottles it hopes will help better grab the attention of consumers.

Launched in Nov. 2012, the bottles, which retail for $3.99, are now available in 800 stores in Canada, most of them conventional grocers with natural sections, such as Whole Foods, Thrifty Foods and Longos, or natural food stores such as The Big Carrot and Planet Organic. It is also available on Amazon.

The drink, targeting on-the-go consumers and people with a busy lifestyle, is the first to be labelled a “nourish drink” by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency in 2012, presenting a challenge and opportunity to stand out in a crowded category. It faces competition from meal replacement drinks like Boost and Ensure on one side, post-workout recovery drinks like Muscle Milk on the other, as well as natural juices.

But co-founder Paul Underhill says his product differentiates itself by having a whopping 3,100 mgs of omega-3s, to go along with 20 grams of protein, 400 mgs of calcium, eight grams of fibre, and natural fruits and vegetables, including kale, organic spinach, flaxseed oil and red beet juice.

Underhill himself is closely tied to the brand’s story. The Victoria, B.C. native was born with cystic fibrosis and received a double lung transplant in 2011. Prior to the transplant, however, Underhill had been filling his body with extra nutrients by blending shakes for himself. His experiments lead him to the idea to sell his shakes, and he worked with co-founder and naturopath Kim McQueen to further develop the recipes.

Now, he acts as brand ambassador to promote the drink’s benefits.

As it prepared for the big move to the U.S., the company brought on the financial investment and branding expertise of BrandProject, a consultancy founded by former Virgin Mobile Canada CEO Andrew Black and four other entrepreneurs. Working with Stanley Hainsworth, another Brand Project co-founder and also the founder and CCO of Seattle-based agency Tether, the company has revamped the packaging on its 355 mL bottles.

The new packs, designed to appeal to millennials, brings to the forefront the amounts of protein and omega-3s, along with the fact it is gluten free and non GMO, while plastering the words “Supershake” and the flavour – it comes in Dutch cocoa and maple vanilla – across the top so that “in less than five seconds, people get a good idea of what they are getting,” says James McQueen, another co-founder and brother-in-law of Kim McQueen.

The back of the bottle includes a blurb about the product’s origins in Underhill’s kitchen.

“When you put Rumble up against the competitive set, it does pop as looking like something new or different,” McQueen says.

The company has also changed its slogan, from “Feed your hunger” to “Feed the good,” to draw focus to not just all the good stuff inside the bottle, but also to the brand’s cause work. The company donates 1% of all sales to charities that fight hunger.

Put it all together, and the founders of Rumble feel they can turn their product into a lifestyle brand that people will be proud to be seen drinking, whereas other meal-replacement drinks are consumed mostly behind closed doors, they say.

“We feel that Rumble is a lifestyle, aspirational brand people are going to be proud to be associated with,” McQueen says. “We feel there are no protein SKUs, no meal replacement SKUs that have been able to accomplish that.”

To raise awareness beyond the PR push around Underhill, working with Yulu Public Relations in Vancouver, the brand allocates between 5 and 7% of its production to sampling, doing demos and in-store promotions, along with social media outreach.

It also sponsors around 15 athletes, including Canadian national time trial champion Curtis Dearden, who act as influencers.

In store, the company uses danglers, clings and shippers, as well as brochures and pamphlets to hand out at product demos.

The company’s plan is to enter the U.S. through Whole Foods, rather than working with a distributor, to accelerate the distribution, McQueen says.  product through a distribution network. It is also trying to get listed with Amazon to get national distribution, as well in the country’s natural and health stores. It has chosen California because Rumble seems like a natural fit, as people there have an lifestyles.

In Canada meanwhile, McQueen says the company is negotiating to get into Sobeys in Ontario (the product is already sold in Sobeys on the West Coast) and Loblaws, and is also in talks with GoodLife Fitness about selling the drink in its gyms.

AndrewBridge, co-founder and CMO of BrandProject, says Rumble is an example of the new way brands can be built, from the ground up.

“In the new world of marketing you can build brands through social and through advocacy,” he says. “You don’t need to go to one of the big grocery chains and say you’re spending $20 million on a TV campaign to launch a product.

“You can build these products through grassroots.”