Tom Siebel is the managing director of Australian brand VitaminHaus; a company he co-founded in August 2013. The company’s consumer brand, VÖOST, is a young, vibrant brand all about providing specifically formulated, effervescent vitamins and minerals, designed to suit active lifestyles.
In 2016 VÖOST went from Bondi to the Brits and landed in the UK. Now Tom and his team promise to put the fizz back into British Summertime and beyond.
We spent some time speaking with Tom to find out more about the brand, his plans for the UK and more…
When did you launch the brand and what was the reason behind it?
It was during a visit to a trade show in Germany that I saw the potential of effervescent vitamins as a category. German effervescent vitamin brands were experiencing exceptional growth and I felt confident Australian consumers would welcome the product.
In short, once we had a basic concept together, we sat down with a buyer from one of the major supermarkets who said, she would give it a go. This gave us the confidence to really go for it.
Since launching VÖOST, we have taken close to 40% of unit market share away from Berocca in Australia and have has secured a 35% stake in the local market for effervescent vitamins.₁
I believe that there is a huge opportunity right now within the vitamin market because of the continued emphasis on the importance of vitamins and a balanced diet for health and improved wellbeing, along with an active lifestyle. However, in the UK, apparently 70% of people aren’t eating the recommended five, (or more), portions of fruit and vegetables a day.₂
The fantastic thing about effervescent tablets is that because they can be dissolved in water, they can absorb faster and more efficiently than traditional tablets – making them ideal for busy people who need support in getting the recommended vitamins and minerals.
Vitamin C in particular, is also great for fitness enthusiasts because it contributes to maintain the normal function of the immune system during and after intense physical exercise.
What’s your background?
I began my career with a 16-year stint at Woolworths/Safeway before moving to Australian supermarket Franklins Big Fresh. From them I moved to Sakata, where I spent seven years establishing the brand in Australia. For readers who aren’t familiar with Sakata, Sakata is an iconic rice cracker over in Australia, baked fresh using an authentic recipe, which can be traced back to the Japanese village of Sakata. They sold the business to Pepsico.
From Sakata, I then went to Sigma Pharmaceuticals. This gave me my first taste of the complementary medicines markets. Having worked the industry, as well as operating across both sides of a retail business, I know the territory well and I guess you could say I have earned the right to operate in it. Then a brief stint at Coles as GM Category Marketing under Ian MacLeod (Ex ADSA).
It was this varied retail and supply experience, as well as heaps of raw enthusiasm, that gave me the confidence to venture out on my own. I somehow managed to convince an old colleague to set up a brokerage and consulting firm. After two years, we realised we need our own brand and we created VOOST.
How many people are involved in the company and what are their roles?
It is a very exciting time for us; VÖOST has subsidiaries in Europe, Africa and Asia. We currently have approximately 8 people working for the company across research, product development and marketing. We’re a marketing company, so we don’t need a huge team, just versatile quality team members.
If you could start over with the business, would you do anything differently?
Not really, as we needed to go through the experience of developing the right products and also providing every new customer with the right amount of attention. You always need some luck and we have been fortunate that we developed a range that suited millennials that enjoy our simplicity of shop and the quality of our effervescent tablets.
What is the hardest challenge you have faced since you started the company?
There are challenges companies face when growing presence in a new country, this includes understanding the countries cultural differences as well as the logistics of delivering your brand in new territory. However, having a team of proactive and capable people around you make this a lot easier! One of the biggest challenges in any new business is cash flow and we have been fortunate to have great customers and partners that have helped us maintain good payments. We also continue to invest all of our profit into building our brand – very much like a ‘cash in cash out’ fruit and veggie shop!
Tell us one fact about you that people wouldn’t know?
I’ve always been a brand design junkie, and at a very young age (in the 70’s and 80’s) I couldn’t get enough of the snow ski brands and tennis brands. I just loved the way they captured your imagination.
2017 is here, where do you plan on taking the brand?
As a company, we pride ourselves on creating delicious, yet effective products and understand that our customer needs vary from season to season, so product innovation is always high on the agenda.
There are plenty more new products we are looking to develop for VÖOST both for the Australian market and in the UK – we currently have 6 products in the UK and in Australia we now have 12 different effervescent products on sale. Our vision is to become the widest range of effervescent vitamins and minerals in the world
To date, what has been the highlight since launching in the UK?
Seeing how our UK social media presence has grown, specifically on Instagram which is a great platform for health and fitness fans. Here we can really talk to and inspire our health-conscious audience and share with them messages of motivation, top-tips and advice.
Another highlight was seeing our product on taxis out of Kings Cross and Euston stations.
We received some great coverage in VOGUE and Cosmopolitan magazine last year including being listed as one of their “radiance resolutions” and hope to build our blogger and influencer engagement in the UK too.
Can you tell us a memorable piece of advice?
I believe if you think, act and behave like a leader, you will eventually become one. This is a mantra that I believe has served me well over the years. It doesn’t matter what your age or gender, if you win over people’s hearts as well as their minds you can achieve great things together.
What is the most memorable piece of advice given to you?
The most memorable piece of advice I have been given is (and it’s an oldie) ‘Rule 1: the customer is always right and Rule 2: if in doubt, refer to Rule 1
Strange as it may seem, but it’s Dutch Licorice
If you could spend 24 hours in anywhere in the world, where would it be?
Sailing the Whitsunday Islands in Queensland
Find out more…
Readers can get motivated by following VÖOST’s #findyourfizz campaign over on social media.
₁ Source: Aztec Scan Data, Effervescents, to MAT 06/11/16.