I had the pleasure of interviewing Rafael Rozenson the Founder & CEO of Vieve Protein Water. Rafael has an extensive background in Consumer Goods having worked for over 13 years for a number of big companies including Procter & Gamble, Disney, Bacardi, GSK, Danone and Mars. Rafael started Vieve after he was frustrated by lack of great tasting protein products on the market. The business has been going for over a year and Rafael is still the sole founder, employee and driving vision behind the brand. An impressive feat for one person! His aim is to disrupt the sports nutrition market with his game changing water-based protein drink.

Name:  Rafael Rozenson

Company:  Vieve Protein Water

Position:  Founder & CEO

Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?

Well I have been taking protein powders & other supplements for over 20 years and have always hated the taste, experience and work involved with them.    I found protein drinks to be too full of sugars and artificial flavours.

I am also lactose intolerant and I struggled to find a suitable product to increase my protein intake that wasn’t dairy based.   In short, nothing on the market at the time really met my needs for an easy, tasty, healthy protein supplement.
A few years ago, I was working for a water company and trying to bulk up so I was taking lots of powders, raw cans of tuna, chicken breast, etc.  The taste of everything was really rather unpalatable – in fact to put it bluntly it was really rather gross! I remember looking at a bottle of water and thinking wouldn’t it be great if you could get your protein from something as refreshing as water without having to bother with mixing powders or consuming milky drinks.   What if there was an easier and tastier way to get your 20g of protein?… So the idea for Vieve was born!

Can you share an interesting exporting story that has happened to you since you became a leader or started your company?

There is one customer who we have been talking to for over 6 months now, who is an exporter from the Middle East.  At first I didn’t think much of our discussions, we get approached by a lot of people and often when you are exporting 75% of the discussions don’t lead to actual orders which is incredibly frustrating especially given the cost of shipping some samples overseas. After an incredibly long negotiations and also several months of getting the product registered in the middle east (not easy!) – this customer has recently placed their first order which was for an entire container of our product. This one order will deliver more revenue for us then what we made in our entire first 12 months which makes you realize the amazing opportunities that are out there from an exporting point of view!

What advice would you give to a founder or CEO who is just starting their exporting journey?

Be patient!  The whole process takes an incredibly long time, especially as in most markets you are dealing with distributors who need to go to their various customers and get feedback which takes several months.   On top of that you also have to factor in the time involved in getting the product registered with local authorities in various markets. You need to make sure your business is set-up from day one for a lot of these (e.g. that your factory has the relevant certifications, you’ve done various lab tests, etc) otherwise your business simply isn’t in a position to export.  Also, you need to factor in various market demands on packaging (e.g. languages, nutritional labelling, etc) and how you will handle the logistics of this without putting in too much complexity into your business.

Can you share any stories or examples of how your company is making a difference to others, or how you’re making an influence in your sector?

We are a tiny little company entirely run and funded by one person, so we are really trying to be different and innovative in virtually everything that we do as we simply don’t have the capital or manpower to take on the big players.   We were the first high-protein drink in the world to use collagen instead of Whey as our primary protein source, offering a true alternative to other products on the market which are milk and dairy based. We also have a unique range of flavours, including the launch of the world’s first watermelon flavored protein drink.   We don’t invest in big marketing campaigns and rather rely on our users to generate word-of-mouth for us (we’ve had 150+ 5 star reviews which you can read here https://drink-vieve.co.uk/pages/vieve-protein-water-reviews and over 500+ user generated posts in a year ).    Having said we have been approached by every major retailer in the UK and lots of different exporters so I think people are finally starting to notice!

Can you share what you believe will be the “Top 3 Exporting Trends Over The Next 3 Years”

Here are my top 3 trends:

  1. Export opportunities will not necessarily come from the most obvious places:  every market is an opportunity and where you brand finds its next big market could be anywhere.  For example, in the middle east we will launch in Lebanon first which is an unusual market as most brands tend to start in UAE or Kuwait.   We are also looking at big opportunities in Malta and Iceland, which are both not obvious markets to target given their size but could make for a nice business for us as we are working with a couple of very reputable and established distributors who like our product.
  2. Exporting will become more difficult with Brexit: none of us really know what will happen (Still!) however the important thing is to be prepared.  Most export markets have similar requirements so ensure you have these is really critical now as opposed to waiting for a really clear Brexit blueprint which still might not come for months
  3. Export revenues will become more critical in the face of declining domestic consumer demand: the uncertainties around Brexit will make many categories unstable in the UK over the next 2-3 years however a weakening pound means UK exports will become more attractive globally.  This represents a valuable opportunity for business especially start-ups that they should seek to capitalize on even from an early stage. As an example, we are a young business just over a year old but I predict that in the next 12 months our export revenues will eclipse our domestic revenues easily.

What are the medium to long term objectives that you’re focusing on at your company and how will you achieve this?

Our long term objective is to become a £10 Million+ business over 5 years and we have a clear business plan and blue-print of how to deliver this although as a start-up we need to be flexible and adaptable because opportunities always present or remove themselves.  

The really key guiding principle is that in order to achieve this goal, our first priority is we need to be relentlessly focused on our product and continuing to deliver the best tasting protein drink on the market.   We will also need to innovative with the key trends in the market (e.g. Veganism) and rapidly respond to and anticipate to key consumer trends in a way our competitors. Innovation is always key!

Medium term we need to establish ourselves in the UK with a goal to be in 500 stores (we are in 200 currently) as well as at least 10 international markets.  We have some exciting innovation and launch plans in the next little which makes me think we can deliver on our goals but as everything with a start-up – nothing comes easily!