Meet the founder of Polar Krush
Hi Paul, it is a pleasure to meet you, please tell me a little about yourself ?
I am a family man with 4 children, a beautiful wife and a dog. I am very into fitness and enjoy spending time at the gym, I go there every morning before work. I also enjoy playing football with my fellow middle aged team mates and I support Newcastle United. I am very driven with a strong work ethic and I'm also very passionate about Polar Krush - it has been my life for nearly 20 years!!
The iced-drinks industry is a unique industry to endeavor into - what inspired you to start Polar Krush and is there a story behind the name?
A friend operated a café on Sandy Bay caravan park way back in 1998. He could not get a supply of slush from his regular supplier and asked for my help. I looked into it and thought I could make it for him to help him out. I made my first product in a stainless steel bucket and within about three attempts I had a better product than the one he was originally using! Because it was better in quality, appearance and taste than the leading frozen drink on the market at that time I figured I could make a business out of it.
That's when Polar Krush was born. I sat with an artwork designer and threw around names, I didn’t want to use the word slush because in my mind slush was dirty snow/ice on the ground in the winter. Crush rhymed with slush and then adding the K gave it a little edge. I was then thinking of cold things; ice, snow etc and that's where the polar bear came into it. I thought the bear would make a great logo and the name Polar Krush sounded great! Sandy Bay became our first regular customer and after that we grew very quickly as word spread of a more relevant brand and product to the alternative at the time. Polar Krush really is the healthier alternative.
Your company has pledged to make all of its drinks sugar free by 2018, what was the driving force behind this decision ?
We did a lot of research on the negative association with the word slush. What we got back was artificial, sugar filled, e numbers... the same words each time. We have always used natural flavours in Polar Krush from the start but later also switched to natural colours and we removed all e numbers to keep the label as clean as possible. Sugar is the new devil in lots of consumers’ eyes but so are artificial sweeteners so we had to come up with something special to not use either in our recipe.
The driving force was to create a guilt-free treat for consumers that would be hard to criticise from a health angle. This has been a challenge as our consumers still demand bright colours so we had to invest a lot of time looking into alternatives.
A consequence of transitioning into sugar free drinks is a change in taste, how do you plan on combating this to maintain consumer satisfaction?
We have worked for three years on this and have finally got to a stage where 7 out of 10 consumers prefer our sugar free version. This is a massive achievement and we know this is a much higher percentage than other corporate soft drink manufacturers where the split is closer to 50/50. Our development work and technique of heating and mixing has to stay confidential but we know we have achieved something at Polar Krush that is pretty special and will be hard to replicate elsewhere.
Polar Krush is considered as an eco-friendly company, how has this impacted the way in which you approach the manufacturing of your drinks?
We have had several electric cars since 2010 in the fleet and generate nearly all our electricity for the production lines from the 212 solar panels on our factory roof which was installed in 2009. We have very little waste 85% is recycled. Our demand for our drinks is seasonal, therefore we manufacture mainly when the sun shines using our own generated electricity, we charge fork trucks with the same approach etc. our approach to suppliers is they have to have as short a supply chain as possible and we audit them very carefully to check their environmental claims.
What would you say sets you apart from other drink manufacturers on the market at the moment?
Our commitment to give consumers what they want product wise. Being able to make quick decisions has seen us grow very quickly. Our brand image is very strong and creates a more premium positioning. Our team are obsessed with being the best we can be in all areas of the business. Every company claims they give excellent customer service, it’s really hard to prove you are better, we have taken this one step further with our dispensers, we monitor their performance electronically and often turn up at a customer’s premises to correct any issues before they are aware.
Our downtime on selling on customers premises is virtually nil in comparison to our competitors, they have to call the supplier and wait for a suppliers engineer to turn up in x days etc. Our dispensers are very visually enticing and POS is very unique. We have limited edition cups, flavours and even our cups are made from environmentally friendly plants. The end result is we sell more iced drinks in locations when we take over from competitors, the word is spreading and we currently have a waiting list of B2B customers wanting to become stockists, usually because they have seen our brand and product in their competitors’ businesses.
Where would you like to see the company in the next 5 years?
I think we will keep growing in excess of 50% per annum, I am not able to give too much away about our strategy but we will be several times larger that’s for sure. Nothing can stop us from achieving our objectives… the brand, company, staff, stockists are all in play creating something special.
What would you say is your biggest achievement as an entrepreneur so far?
I think this is still to come, but making brave decisions in times of doubt and persuading some very talented people to come and work in the business were great achievements to me personally.
What has been your biggest obstacle as an entrepreneur so far and how did you overcome it?
The recession was tough for many. We were included in that. However, we did not give up hope. We have a really positive culture at Polar Krush and our team worked closely to maintain positive energy – their commitment and drive helped us come through the recession.
Our belief in the brand and our loyal customers kept us ticking over until we were in a position to grow again.
What would say is your top tip for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Employ the best staff you can afford and belief in yourself, sometimes you just have to go for it!