Tim Pethick is the founder and managing director of ‘renegade’ fruit juice company, Nudie, which not only makes him top banana, but “Chief Nudie”, according to his business card. This sort of maverick marketing is nothing new to fans of the preservative-free fruit juice company or its free thinking founder. In fact, it is Pethick’s fresh perspective on consumer mindsets that is separating Nudie from the bunch. By Catherine Kerstjens.
“Nudie was always a brand play, rather than a market play,” says Tim Pethick, founder and managing director of Nudie, Australia’s newest edition to the highly competitive domestic fruit juice industry.
“We’ve all become far more discerning consumers. We have an enormous range of over-processed, undifferentiated products thrust at us daily. Just about every other fruit juice company in Australia uses above-the-line advertising and, as a result, consumers are beginning to feel harassed.”
Pethick launched his Nudie fruit juice range in January 2003. His marketing strategy was based on the idea that if consumers are given the opportunity to discover a new product on their own, they will be more likely to show loyalty to the brand and introduce the product to their friends.
“By developing a simple label, more likely to arouse curiosity than sell juice, we encouraged our future customers to embark on a journey of discovery.”
While the variety of Nudie characters that appear on Pethick’s growing line of unusual fruit juice combinations are keeping consumers entertained, the materials used to store and present the drink are also helping to boost Nudie’s appeal by deliberately emphasising the company’s non-corporate charm.
“The home produced look is deliberate. We are creating a fruit juice product that does not include preservatives or additives. People like to feel part of part of alternative movements, and Nudie is providing a healthy, nutritious and, hopefully, lighthearted alternative movement.”
The strategy appears to be paying off, with the company broadly recognised as the fastest growing fruit juice company in Australia. However, according to Pethick, the journey has not always been peachy.
Nudie was conceived in mid-2002 and the company was developed over a six-month period, arriving at its first retail outlet in January of the following year – a remarkably short development cycle for the enormously competitive fast-moving consumer goods market.
“The product development process was fairly simple. I love fresh juices and fruit crushes and smoothies. I always have. But I don’t like all the stuff that generally goes in them to keep them on the shelf for as long as possible.
“I didn’t always have time to make my own drinks – and no one else would make them for me. So, I got to thinking, there must be a lot of other people out there who would buy a preservative free, additive free fruit juice if it was offered to them. And the boom of fruit juice franchises that was going on at the time seemed to confirm my belief.”
So Pethick started experimenting in his own kitchen with different blends of fruits and different sized bottles. He then engaged a “reasonably-priced” creative agency to design the Nudie logos.
“My first set-back came from the Australian plastic bottling industry. No one wanted to know about Nudie, because I couldn’t provide forecasts on the number of plastic bottles that I would need. I was told, in various ways, ‘Come back when you are a real company.'”
Pethick finally found a bottler in Malaysia who was willing to give him a go.
“The next problem,” says Pethick, “came when the bottles arrived. We had a capping machine for the job, but when we tried to pair the caps and bottles, it simply wouldn’t work. The capper kept breaking the tamper seal.”
For the next two weeks, the Chief Nudie, two employees and a few more volunteers hand-capped 1,000 bottles a week, after hours, to meet the initial demand. But as the popularity grew, so did the number of units required.
“There was a period between January and May 2003 that we hand-capped 10,000 fruit juice bottles per week, largely outside of working hours. My right arm blew up like a balloon. I looked like Popeye.”
So if Nudie juice is Pethick’s spinach, who is Nudie’s Bluto?
“We don’t have a nemesis, but we do apologise to people who make additives and preservatives. Because, if everyone started drinking Nudie, they would be out of a job,” jokes Pethick.
Nudie is flying high as the naming rights sponsor of the 2004 World Hot Air Ballooning Championships to be held in Mildura, Victoria, on 26 June to 3 July 2004. To celebrate, it has commissioned a five-storey high Nudie replica hot air balloon.
“Hot air balloons are not a traditional form of advertising in Australia. In my opinion, they are under-utilised,” says Pethick.
“As a small company, that is self-funded, every cent counts. I could spend twice as much on television or radio advertising as I have on the Nudie balloon and I wouldn’t get half the impact that this balloon delivers. Who’s going to forget a giant Nudie character floating through the sky, above their heads, of a morning?”
To achieve the 25 metre-high character balloon, Nudie sought the assistance of Picture This Ballooning, the company responsible for hot air balloons including Sherrin’s Aussie Rules Football, Liberty Financial’s Floating House, Michelin Tyres’s giant Michelin man and Buena Vista’s Mike the Monster balloon, from Monsters Inc.
“I think the Federation Aeronautique Internationale, the official air sports organisation responsible for the event, was somewhat skeptical when it heard that the event was going to be called the Nudie World Hot Air Ballooning Championships. But the FAI World Hot Air Ballooning Championships didn’t have a much better ring to it and this way the event could be guaranteed positive attention,” laughs Pethick.