ÖselBirch Updates: COVID-19, New Products, Investors
An update on our startup development is long overdue. Which is why we are here now to give you an insight what has happened since the last time we let you peek behind the curtain. It still hasn’t gotten boring, there are still not enough hours in a day and we still learn something new every single day. Let’s look back at Nestle R&D accelerator, our market test which culminated in a packaging pivot, taking aboard our first investors and the ambitious plans that we have ahead of us in the next months.
Market tests in Switzerland and the packaging pivot
As you probably know, last year we had the honor to participate at Nestle Research & Development accelerator program. Among everything else that we learned about Food and Beverage industry, we also had the great opportunity to conduct market tests and get feedback to our products. For us, the most surprising information that we received, was related to our packaging, like “it should be more convenient”, “glass looks fancier but is it really sustainable?”, “packaging doesn’t explain the product well enough”. This led us to look more deeply into different packaging materials for more convenience and analyzing the full lifecycle of a product for more sustainability. As we already had all the experts in hand, we used the opportunity and looked into available alternatives to find a suitable solution. After weighing out different options we contacted TetraPak and already some weeks later we found ourselves in Sweden at an ideation workshop for our new packaging.
The last day of the accelerator: Our coach Sarah & CEO Anne-Liis
Our ideation workshop at TetraPak HQ in Sweden
Meet our new products in new packaging
Our final decision landed on a 330ml TetraPak made from 72% renewable plant-based materials, in a new and natural touch and feel. With the help of the amazing designers at the workshop, we also found a great way to communicate the essence of birch water a lot better. What do you think?
With a prototype we went to our first real tradeshow at BioFach in 2020 (yes, right before the COVID-19 really hit Europe) to showcase our new package and again, to gather feedback and consumer/customer perception. This time, the response was much more positive and generated a huge attention. Most importantly for us, it generated a very positive response from retail representatives. We returned from the fair, ecstatic about the reactions, contacts and requests we had received, and then COVID-19 made it to Europe…
From shock, to survival mode to…
As the virus crashed, so did our numbers and future plans. Lockdowns killed the gastronomy sector and therefore also a huge part of our business. Focus needed to be rechanneled and we could forget all about the new product requests we received from BioFACH, as retailers were too busy making sure that there is enough toilet paper and noodles. However, there is always light at the end of the tunnel. We did not sit idle; we decided to take action and not give up! We delivered free ÖselBirch to the hospital in Ösel (Saaremaa), to the workers at supermarkets and to our long-time good partners and restaurants to offer some sympathy and appreciation. We also started a new product development, about which we cannot reveal much yet, however, look out for exciting news very soon. After the first big shock we were able to get in touch again with some of our previous contacts and generated first pre-orders for our new packaging. So now, although some months later than initially planned, we are going to launch our new ÖselBirches in a convenient 0,33L carton packaging in August in REWE Süd shops as part of Startup Lounge program! Shout-out to Selda Morina! Other channels and shops will follow, and we will certainly let you know as soon as possible.
We were also out with our products in Bikini Berlin Foodbuzz POP-UP shop, which provided us with valuable consumer feedback through active sales and regular tastings.
Quest for investors
In light of these developments we also needed to speed up our quest for investors. This new production will be our biggest one so far and requires more capital than what we are used to. So bootstrapping wasn’t an option anymore. Luckily today, despite COVID-19, we are proud to have found two private investors not only to help financially but also with their knowledge, network and experience: Hollerhöfe zu Gast im Dorf & Anthony (Ton) Christiaanse.
Drs. Anthony Christiaanse, in addition, has taken over an advisor role, to which we are very grateful as he has over 30 years of experience in international food and beverage industry. He has had various CEO roles, among them the largest supplier to UK retail and as interim CEO the largest foodservice wholesaler in the UK and the 3rd largest French dry producer in the world. He is also a member of the prestigious Institute for Turnaround.
Our quest has not yet ended, however! To ensure a successful market launch we are continuously looking for matching investors. Should this intrigue your interest, feel free to contact our CEO Anne-Liis.
What to look forward to?
First and foremost – our new flavors in this new awesome-looking and more sustainable package! To get the latest news and offers into your inbox before anybody else, sign up here! We will also have a pre-launch online with additional exclusive offers, so it’s totally worth it to sign up.