Having a good product is one thing. Branding and marketing it effectively is another, and Vipe Desai, founder and CEO of HDX Hydration Mix—a company marketing a healthy hydration supplement—knows this better than most. Desai helped introduce Red Bull to North America, and the product went on to become one of the world’s best known brands.
Desai had an unusual entry into the nutraceutical realm. He wasn’t a formulator, researcher or a financial type. He was a surfer.
“I’ve been in the action sports industry for a long time. Probably about three decades. I was a small retailer, had a small surf shop here in Orange County (CA). I started to develop a knack of marketing and branding and it caught the attention of some other people,” Desai told NutraIngredients-USA.
Connecting with active consumers
That experience helped him connect brands to consumers in that space, Desai said.
“In 1998 I left my retail store to start a marketing company. We were hired by a small Australian company called Red Bull to bring their product to the North American market. Since then Monster has called upon me to help them with their strategy.
“I’ve realized that branded products if done well can really find a place in consumers’ hearts and minds and that’s what we are trying to accomplish with HDX,” he said.
HDX Mix is a powdered product that features B vitamins, electrolytes, amino acids and a mix of carbohydrates that includes Beneo’s Palatinose, a complex, slow-digesting carbohydrate, for sustained energy release. Each packet has 25 calories.
The initial target audience is active sports enthusiasts, Desai said. Consumers in this category often think about everything except hydration, he said.
“They think about their equipment, their boards, their bikes, what kind of tires they’re using. They think about their bodies last,” he said.
“We wanted to have a truly hydrating product but we wanted to have some additional efficacy. We want to build a story around healthy hydration.”
The company initially worked with a custom formulation house in Southern California that was looking to expand into contract manufacturing and wanted a launch product for that effort. The formulator subsequently decided to back away from manufacturing, so the product is produced by another contract manufacturer, Desai said.
The company is taking a taking a different tack from the usual market entry scenario which consists of online sales and then trying to sign up a distributor. Desai said pursuing a focus strategy to target its most likely consumers.
“We are building our channel strategy. We are not going after national chains. We are curating a specialty retailer network of cycling shops, surf shops and skateboard shops. And we are looking at sporting goods retailers. We are introducing a new product category to them,” he said.
Along that line the company recently announced a licensing deal with a small chain of four gyms in Southern California that will rebrand itself as HDX Fit and will feature the company’s hydration product and logo. While the gyms at the moment have only 300 members, Desai sees this community as influential.
“We believe that first and foremost we are a lifestyle brand. The powder was the first step in building our brand,” Desai said.
Future plans for the company include an app that is currently under development. While there are many competing activity applications for mobile devices, Desai said his will be the first that incorporates a hydration element, correlating activity level, body weight and temperature to give users a feel for how much they should be hydrating in a given situation.