Magazine article Marketing

Brand Builders: Altu

Magazine article Marketing

Brand Builders: Altu

Article excerpt

What do you get when GlaxoSmithKline professionalism meets entrepreneurial self-belief? Emily Rogers finds out.

During the summer, the curved glass roof above the reception at Nutrinnovator's offices slides back, giving the palm tree in the centre maximum sunlight and allowing guests on the sofas to do a spot of sunbathing.

The feature is symbolic of the company behind the Altu snack bar range, placing as it does a great deal of faith in technology and innovation.

Its next product will be a fruit juice enriched with CardioFlow, a tomato extract found to aid blood circulation (Marketing, 10 November), but for now, Altu is the jewel in Nutrinnovator's crown. The firm was founded last year by three GlaxoSmithKline employees who wanted to use their experience to do 'something more personally rewarding', according to co-founder and Altu marketing director Fiona Vigar.

That these escapees from the corporate world decided to create a healthy, high-quality, snack bar is not surprising, given consumers' craving for nutritional foods that don't taste like cardboard. What is more unusual is the high level of confidence within such a young and small company.

When the first Altu snack bar hit the shops, its founders were already deep in discussion with top 20 ad agency TBWA\London. Might it not have been sensible to wait to see if the venture would succeed before investing in costly promotional activity? The question produces a blank look on Vigar's face. 'We know it's going to work,' she insists.

They have reason to be confident: within two months of Altu's debut in health food retailer Tree of Life, Sainsbury's started to stock the bars, followed by Waitrose. The latter's decision was assisted by a covermount of the bars on Zest magazine and the efforts of Altu's founders as they traipsed around London railway stations handing out bars to commuters - 350,000 have been given away this year. 'I was sampling in Liverpool Street station on my birthday,' says Vigar, proudly.

The founders secured pounds 1m to fund the brand's first year from business angels, which suited them better than venture capitalists, who often prefer a hands-on approach.

Decisions, it seems, are easily made at Altu, from the pitch-free appointment of TBWA to the selection of packaging consultancy Seachange. Vigar had used both agencies while working on GSK's Lucozade brand. Although TBWA lost out to M&C Saatchi in the pitch for Lucozade Sport in January 2003, Vigar was impressed with their graciousness in defeat. 'They took me to Ascot as a nearly client,' she says. …

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