Preparation is everything when it comes to Brexit, with the consensus being that you really can’t start early enough to prepare for the changes that will come in 2021. One company that knows everything about preparation is Revive Active, a massive success story in the Irish health supplements sector that is determined not to let Brexit slow down their plans of expansion in the UK.
Revive Active has been successful almost from its formation in 2011, thanks in large part to research and its dedication to producing exceptional products. The company was founded by Daithí O’Connor, who comes from a finance background but put over 12 months’ research into the supplements sector before establishing the company. “It was almost by accident that I was introduced to supplementation,” he explains. “There were a number of medics in Galway who were interested in alternative medicine and I was introduced from the business side. While they had an array of different ingredients that they would recommend to individuals, nobody had taken on the task of putting these ingredients into one product.
Daithí could see the effects of key ingredients such as CoQ10 and L-Arginine, both of which were involved in Nobel prize-winning studies, and so came up with the idea of putting these ingredients in with many other vital ingredients for wellbeing. “The idea was to make the best product possible, and then figure out the rest afterwards. That has always been the main thrust of our business, to always raise the bar. Our first product, Revive Active, is our flagship product, and contains 26 ingredients in a dissolvable sachet that is easily absorbed. We have 13g of product in there with no fillers or binders – to take Revive Active in tablet form would mean taking thirteen individual tablets.
And undoubtedly, the business has been a success: From 2016 to 2018, turnover doubled, and from 2018 to 2020, it doubled again.
Brexit strategy 1: Move to Ireland
Today, the company has nine products, with one more in development, seven of which are manufactured by the company inhouse. At first manufacturing was outsourced to the UK, but with Brexit looming, Daithí made the decision to move the operations inhouse to Ireland. “I always wanted to come back to Ireland and manufacture here but we were curtailed by finances. But with Brexit coming I discussed it with our head of operations Colm Horton, , we thought we would bite the bullet and set it up. It has been a fantastic success, and we now have 14 people employed in Mullingar. We’ve been in operation about 18 months and already it’s getting too small and we’re looking at additional warehousing for storage.”
The move was made to minimise the financial risks from Brexit; in 2018, the company was granted European Regional Development Funding (EDRF) for the employment of a manufacturing manager at the plant. EDRF grants are implemented and managed by Enterprise Ireland.
Brexit strategy 2: Put your customers first
From the very start, Revive Active’s greatest marketing tool was its customers. Our biggest issue was trying to explain to the consumer why our product was different,” Daithí says. “You’re curtailed by claims – even the two ingredients with Nobel Prizes behind them don’t have claims with the European Food & Safety Authority. So, our customers were our biggest advocates and salespeople because they experienced the products benefits. Different people got different results, eg sleeping better, more energy, clearer thought, fewer colds and flus, and they then would tell their friends. Word of mouth is still so important for us.”
Daithí could clearly see that keeping the customer happy was key to success in post-Brexit Britain. “Our customers don’t care about Brexit. If they order a product, they expect to get it the following day. We must maintain our top class service to our customers as anything less would be a threat to our business.”
“We thought at one stage we could supply everything for the UK from Mullingar, and perhaps incorporate the tariffs and customs. But then we began to think that we could not risk our product being stuck in customs. So first we have built up stock, which we will send over before the end of the year to give us a two-month buffer. Then we are contracting out manufacturing to a company in Wales to supply the UK. It means we have two separate entities supplying the UK and Europe.”
Daithí says that supply to Northern Ireland could come from either location, and it’s important decisions like these that Enterprise Ireland’s advisal services have been invaluable. “Enterprise Ireland has been a great support to us with making such decisions over the past few years. In fact, I have been in touch with a specialist logistics person to discuss Northern Ireland post-Brexit.”
Brexit strategy 3: Look at the market trends
Daithí says that the UK represents about 10-15% of their business, but he sees significant room there for growth. The company has retail partners in Ireland, the UK, Nigeria and Portugal, but online is an important market, and through this, they sell all over the world. And it is here that Daithí sees the opportunities for growth in the UK post-Brexit and in wake of Covid-19.
“The whole industry has changed with Covid; the city centres are not getting the business they had before, but online is way up. Community pharmacies are also probably seeing an uplift. Luckily, we had a presence both in the city centre and through community pharmacies already.”
The company can also see the advantages of being a health and wellbeing business at a time when health is everything to the consumer. Both the online business and this focus on health and fitness have had an impact on Revive Active’s marketing plans in the UK. “We’re supplying Sheffield United football club for the 2021 season with Zest – we’re the official immune-support partner for the club,” says Daithí. “We also have a number of ambassadors such as Irish international and Sheffield United player John Egan and professional rugby player James Ryan. We’ll also launch a PR and digital marketing campaign to really push the business next year.”