When three Australian friends discovered that passengers lose a litre of water for every five hours spent on planes, their long haul trip from Melbourne to London came into such sharp focus that it sparked a start-up disruptor.
“It was a rude awakening as to just how much dehydration is linked to energy, focus, overall health as well as other areas of your life,” says Dan Cray, co-founder of Phizz, the fastest growing effervescent brand in the UK.
The Shoreditch-based business was founded in 2015 when Cray and two school friends ultimately spotted a gap in the market after failing to find an all-in-one solution to stay hydrated. It led to the development of the first Phizz 3-in-1 effervescent in 2020.
“The underpin for us is the hydration and electrolytes that a Berocca won’t give you,” says Cray, whose grandparents hail from Lancashire.
“The nature of a tablet dissolving in water is quite therapeutic. And Phizz is revolutionising how people think in terms of their performance on a daily basis.”
In their research, the trio turned to Paul Anastasiades, a British neuroscientist and Phizz’s head of product development. It consisted of creating concoctions of existing products — in a market dominated more by marketing than science — and a hybrid cocktail of what the Phizz founders believed would keep them hydrated and healthy.
“An efficient electrolyte product requires only a minimal amount of carbohydrates to activate electrolyte absorption and make them effective in the body,” adds Cray, whose two co-founders have moved back overseas.
“For us it was about why the lovechild of Lucozade and a Berocca doesn't exist? Paul’s understanding of what could be done and why it made sense to pair these together was the proof of concept.
“With no scientific background, it was quite daunting to think you could launch a health and nutrition product. You see lots of people who have become self-experts. But we went in with the idea and concept that we could build a business around it.”
Starting lean, the Phizz founders hustled at ways to quickly get the product to market. They found early success, selling to sports clubs and hotels as it aimed to build credibility and reinvest profits back into marketing. From a £300,000 turnover in 2020, Phizz is now into £2.6m growth on the consumer side.
Within their first 12 months they landed a contract with Emirates — the first hydration tablet stocked by a commercial airline — and the global shoots led to inbound interest from distributors in UAE, Hong Kong and deals with Cricket South Africa.
“It sounds good on paper and it was hard to say 'no'. But it was generating less than 10% revenue and taking up more than 30% of our time. We just weren’t geared up for international success despite the interest.”
Cray and Co have scaled back to focus on the UK market in the last three years and are currently third in the category behind heritage giants Berocca and Science in Sport.
In 2021, Phizz gained its first national retailer, Sainsbury’s, while it launched nationwide into Boots in October and has Manchester United as a fresh customer. After COVID and lost revenue, Phizz is now back on board with Emirates with refreshed packaging and triple the usage of what the airline expected.
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“Emirates brought into the vision of hydration,” says Cray, who leads a nine-strong team. “The deal is part of the process as to why we generated the product in the first place, the storyline is a bit of a fairytale contract for us.”
Behind the Brand: Co-founder Dan Cray on..
Behind the name
“People see the name Phizz as a tablet dissolving in water. For us it was a nice coincidence with the word coming from physiology.
We’re in the business of optimising physiology and lifestyles. We were tired of separate multivitamins, electrolyte powders, and sports drinks, a better solution had to exist.
It’s about how to get people there or back there. It’s the sense of optimising your daily hydration into your daily health stack to keep energised throughout the day."
Becoming an entrepreneur
“I was a delivery boy for a local pharmacy aged 11. I’d like to lay claim that was the initial breadcrumb as to how I landed into a somewhat pharmaceutical product. But it was more of a hunger to find my own income and work.
My grandparents moved over from Bolton to Melbourne in the 1960s. Pops was a salesman turned serial entrepreneur. He set up various companies which tried and failed, his last company being a commercial cleaning business. It wasn’t the most glamorous, but to him it was more important to have your own thing and build. It struck me that you didn’t have to walk the normal path.”
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