Kerstin Robinson and Julia Kessler are friends, founders and have fire in their bellies…well chilli, at least.
Their brand of soft drinks, NIX&KIX promises “A little heat & a lot of happiness” and the special ingredient in each one is a little cayenne chilli.
They tell their tale of the origins of NIX&KIX on their web-site.
“The NIX&KIX story began 12 years ago after a chance encounter on a flight to London, when we made the decision to relocate to the UK. Following this fortuitous meeting, we enjoyed a long stint in the corporate world, all while experiencing the London nightlife to the fullest.
The pivotal moment came when we both realised that we had reached a point at which nights out fuelled by Vodka Red Bulls would no longer do. Instead, we wanted to enjoy ourselves without necessarily drinking alcohol every time. Along with this realisation, we also noticed a change in our taste buds, as we started to find the soft drinks available either too sugary or bland. This led us to set up a lab at the back of a small shop in Shoreditch, where we began experimenting with different drink combinations, involving customers to the shop, as well as the owners and their extended families.
Our product range is centered around chilli, and with good reason. Chilli was the one ingredient that just about everyone gets incredibly excited about. Additionally, we managed to develop the drinks such that the flavour from the fruit comes through first, with the kick from the cayenne chilli only setting in after a couple of seconds. The end product is a one-of-a-kind flavour experience that you are quite unlikely to find elsewhere.”
I recently had the pleasure of sharing a stage with Kerstin when she was a panellist at The Value Engineers’ “Think Small” conference and I was MC. Asking her about the challenges of being a small brand, she told us about their early struggles and just how important it was that they stuck to their original aims.
“If we’d asked consumers at the very start of the business ‘what do you want’, we would have probably ended up with another J2O or something like that just because the consumer only knows what they know. They cannot think beyond that. If they aren’t used to it, it doesn’t make sense for them.
So at the beginning we had a lot of people saying ‘oh, these drinks, they are not sweet enough, we want them sweeter’ and had we done that we would have ended up with a completely different product and a completely different proposition.
That’s exactly why it was so important to just go with our vision, and our vision was to create a product that was not as sweet and then add something else to make it exciting and let people try it. People would then understand what the product is and yes, it’s not for everyone but now we have a lot of people that love it and that’s what we are, that’s why we are doing it”
Whether she meant to or not what struck me was how closely what Kerstin said mirrored the famous Steve Jobs’ quote –“People don’t know what they want till you give it to them”.
Now it just remains to be seen if the pair can turn their vision into a really successful brand and prove once again that not all brands are consumer-led but can instead start with a vision or an idea.
Footnote : The drinks are pretty damn good too and I’m glad to say the fiery, founding friends haven’t given up on alcohol completely yet as they say on their website “While the drinks are best enjoyed cooled on their own with a wedge of lime, they are also very versatile and lend themselves easily as mixers with alcohol. Our favourite combinations include our Mango & Ginger with dark rum, Cucumber & Mint with gin and Peach & Vanilla with Bourbon.”