From the source: Janine Allis, Retail Zoo
Janine Allis founded Boost Juice 16 years ago, growing the company into a retail network that also includes Salsas and Cibo with her husband, Jeff Allis. Now the executive director of Boost’s parent company Retail Zoo, Janine has become the public face of the Boost brand, appearing on numerous television programs and advocating for the Boost philosophy.
COMPANY PROFILE: Retail Zoo
Retail Zoo is the parent company of Boost Juice, which has grown from a single Adelaide store in 2000 to a global network in 17 countries that turns over more than $2 billion each year. The Boost brand has grown by an average of two countries and 30 stores per year for the last four years, cementing itself as a major player in the global smoothie and juice market.
Inside Retail: The boost name has expanded quite a bit over the last decade, what do your future expansion plans look like?
Janine Allis: You always keep your eyes open for opportunities. The key thing that we find with international is that there are many countries out there that fit our criteria and fit the demographic; the hard thing is finding the right people to do it with. There are enough people out there that have big pockets, but often they’re not the right people that can really grow a brand from nothing to something – something like we have in Australia. In Malaysia got well over 100 stores, Singapore is now up to 25, U.K. is up to over 30 and it’s tough, so you’ve got to find the right people to do it.
IR: What’s your approach to finding the right people?
JA: You know, it’s really interesting because we’ve tried everything. We’ve tried advertising it in airlines, we’ve gone to conferences, and we’ve gone through Aus-Trade. Pretty much everything you could possibly think of we’ve done to attract great people, but what we find is the number one way we get people is they come to us. We have a long list of people and often we get an influx of international inquiries that inquire after events like the Australian Open, Grand Prix and obviously the Melbourne cup. People come to Australia and go: ‘oh my god, what’s this’ and then we get inquiries from there. We still work with Aus Trade and we still continue to work conferences et cetera, but really we’ve had most of our success that way.
IR: Is the popularity of the product category boost operates in also important in that regard?
JA: There’s no question the wellness category is one that is expanding, Australia, England, America and every other western country in the world is struggling with health and obesity, so it’s something people are looking to for answers. What attracts them is that anyone who is a business owner has a curious mind. Even myself, when I travel, am always looking for the next big idea. Quite often they go to a boost and see the long queues and they see a cool concept that they think can work in their market – then they contact us.
JA: We’ve got hardly any competitors compared to what we had in 2004 and 2005, everyone and their dog was introduced to us. At the end of the day you focus on yourself and you continue to talk to your customers and you continue to be relevant. The day you stop inventing yourself or stop looking at yourself is the day that you might as well pack up. You have to continue to innovate; we’re in an era now where nobody has ever seen the seed of change like we are today. The capabilities of social media, the internet and purely the brain power of the computer has taken us into change quicker than any other era in history, because we can do everything so much quicker.
IR: On that note, Boost seems to have transitioned into new media better than many other brands, what do you attribute that to?
JA: At the end of the day you embrace it with two hands and have to run with it. I think that’s what we do, Boost’s philosophy is “love life” and it has a certain tone. We don’t take life too seriously with regards to ourselves. We take our partners seriously, but certainly don’t take ourselves that way, and that’s the Australian way. I think it’s an Australian business it’s got a founder, the founders are running it and it’s still gotten that…
IR: Has that informal tone been an advantage for you in the social media space, which is traditionally informal?
JA: I think it has, I really do think that makes a difference. I think we do keep close to our customers, we do keep talking to them and we do try to engage without trying to shove things in their throat i.e. not try and sell them things. If you look at our recent ‘what’s your name’ game, most of the people responding have nothing to do with Boost, they were really just loving the banter going back and forward from our very talented Adele who has got a wicked sense of humour.
IR: Retail Zoo operate other brands as well, do you try to maintain a similar tone?
JA: I think every brand has its own character and its own type of business. It has to maintain its own identity. Chibo is a beautiful Italian brand and really what they’re about is the romance of coffee, not that doesn’t really lend itself to, or couldn’t lend itself to the cheeky side, but Boost is a bit more cheek, love life, a bit naughty, self deprecating type thing. That’s pretty much where I sit in the space and there are other people who more like a beautiful romance, they should be running that brand.
IR: What’s your thinking as far as where you’d like Boost to be in Australia in 2022?
JA: I honestly think that no one knows what it will look like in 2022. I never in my wildest dreams would have thought that I would have the capacity that I know have in my hand with a mobile phone and what I can do with it. By 2020 it seem like it will be things like artificial intelligence, I think you’ll be speaking to a robot.
IR: That’s interesting, most companies put some of their kitty aside for those types of interesting investments, what’s boost doing in that space?
JA: We’ve obviously got the order your boost on your phone and have everything in your hand, I think at the end of the day we’re trying to keep it as simple as possible. You have the success of Apple, particularly under Steve Jobs, and I think as the world becomes a little bit more complicated I think that’s what you need to do. Luckily for us at this stage unless the flying droid has something to do with it, people can’t buy a Boost effectively online because they’re fresh, so we’ve got that advantage. What we do is we keep sorting it out, so every year our digital tech and digital manager goes off to America for a conference over there to see what the latest and greatest is for the next 12 months. Now apparently it’s all about bots, we’ll be looking into bots and how that works for us. At the end of the day people want that human interaction and that human connection though. I think we’re living in a very interest era.
IR: How do you square human interaction with bots? A lot of retailers are asking themselves similar questions…
JA: You’re right, the Boost brand heart and feel is the people and it’s a really important part of that youthful exuberance that we have at the counter and you can’t get that from a machine where you go: ‘please plug in your smoothie, thank you” customers just aren’t going to get that.
IR: Could that automation be used in other areas where a proper boost stand isn’t an option? We’ve seen companies experiment with vending machines in Japan.
JA: We looked at airports and those vending machines, but I don’t think you can get the quality right. If you talk about automation what we’re trying do is get more people on the App so they automate their own drink then they pick it up, actually skipping the register completely. I always go as a customer and ask: ‘how do I make their life easier?’ I know that Boost is a nano-second of their life, so how do I make the experience with Boost pleasurable and really easy? As people move into this digital age, I think the real genius is keeping simple.
IR: On that technological note, your mobile game, Free The Fruit! Has taken a direction that’s not explicitly commerce focused, that’s not a decision that many retailers have made. What was behind your decision to create a discount system through a mobile game?
JA: People do want discounts, but you don’t want to be a brand known for discounts. What we found is that when people played the game and got discounts, it didn’t feel like a discount. They went: ‘yep, we earned that’. We’d rather go down that path of integrating or connecting with our customers in a way that’s fun, rather than saying: ‘here’s a freebie or here’s a free Boost’.
IR: Will you be making more applications like that?
JA: Yes absolutely, Jeff is looking at that stuff all the time, because at the end of the day we want Boost to be front of mind, so yes the App may not create ecommerce sales. You may not be able to buy a jumper from it or a dress, but you’re still interacting with the brand and hopefully that means that when you’re actually going through a shopping centre you say: ‘ah, there’s a Boost, I’ll go get one’. Or you might play a game like Free the Fruit and you get a voucher and go: ‘actually I’m going to head into Boost and actually redeem my voucher’. At the end of the day we’re really simple, it’s about love life and it’s making people feel that little bit better. If we can achieve that then the rest will follow.
IR: You’ve recently made many Boost recipe’s public, in the retail food industry recipes are typically a closely guarded secret, what motivated you to make that decision?
JA: If people see what’s in our products then there’s no issue, because in actual fact we’re a cynical old bunch us humans. If they don’t know they think we have something to hide. We went: ‘you know what, here is our smoothie, here are our juices and if you want to make it at home, knock yourself out and good on you’. If we can help you be healthier great. We took away that mysticism about it, at the end of the day juices and smoothies have been on this earth for hundreds of years. We certainly didn’t invent it and we certainly didn’t claim it. It’s a bit like Elon Musk, I mean Elon Musk goes: ‘hey mate talk about a secret world it’s all open sourced, knock yourself out, do whatever you want to do’. I think the people then say: ‘there’s nothing to hide’. Brand and customer trust is really important and I think the more transparent you can be with your customers, the more they go: ‘that’s right, there’s none of this in it’. You get slammed every now and then by the old current affair or one of those that are trying to say: ‘there’s sugar in juices’. Well yes there is, but it’s in the fruit, it comes in the fruit, we can’t take the sugar out of the fruit. By being transparent we’re taking away the misconception that there are things added into our smoothie, which there isn’t.
IR: You’re not worried about competitors stealing your recipes?
JA: No not all, it’s really funny. I’m obviously 16, 17 years in and if you asked me that question ten years ago or 15 years ago and I would have said: ‘yes, every staff signs a confidentiality agreement and that, do this, and this’. I was so paranoid that someone was going to come in and do it. The reality is that a product of a brand is an important part of the brand, but it’s not the whole brand. What makes a business successful is a number of things, not one thing. They can’t copy the heart and soul, which people tried. We had one competitor called Pulp who had 10 times more money than us to actually launch a brand into the marketplace, but we focused on our products, they copied us, they ripped us off blind and they all went broke because they lost the heart. This is genuinely built on heart and soul and a desire to fully make a difference.
IR: Retailers in general are weary of the general Australian market at the moment, with patchy consumer confidence and uncertain economic conditions weighing on minds heading into Christmas, what’s your take?
JA: At the end of the day with the GFC, all sorts of things affect the market and people might not buy that extra pair of Nike’s, but they’ll buy a $6 smoothie. It doesn’t really affect us, what really affects us dramatically is weather. If you have a week of rain in Victoria or South Australia or Queensland, where people can’t even get onto the streets and get out of the house, our sales get affected. We watch weather like other people watch the market.
IR: We’re heading into summer and Christmas, are Boost about to announce any new products or initiatives to capitalise on the silly season?
JA: You’re right that’s definitely our important season as it is with any drink products, any cold drinks. For the slower months, which are in winter, we’re absolutely preparing for summer. Sure, some new products, having a bit of fun like we always, but at the end of the day it’s making sure we’re staffed up and that the staff are trained properly, the stores are in perfect condition to maximize the season.
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