Unrooted Drinks create fresh energy shots, high in fibre and vitamin C, based around the mighty baobab fruit. We spoke to Unrooted's founder, Nathan Clemes, about how lockdown has impacted his business, the mindset behind growth, and how he's giving back to the communities that have supported his vision.
In the midst of a global pandemic, the way we look after our health, particularly through nutrition, is attracting increasing attention. In fact, in Balance Festival's UK covid-impact report, which surveyed over 3000 wellness-focused consumers, over a third of respondents stated said that lockdown had made them change their diet for the better. What's more, many also saying that they intend to continue their new healthy wellness habits once life returns to normal.
In turn, it appears that food and drink brands specialising in creating products with nutritional benefits have the potential to buck downward business trends. One such company is Unrooted Drinks, who create fresh energy shots, high in fibre and vitamin C, all based around the mighty baobab fruit.
We spoke to Unrooted's founder, Nathan Clemes, about how lockdown has impacted his business, the actions that helped his business grow, and how he's giving back to the communities that have supported his vision.
What is Unrooted’s mission?
Our mission is to create functional drinks without compromising on health or nutrition. Through our products, we want to build awareness of the incredible baobab fruit, common in many African countries.
How did Unrooted come about?
The idea for Unrooted first started back in 2017 when I was seeking out a healthy alternative to energy drinks. Energy drinks continue to be packed with too much caffeine and too much sugar, and I saw an opportunity for a drink to be functional as well as genuinely healthy.
This led to me coming across the African baobab fruit – one of the world’s most nutrient dense superfruits
that’s been used for thousands of years for a wide range of benefits.
The more we learned about baobab, the more we fell in love with it. The baobab tree is an icon of Africa, the sale of baobab fruits helps support baobab tree conservation and social impact initiatives, and nutritionally baobab is more potent than any other superfruit out there.
Tell us about the ‘sciency-stuff’ behind Unrooted? How does it work?
Unrooted’s benefits are all tied to the incredible baobab fruit. Nutritionally, baobab has five times more fibre than oats, more vitamin C than oranges, and twice as many antioxidants than acai. This means baobab can help support many health functions including boosting energy levels, supporting good gut health, and increasing your metabolism.
Baobab is also a powerful prebiotic, given its soluble fibre and polyphenol content. This means it helps nourish the healthy bacteria inside your gut.
What’s been the response you’ve had so far? Has there been a ‘lightbulb moment’ where you knew your business had the power to change lives?
We’ve only just recently launched our shots during lockdown, which you might think would be a tricky time, but the response has been overwhelming. We’ve had to fast track our production schedule, and because we’re available across the UK through our website and Amazon, it's been really exciting to see repeat orders come in from all over.
Some of the best moments don’t come from our customers though, but from when we see what an impact we can have as a brand and the wider baobab industry has on rural communities in Zimbabwe and across the African countries where our fruits are harvested. Baobab fruit sales are an important source of income for many families, and as a brand we’re just about to announce details of what projects we plan on supporting over the next five years, including including planting new baobab trees in South Africa and paying school fees for families that harvest our baobab fruits in Zimbabwe, that otherwise can’t afford to send their children on their own.
What has been the greatest challenge to your business so far?
The past few months during lockdown, with having to adapt to the impact of COVID-19 and making difficult decisions to furlough some of our team has made it a challenging period. We were very retail focused in the past, and as of March had over 100 stores lined up to take our new shots – all of which was put on hold when the lockdown struck.
Since then, we’ve had to quickly adopt a much more online-led strategy with a website re-launch and getting set up on Amazon. So far the hard work is paying off! We’ve seen over 100% growth in our website sales month on month since April.
What’s next for Unrooted?
We have some exciting new national listings coming up this year for our functional shots, so keep an eye out! We’ve also recently signed a licensing deal to make kid-friendly drinks for a well-known children’s book, with an aim to launch early next year.
Do you think wellness has become a way of life for your consumers?
Certainly. The availability of healthy food and drinks is universal, so even when travelling or we’re on-the-go there are healthy choices available. Beyond what we eat, exercise has also become ingrained in our daily routines, whether that’s through tracking steps or other work-out programs and classes.
This means that wellness is much more of a lifestyle choice than it used to be, and so as a brand we try to operate with that in mind. Unrooted is not just a company that sells healthy drinks, but we also care about our environmental footprint so we avoid plastic packaging; we care about supporting communities where our baobab fruit is grown, so we’re developing initiatives to give back and support a range of causes.
On a personal level, what is your mantra in life?
It’s a bit cliché, but simply put, to do the right thing.
What advice would you share with anyone wanting to launch a new business?
Go for it! I often speak to other entrepreneurs who are just starting out. If you are passionate about an idea and are willing to work hard to execute it, there’s never a better time than now to begin. One thing that’s struck me since starting Unrooted is how much support there is out there for young entrepreneurs, and how close-knit these start-up communities are. So apart from casting aside any nerves about launching a business, I’d say talk to as many people as you can in whatever industry you’re in, and try and find a mentor who’s done it before and can help guide you around some of the pitfalls.
What do you think is the next big thing in the world of wellness?
I think we’ll see two big trends increase in importance over time. The first was already emerging, which is personalisation. How can we use all of this data we’re collecting about ourselves to deliver customised exercise, nutrition, mindfulness and general wellness programmes.
The second trend I see emerging is bringing wellness into the home in a much bigger way. With exercise, Peloton is already bringing cycling into our homes, but I think there’s a lot more that can be done.