Nai launches… and celebrates a 5th year anniversary of sorts!
February 2017 is a special month for us at nai!
It’s an extremely exciting time as we have begun to sell our first product category – a range of iced teas – in not only KSA and the UAE, but also in the US and in Canada. You can say that this month marks the birth of our brand. Just like the proud parents of any new born child we have pledged to do our very best to nurture this gift and to ensure it grows to become a healthy, good, creative and kind-hearted child. We don’t know what the future holds but we are hopeful and have promised to be dedicated custodians.
Yet – in many ways – this month also marks the 5th birthday of nai. For while we literally JUST launched, the truth is that we have been working hard on this brand since January 2012. That’s when we first sat down with a regional food & beverage consulting group and commissioned a study on the regional snacking industry. We wanted to understand the overall market, snacking habits and major trends across the region. That 6-month study was the first step towards building nai.
Has the journey thus far been easy… in a word… no! We’ve been faced – and continue to face – what seem like a never ending series of challenges and questions. It’s not easy trying to launch the region’s first natural, healthier food snack and beverage brand. Forget facing off against major, well-funded global and regional brands or trying to inform and raise awareness on issues like nutritional attributes or the quality of ingredients in a product. Thousands upon thousands of individual decisions and obstacles need to be made along the way. A few examples…
So many names have been registered out there that naming our brand took the combined effort of three different agencies, the review of thousands of names, the attempted registration of numerous alternative suggestions – from “Daima” to “Lana” – before we were finally able to – 20+ months later – register “nai”. Even then someone in France tried to oppose our trademark, an issue that’s been finally put to bed (we hope)!
We spent 6 months speaking with over 20 different factories across the region to produce on our behalf but could find no one able to manufacture at the quality or standards we sought (“no I can’t brew tea for you, I can only add a tea concentrate to water”, “no I can’t use honey, I can only use sugar”, etc.). Now there may be players out there who could (and still can) support our strict recipe requirements but we unfortunately didn’t find them, causing us to shift our focus to the US and specifically California.
We told ourselves that shifting manufacturing to California, the leading global natural, organic, healthier ecosystem, would simplified things… and it did – in numerous ways – but it also complicated things in others… be it the 11-hour time difference (midnight conference calls have become a nai norm) as have been regular visits to the regional Food & Drug Administrations to ensure – for the nth time – that our US compliant labels adhere to local standards. Oh – and for any aspiring beverage entrepreneurs – it’s VERY VERY hard (let’s just say near impossible) to get a beverage sample from the region into the US. It may be easier to just walk there, sample bottle in hand.
You might ask how we decided on which iced tea flavours to launch? Easy, we spent four full days in an apartment kitchen testing over 100+ flavour combinations and we used over 250kg of fruit! It took a further four days to clean up the mess!
Shall we use honey, sugar or one of ten other types of sweetener in our tea? Easy, let’s use honey… great… but what type of honey… there are literally hundreds of varieties… so let’s taste about 40!
Shall we use a glass or plastic bottle (and what shape and size)? Not sure… here are over 80 options!
We can go on and on.
So when you see nai on the shelf of your local supermarket and you (hopefully) think to yourself “interesting new brand”, remember that you are not only celebrating the start of our journey but also our 5th year anniversary (and those 23,985 decisions that were made along the way).