Its innovative powder formulations include top rated immunity defenders vitamins C and D along with zinc and plant extracts and are produced in partnership with a UK manufacturer. Now in its second year and despite the highly volatile trading situation the brand is hoping for a £500,000 turnover in 2021 as demand for preventative health pick-me-ups grows and consumers’ respond to its unique A-list credentials.
In Tonic’s case that A stands for absorption, the beneficial elements in a product that a body actually absorbs that are a vital but often overlooked aspect of supplement taking.
Founder and former corporate financier Sunna Van Kampen explains:
“We are the highest dose and most natural immunity drink on the market, combining the high vitamin doses with the plant extracts which helps increase the absorption and is absolutely key to our format. This enables 90 percent take up by the body compared to tablets which is around 30 to 40 percent.”
Years of fending off colds and seeing the shortfall in remedies, which focussed on symptom relief rather than immune system recovery, led to Van Kampen looking deep into what the science had to say and developing his own natural solutions.
From ginger to lesser known potent ingredients such as aged garlic and reishi mushrooms, the recipes for Tonic were born.
Getting them to market took an investor group that includes New Look founder Tom Singh and £550,000 so far. Last year Tonic launched three products, including an immunity night drink that have won contracts with Boots and Holland & Barrett.
Customers are split between those who are proactive about their health and others who give the products a go because they are sick or run down.
Most popular is the daytime Elderberry & Blackcurrant drink with a whacking 1,500 mg Vitamin C hit. “We use British blackcurrants and our customers love that too,” says Van Kampen.
A new daily effervescent tablet is due next month along with a travel pack, while a further £1.5million raise he is planning will go to expanding exports with the US top of the list.
“Learn quickly,” has always been Van Kampen’s motto and he and his team of five have certainly had experience of that over the past 15 months.
The trials of smoothing out the production process came good, but like other small businesses the current challenges posed by lockdowns and Brexit are testing Tonic’s resilience in ways unimaginable a year ago.
“Now 30 percent of our sales are direct and online. Multi-channel is the future but the present situation does not compensate for being on the big retailers’ shelves,” says Van Kampen.
“Smaller, lesser known brands like us get picked up when high street shoppers are browsing, not so much when surfing online. That is the particular impact of Covid on small businesses rather than larger ones.”
The extra paperwork following Brexit will need the equivalent of two or more working days a month. “Holland & Barrett sell in Ireland and for us to sell through them will require both of us having to do more admin. We are still unclear about other aspects too such as VAT. Clarity is desperately needed,” says Van Kampen, voicing problems shared by an increasing number of SMEs.
A Spanish distributor Tonic had lined up has now said it wants to wait before it receives shipments.
“Everyone seems to be feeling they want the dust to settle,” adds Van Kampen.
When it does Tonic will be ready and recharged, aiming to recruit three more staff and settle into a new office it is now renting in central London.
“Ego goes out the window when you become an entrepreneur,” says Van Kampen. “You just have to persist.”