Startup interview with MexiLove Tomatenschnaps
Updated: Jul 30, 2019
Today, startup founder and tomato liqueur expert Joanna Rathenow shares with us how a brand like MexiLove reached it´s goals and important milestones in Berlin´s bar scene already within the first couple of months, and what it takes to become successful in the competitive German beverage market.
Joanna, how and why have you been dealing with the German food & beverage industry in the past and what is, based on your experience, your best advice for brands that want to be successful in Germany?
As one of the founders of MexiLove (a Berlin based tomato liqueur company), I entered the German market quite recently in Berlin. But as this is the main spot for the food & beverage start-up scene in Germany, things move quite fast. Our underlying motivation for MexiLove is explained easily - we simply love the combination of fresh tomato juice, natural vodka and hand-selected spices creating the most delicious evening drink to make eternal memories with your friends.
The start-up scene in Berlin is very vivid and we experienced that we reached our important milestones in the gastronomy already in the first months. Hence, we are already counting numerous bars and clubs as our customers. We were able to create a first fan base and community online (social media) and offline (events). Most important, we are working hard to move our tomato liqueur from the initial hype to a lasting product on the retail shelf.
Based on my experience, the best advice is to build a strong network and work with reliable partners right from the start. As a committed founder, your network will guide and help you to establish your product within the German market. Further, sparring and continuous exchanges within your newly established network are the next steps to make it even more sustainable on the long run.
What are - in your opinion - the most difficult challenges for food & beverage brands in the German market, if they want to reach long term success?
1. Building a compelling story & brand:
For the last couple of years, customers have become more and more demanding in terms of quality, sustainability and values.
This is especially true for the German market. In my opinion, a new food & beverage brand entering this market needs to present and live these new standard values in order to be able to make it in Germany. For MexiLove, we are ensuring that our tomato liqueur is represented in an authentic, natural and value based way as we foresee the beverage industry’s future this way. Customers want to identify with your brand and experience the vibe you are granting with your product.
2. Identifying the right target audience:
Overall it is common sense that you have to identify and address your target audience to meet your customers’ needs. However, once you identified your first target customers, do not stop validating your views – test your product with these customers via markets, focus groups and events – and if needed adopt your target audience. Initially, we thought that our target customers for MexiLove would be 18 to 35 years old. Hence, we did a lot of university events especially for freshmen students. Quickly we learned that these students rather prefer other shots during their parties and we adjusted our customer target group to 21-35 years.
3. Declaring your products right:
The German market has a highly complex declaration law system in place. From the beginning onwards, make sure to seek advice from consultants or lawyers about how to declare your product in the right way (e.g. packaging, website, social media). The money for getting professional advice is better spent than dealing with the German food law departments afterwards. At MexiLove we were really happy to get this advice right at the start as we are seeing a lot of other start-ups struggling with declarations later on.
What do you consider the most promising marketing strategies and/or tools for food & beverage brands in the German market?
First and foremost, your product has to have a great taste and your brand needs to have a strong story. This combination helps you to win your customers right at the beginning and plays an important role as differentiator for your marketing strategy. Once you have developed a great product, start talking about it via your marketing and communication channels – be consistent, precise and bold. There are so many products in the German market and customers are fed up on seeing the same ideas over and over again.
In addition, as a founder you need to truly love and live your product. In terms of marketing it means that you are present at the markets, fairs or events where you want to position your product. You have to interact with your customers directly and tell them your personal story and show the passion that drives you. People will forget what you told them but they will never forget how you made them feel when interacting with your food or beverage for the first time.
After all, it takes time to enter the German market in a sustainable and long-lasting way. It is essential to keep a certain portion of patience while pushing forward continuously. Again, while being patient, stay consistent throughout your communication channels (social media, press, packaging etc.) and use the same key messages over and over again - truly representing your brand values and staying true to yourself. For us, this means that MexiLove represents the fun, love and sense of belonging of an amazing night out in Berlin and we represent these values in everything we do e.g. social media, events or day-to-day interactions.
Co-founder & CEO at MexiLove Spirituosen GmbH