We chat to Kevin Klock, President and CEO at Talking Rain Beverage Company who last year launched soft drink brand Sparkling Ice.
Please explain who you are, what your business is, and what it does/aims to achieve?
I am the President and CEO of Talking Rain Beverage Company® who is the maker of Sparkling Ice – a beverage that combines sparkling water, natural flavours, fruit juice and vitamins to offer a great tasting, lightly carbonated beverage at just 12 calories per bottle.
We launched Sparkling Ice in the UK and Ireland in April last year and is now available in four flavours: Black Raspberry, Orange Mango, Peach Nectarine and Kiwi Strawberry – all of which come free of sugar and artificial colours. Our products have already seen huge success in a market rife with fizzy, unhealthy carbonated drink options and we are proud to offer consumers a better-for-you soft drink choice.
What is your favourite part of your job and what is your least favourite part?
There are so many things that I enjoy about my job. I think what it really comes down to is the people. Watching their hard work as they keep up with the accelerated growth of the company is inspiring. We are making history and it’s a privilege to be a part of the company during such a crucial time. Every day brings something new, with the speed at which we are growing.
The least favorite part of my job would have to be the unproductive travel time. I spend a lot of time on airplanes, sitting in cabs and waiting in airports, which can impede on my productivity.
What has been the biggest challenge in your role so far?
The biggest challenge in my role thus far has been the accelerated growth of the company and creating a structure that enables the company to keep up with the speed of the business. As a result of this learning we are able to move our focus further forward rather than just focusing on today.
Have you made any mistakes along the way and how did you overcome them/learn from them?
I think like every company, we went through some growing pains. As I mentioned before, we did not recognize how fast we would grow and how big our company would become. In the early years, we tended to be project oriented, instead of working on multiple projects at once. We also didn’t realize how long it would take to develop some of our major markets. Now as a company, instead of thinking 3-5 months out, we think 3-5 years out, with the understanding that in order to prepare for the next success, the business has to move fluidly.
What previous experiences have helped you to grow the business?
I have been very fortunate to work for and be associated with some great brands. The key to CPG success is not only about the brand, but the people that work under that brand. On the career side, I have been fortunate to have some great mentors that have prepared me for my current position. In addition, they have helped me to create a dynamic and successful team.
Why do you think your brand has been so successful in the UK?
After just four weeks on the shelf, Sparkling Ice outsold leading soft drink brands by more than 24% in a major high street retailer, which is set to increase further across more stores over the coming months. Similar to the U.S., we are seeing a cola fatigue and a consumer desire for beverages that deliver on taste, refreshment and variety without the calories. As a low calorie beverage, Sparkling Ice has proven that you do not have to compromise on taste and we are proud to be able to deliver a ‘better for you’ soft drink choice.
What’s the best piece of advice you could give on challenging bigger brands in the market?
Every company has its weakness. The key to success is to understand what the bigger brands weaknesses are and how to build your brand upon those weaknesses.
What do you do to relax away from the hustle and bustle of work?
I love to engage in a lot of different outdoor activities, it gives me space to reflect and also inspires new ideas. Getting away from the noise allows me to do some my best strategic thinking – whether it’s planning for the quarter or year ahead, or rethinking international expansion tactics. I also turn to physical activity. If I have enough time in my work day, I’ll go for a quick walk.
Do you manage to achieve a good work/life balance?
Unfortunately, no. It’s always a goal that I strive towards, but in most cases it’s unachievable. Being a CEO your mind is always going. One of the best things a CEO can do is to have a clear vision and a team that is synced to that vision.