The British Invasion: UGLY Drinks gears up for spring launch on the east coast

By Elaine Watson

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Sugar

London-based brand UGLY Drinks is gearing up for a US launch in spring 2018… Elaine Watson caught up with CEO and co-founder Hugh Thomas at the Specialty Food Association’s Winter Fancy Food Show to get the lowdown on what the brand is all about…

“UGLY is a fruit-flavored sparkling water with no sugar, no sweeteners, no calories, and nothing artificial,” ​said Thomas, who founded UGLY in 2015 with Joe Benn (who he met while working at Vita Coco) and has since secured listings in 1,500-2,000 stores in the UK including Whole Foods, WH Smith and Holland & Barrett following a 2016 launch.

“We take the essences and oils and extracts from fruits, and fuse them with sparkling water, it’s a very simple two ingredient product.  

Our brand is about the ugly truth… We think soda and diet soda is on the decline and it’s about time brands came through with transparent messaging....

"The Millennial consumer today has access to all sorts of information on the internet and is able to find out about brands and products, and at this socioeconomic time of uncertainty, lack of truth in the news and in products as well... they just want something that tells the truth."

The look and feel of the brand – which was recently refreshed by design agency Jones Knowles Ritchie (JKR) - is designed to appeal to Millennials (who are interested in cleaner labels and transparent messaging) without being too pretentious/earnest or looking like a niche, natural brand, said Thomas.

“It’s a healthy product with no bad stuff, but with a fun positive attitude.”

Help from HIPPEAS

UGLY is set to launch online and in bricks and mortar stores (in single-serve and multi-packs) in the northeast of the US in early April, 2018, said Thomas, who is moving across the Atlantic this year as CEO of UGLY and building a team in New York.

He has also been working with Livio Bisterzo from Green Park Brands (which is behind the fast-growing HIPPEAS​ brand) to help hone UGLY’s US strategy, explained Thomas, who was senior brand manager for coconut water brand Vita Coco in the UK before setting up his own beverage start-up with Joe Benn.

“We started working with Livio in early 2017 and he has been great in terms of helping us shape the story and bring a clear launch strategy to what we’re doing… Both Joe and I started the business when we were very young, so we had experience, but not what Livio has...

“We have a strong social platform that we’re going to be launching with, where we give back, but we’re a brand with a clear mission."

UGLY- drinks

“We’re just a drink. No unobtainable lifestyles. No ridiculous promises. Just the way we like it. No sugar. No sweeteners. No calories… and absolutely nothing artificial.

“All flavorings come directly from the named fruit. We use a blend of natural ingredients – fruit extracts, essential oils and natural aromas. Our natural flavors are all propylene glycol free.” UGLY Drinks

The new packaging
The old packaging

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1 comment

Good intention / Ugly name

Posted by Jose Ramirez,

Good intention / Ugly name

Brand name is catchy, but a positive name would've been better! STOP promoting the decadence of western society. Your brand name (i.e. UGLY) reinforces this decadence, even if the intent is the opposite.


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