In her 30-plus years in the beverage industry, Debbie Wildrick has gained a strong reputation as a savvy sales and marketing executive for 7-Eleven and Tropicana as well as for several entrepreneurial start-ups, including FRS Healthy Energy.
In December 2010, Wildrick joined energy shot maker BAZI as the executive vice president of sales and marketing, and in a recent interview with BevNET founder John Craven, Wildrick spoke about her new role at BAZI as well as the challenges of brand building, particularly in the thriving, highly competitive, energy beverage category.
“The reason I got into BAZI is because I really do have an entrepreneurial spirit, which you have to have to work for a start-up, because it’s not a walk in the park,” Wildrick said.
“Back in my days at 7-Eleven, I started when Red Bull was pretty much the only [energy drink] on the shelf,” Wildrick continued. “But the category has just kept on incrementally growing through new products, and in today’s market… you have to have a product that is differentiated to be successful.”
Wildrick specifically noted the difficulty in marketing to consumers inundated with negative information about energy products, as well as what she describes as an over-saturated market.
“Three people out of every ten have tried energy drinks or shots,” Wildrick noted. “The ones that haven’t believe that [those] on the market are bad for them or they don’t know anything about them, so they don’t want to try them, but they still need energy.”
However, Wildrick did state the importance of focusing on a message of beverage functionality and the role the products will play in consumers’ lives now and into the future.
“Functional beverages are a part of our future and they will continue to be,” Wildrick said. “But we’ve got to get right. We’ve got to know that we’re addressing a need that’s not being addressed today.”