How Nexba Beverages turned iced tea into a war on obesity

Posted by Contributor on 3rd October 2018

NEXBA Beverages has just been recognised as the inaugural winner of the 2018 Telstra Alumni Achievement Award, and its vision to be a major player in the fight against sugar shows why.

When founders Drew Bilbe and Troy Douglas launched Nexba Beverages in 2010, sugar wasn’t the enemy. The obesity epidemic had been well established as a growing issue globally, but sugar had not been exposed as the clear-cut culprit.

What started as a “better for you”, natural soft drink brand then, is today driven by a much larger purpose: to transform lives by being a major player in the fight against sugar.

“In Australia, 1 out of 3 children are obese,” said Mr Bilbe. “We see growth with purpose as tackling obesity and diabetes and staying true to that vision and mission.”

“When we began, consumers weren’t necessarily buying the better-for-you, healthier products,” said Mr Douglas. “I think largely due to the research that was available, and also just the physical products that were available in stores.”

But since they’ve been in business, they’ve seen a massive rise in products seen as healthier options. The same year that Nexba would win the 2015 Telstra Australian Micro Business Award, they would also ink a deal with Coles Supermarkets and sugar would be labelled ‘the new tobacco’ as a health concern.

A year later, the World Health Organisation would urge countries to impose a tax on sugary drinks and fizzy drink companies would begin losing ground as their sales dropped.

In other words, winning their initial Telstra Business Award couldn’t have happened at a better time. “We went from a self-funded start-up to what we now term ‘a scale up’,” said Mr Douglas.

“We have got amazing investors. We closed our first Series A capital raise at $4.5 million with some really powerful Australian business people as part of that, so winning the Telstra Award in 2015 obviously supported us in giving us that credibility both internally and externally with how we market ourselves and moved forward.”

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While the business began their journey with ice tea, it has expanded its scope much wider.

“Our biggest achievement is being the first company to tackle obesity and diabetes globally by reinventing soft-drinks,” said Mr Bilbe. “All of our products are naturally sugar free, as opposed to being artificially sweet.”

Three years on, Nexba has been recognised at the Telstra Business Awards for a second time, taking out the inaugural 2018 Telstra Alumni Achievement Award – which rewards previous winners that have taken their achievements to the next level since their win. The accolade coincides with the business ready to take the next step into the international market and incredible growth.

Leadership in the industry has seen them experience 150 per cent year-on-year growth and undertake multiple collaborations with retailers including Coles, Woolworths and Aldi in Australia. And now Nexba is on the brink of launching another collaboration with an as-yet-undisclosed major UK supermarket retailer.

“Domestically, we will continue to launch new ranges of ready-to-drink products including probiotic water as well as build on our naturally sugar-free tonic water range,” said Mr Bilbe. “Globally, we will cement our strong position in the UK and also focus on other markets such as the US.”

The 2018 Telstra Business Awards season may be over now, but you can submit your nominations for 2019 – even if it’s for your own business.

This article by Telstra’s Teena Wooldridge, general manager, business marketing and awards, was first published on the Telstra Exchange website on 26 September.