Jasper Spaargaren – Sir Joe

Jasper Spaargaren – Sir Joe

Jasper is the Director of Sir Joe – a start-up launched by Vrumona, which specialises in craft soda. “We started Sir Joe to be more innovative, faster and daring. With our innovative craft soda portfolio, we want to offer healthier, sustainable, new brands that are above all delicious. Combined with a smooth customer journey for our customers.”

Tailored products

Jasper explains that Sir Joe needs to conquer a place in the growing market they are in. “I believe that big brands which took over the world, are in a difficult position. Most global brands are the same everywhere they are being sold. That’s sounds efficient, but that can be less effective than more tailored products. People increasingly want new things. It’s nice when the same brand launches something new. But something new from an entirely new brand is often more exciting. For instance, when a well-known artist brings out a new song with a slightly different feel, as opposed to a completely new artist introducing an entirely new sound. So, to realise something in this market, you need to innovate. Which is exactly why Sir Joe was found.”

“Our main KPI related to brand growth is becoming a relevant player at the top of the market, which we measure through market share and NPS. The Net Promotor Score is a fairly new KPI we have started using. We look at whether customers in our segments are happy with us, and think we are relevant. This is considered to be the best predictor of future success. We look at sales, market share and being relevant. Although we have a lot of freedom for trial and quick learning.”

Innovation within the Vrumona brand

Jasper: “Sir Joe is a separate business unit of Vrumona, but with the benefits of expertise, network and overhead services like IT, HR and Legal, so we strive to have the best of both worlds. It was important for Sir Joe that our key element of freedom, was apparent in our brand. The name Sir Joe is derived from Joseph Priestley, who discovered carbonated water. He is the founder of soda, which was also used to prevent scurvy in the past. Joseph went against the stream, and was a bit of a rebel sometimes. We feel inspired by his story, and that is how the name Sir Joe came to be.”

Jasper explains how Sir Joe is able to innovate, but also stays connected to the Vrumona company. “Our office is located 8 minutes from Vrumona’s, which means we can still meet easily, but are separate from the daily business. This freedom makes you much more creative, innovative and fast. We are a multidisciplinary team with the mandate to innovate, which is key to our success. We are responsible for our decisions, as long as we commit to the same mission as Vrumona to offer sustainable and healthy drinks. And it should be financially interesting, at least in the long run.”

Innovation as a key element

Innovation is one of the key reasons why Sir Joe started. Jasper explains: “A lot of companies want to believe you can innovate on your own. But because of the daily tasks, innovations are often put on the back burner. If there’s an urgent request, it will be dealt with first. And that’s a logical thing to do, otherwise you’re already working on your garden, while the house is still on fire, so to speak. And that’s fine, but you can’t expect to be disruptive in the long run. On the other hand, innovations which are done on a large scale with good execution, are of course very interesting for efficiency and financial reasons. But there is a big risk. A dedicated team has worked on the innovation for 9 months, with huge investments in time, assets and money. When the innovation doesn’t succeed, you’re left empty-handed. My biggest learning is that you should know as soon as possible whether it will be a success or not, so you don’t waste those 9 months. Most innovations don’t survive for more than a year, the number of failures is really shocking. So, you have two options: do anything you can to make sure you belong to that top 20% that does make it, and invest in a lot of resources, time and capital. Or make sure that if you do belong to that 80% that fails, it’s not such a big issue when it does. You can just pick up the pieces and quickly come up with something new.” Jasper explains that Sir Joe looks at early adopters to determine the success of their innovations, to make sure they don’t belong to that 80%. “We test whether the innovation catches on among early adopters, and if it doesn’t, we know it’s not going to work on a broader audience.”

The main source for innovation

According to Jasper, Sir Joe takes inspiration from other countries. “A lot of interesting things have already been launched in other countries. We can look at that and get inspired by this, or start a partnership and licence the drink. We also look at other categories and what happens there. This niche trend can be seen everywhere, and you can learn a lot from that. Think about chocolate, beer, coffee or crisps.”

Biggest mistakes

Jasper notices compromises being made when it comes to innovation. “Brands usually start out with a strong idea, but are tempted to deviate from the original plan along the way in order to obtain higher margins. They start with product A and end up with product B. Innovations are rarely improved in the process, and that is the reason so many of them fail. The final product simply turned out very different than firstly intended.”

“Another important aspect is storytelling. It can be an origin story, product related stories, or where they took their inspiration from. If you can’t provide an elevator pitch to accompany your product – which a consumer would potentially tell its neighbour about – can you really expect to be successful? We often do the bartender check: what do you expect the bartender will tell his customers? Your product has to be something you can share with others. We don’t launch anything that is not ‘sharable’, nothing that can’t be posted on Instagram. Another thing is that people want help with certain questions. ‘When am I supposed to drink this?’ If you can’t provide an answer, you’re missing an important insight.”

Jasper: “And lastly, one of the biggest pitfalls is when organisations are insufficiently organised when it comes to innovation. They don’t have enough time, and as I’ve said, the daily workload keeps taking over. There’s no room left to be creative. I found that if you are not fast enough in your development, the key problem is usually that your processes are too long with too many stakeholders. With the result of launching your innovations too late. Being fast, innovative and agile are the key reasons for starting Sir Joe!”