Muscling in on a male-dominated industry

Juliet Barratt

Article provided by Juliet Barratt, Co-Founder & Chief Marketing Officer, Grenade

In 2010 my husband and I launched Grenade, into a sports nutrition industry dominated by men.

Most brand owners and sales reps were male and at fitness shows most booths and their visitors were male. The only real female representation was the fitness models and promo girls working on the corporate booths.

Now however, there is a sense that the tide is changing for women in the fitness and sports sector. The BBC has made some big commitments in relation to broadcasting women’s sport for example, helping to lower barriers to entry and changing perceptions of women in the field – having female world cup pundits this year was one of these steps.

As for Grenade, female consumers are now our fastest growing market.

Getting ahead of the pack in the sports nutrition industry

I’ve always worked hard and been into health and fitness, and in the early days of Grenade I was driving the forklift, wrapping the pallets, setting up for trade shows – and anything else that helped get the business off the ground. I was always the first to roll my sleeves up and get stuck in, and I still am to this day. I am a firm believer that it’s the quickest way to earn respect in this (and any) industry. However, carving out a role at the top of a market-leading sports nutrition brand wasn’t without it’s challenges.

Beyond the practical side of things, to make it in a male dominated industry you also need the right mental attributes. That includes stubbornness, confidence, a desire to succeed and common sense. That means being able to come up with solutions and think outside of the box when issues arise – and also having the confidence that you deserve your leadership role to push these solutions through. Most importantly though, you need to be able to speak passionately about the brand you represent. Passion and authenticity has helped me to navigate potentially tricky relationships, in particular with some of our Middle Eastern clients where women in senior positions are rare, but my belief in the business and in the potential of the fitness sector globally shines through.

Having grown the business from scratch, I have developed a strong personal connection to the brand – although building it has been an emotional rollercoaster. In the early days, I would take things personally, especially when the team was so small. Now we have a fantastic team of more than 50 staff at Grenade and the lows aren’t as low, and the highs are even higher!

Creating a brand that packs a punch

When designing and developing the brand, I employed many of the same philosophies I had used in my own career to muscle in on a very traditional industry. It was important that Grenade wasn’t afraid to stand out from the crowd and change the status quo.

At the time, sports nutrition was a crowded market of white medical-looking tubs with brand names no one could remember. In grenade-shaped containers, our product and its bold logo jumped out at people from the shelves and became instantly recognisable. It certainly got the attention of our customers and generated the initial sales we needed to get off the ground. Combined with a high-quality product, we were able to retain customers which allowed us to build a viable long-term business. These first customers became natural advocates and supported our growth.

At Grenade, we are continuously looking at ways to shake up the market. In around 2014-2015, we recognised the huge business opportunity of growing our female audience. A shift in focus to on-the-go offerings such as drinks and bars made our products and brand appeal to a wider audience, in particular women who might have previously been put off by protein supplements. Now, one of the biggest customer segments for Grenade are women who want to eat less sugar and more protein, but still have their chocolate ‘fix’.  To directly talk to this audience, we have a great team of female ambassadors who represent the brand and help to make our marketing images more accessible for a wider audience than the male sport-nutrition fanatics that first championed our product range.

We have grown our customer base by engaging with consumers in exciting ways. We are constantly developing new and innovative products that are readily available on the high street, in petrol stations and supermarkets (wherever our customers are!) but also staying true to our original, bold brand and its core values of inclusivity and accessibility in the sports nutrition industry.

In the same way that Grenade has earnt its reputation, I have worked hard to earn mine as a woman in a male dominated industry, and I will continue to work hard to keep both!

About the author

At only 44 years old, Grenade’s Co-Founder and Chief Marketing Officer, Juliet Barratt has had a fascinating career which has spanned education, charity and training, before succeeding in the world of marketing and sports nutrition, with the launch of market leading sports performance and active nutrition brand, Grenade.

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