Jodie Farran and Andrew Howie's premium Shaken Udder milkshakes, launched last year, are rapidly gaining listings. Could they be the next Innocent, asks Richard Ford
Are milkshakes the new smoothies? Jodie Farran thinks so. The co-founder of Shaken Udder believes her hip milkshake brand is perfectly positioned to capitalise on the recent slump in the smoothies market, which saw value sales fall 20% to £172m in 2008. Buyers were therefore looking for products to fill the fridge space that smoothies had vacated, she says. "It's a good time for us because we're taking up the smoothie space."
The decline of the smoothies market is not the only prevailing wind blowing in Shaken Udder's favour. Liquid milk is set to receive a £7.5m push next year to promote consumption in England, Scotland and Wales, with the campaign set to market milk as a healthy alternative to water and carbonated drinks.
It all bodes well for a brand that has more than a touch of Innocent in its make-up. Like the smoothie maker, Shaken Udder emerged from the festival scene more accurately the 2004 V Festival, where co-founder Andrew Howie was frustrated by the lack of soft beverage options available. He and Farran started experimenting with different flavours in the kitchen and they now produce 10,000 bottles a week from their £300,000 milk processing facility on the Howie family farm in Essex. The facility is currently operational just one day a week, demonstrating the scope for significant expansion in production. "We built it with a view to growing, which is better than having to rebuild it in half a year or a year," says Farran.
Shaken Udder launched into retail in August last year, with an agreement to supply Harvey Nichols with its range of four milkshakes Strawberry Stash, Top Banana, Choco Lush and Shake The Cake, the latter being a genuine innovation in the category with its cheesecake biscuit crumb pieces. Since then, Shaken Udder has expanded into Harrods, Selfridges, Fortnum & Mason, Waitrose, East of England Co-op and Chelmsford Star Co-op, and is in talks to supply the multiples.
Of course, Farran and Howie are not the only suppliers occupying the milkshake space. Shaken Udder is pitching itself against some big hitters, including Dairy Crest's Frijj and Campina's Yazoo.
Retailing at £1.49 to £2.30 for a 330ml bottle, the milkshakes command a premium over rivals, but Farran says they have sufficient points of difference to carve a niche.
"It's quality and taste. They've got real fruit, not just a flavouring. We try to keep the ingredients as simple as possible without adding lots of extras. It makes them more expensive, though."
Greater scale will be key to Shaken Udder's ability to keep pricing competitive. With the heat on to crank up production, a fifth limited-edition milkshake, Caramoo!, is set for launch this month. Long-term, Farran sees Innocent as a good benchmark for what Shaken Udder can achieve, but with a caveat. "We would like it to be as big as Innocent but we'll see. We don't want to lose out on who we are because you can kind of sell out, in a way."