Meet the former Red Bull exec who is now helping you sleep

Business Leader recently sat down with Hans Vriens, the founder of Snoooze, to talk about his sleeping supplement, being one of the first Red Bull employees, and his extensive history in the food and drink retail sector as a marketing expert.

What was the inspiration behind helping people with their sleep?

When I was working for the largest chocolate company in the world, I was travelling across two continents each week, in order to visit the 60 different plants we had. As head of R&D at The Hershey Company, this was a key part of my role. However, it meant that I was in a constant state of jet lag!

A friend then made me read a book on the science behind sleep and it was a real eye opener. I was sleeping all wrong! Work-related stress has made people in the developed world have terrible sleep – almost nine in ten people suffer from lack of good sleep. Bad sleep impacts personal health, business productivity and is impacting billions of people across the world every day. Bad sleeping is bad for the economy! We are here to make your future better – people who sleep better are happier, work at a higher performance level, and live much healthier lives!

Why should people avoid using chemicals to counter bad sleep?

Using a chemical-based response to bad sleep is counter-intuitive. Chemicals have some very severe side effects that can impact many different aspects of your life – which is scientifically proven. Natural sleep cycles are the key to producing the best quality sleep – forcing your body to fall asleep is not helpful and is actually dangerous. This is where Snoooze is different to anything else on the market. Using natural herbs, it allows you to go through your natural sleep cycles. There are no side effects to herbs and you actually get the benefits of a good night’s sleeps.

What sets Snoooze apart from other alternatives in the market?

I have personally tried many of the pills and the herbal options that are out there and found that they both don’t work for different reasons. There are valerian pills and passion flower pills which offer a natural option, but they don’t often have the impact to actually make a difference. The problem is that you cannot put many different herbs in a single pill.

For example, one valerian tablet has around 400mg of the herb in it – but by dissolving the herb into water, you can have a much higher extraction – over 1200mg of valerian is in a can of Snoooze. Same for passion flower – normally about 80mg in a tablet – in Snoooze there is 900mg of it in the drink. By putting these natural herbs in larger quantities within the drink – it actually works.  And unlike many of the herbal sleep drinks that use an infusion of herbs, with Snoooze we use an extraction of a mixture of natural herbs, making it more potent

In this product alone, we have put more than 40 times more ingredients than any other alternative available in the UK.

People in the workforce struggle with sleep because of stress – and stress is what keeps you from sleeping – we have been overwhelmed with how relevant this product is for people in the modern workforce. There is a reason we initially offer it for free because we know it will help people in their lives.

After starting in Austria and Germany – what made you want to move to the UK?

We have had an enormous number of requests from international buyers for Snoooze. We had great success at international shows, and we found that to expand we had to rebrand our products and labels to make it more appropriate to UK and America customers. We also found that buyers from China, South Korea, Japan, Holland and other places around Europe will only buy products labelled in English and not German.  It is much easier to sell internationally in English! English is the world’s language – German is not.

What has been the reaction in the UK compared to Germany?

The UK reaction has been incredibly positive and emotive. German and Austrian customer are a lot more reserved to this kind of innovation, but the UK is a lot more welcoming and willing to try it. The reaction in the UK is due to its openness to embrace innovation.

Can you tell me about your history with Red Bull?

I was one of the company’s original employees, where I was in charge of the international sales. At the time I joined, Austria was still not a member state of the European Union. Red Bull was only allowed in Austria and nowhere else at the time. Then once Austria entered the EU, we had to apply for health licenses and other legalities like that, but after that we were able to grow the company. I led the team introducing the brand into 28 different countries following that.

I took a pregnant wife and a large container of Red Bull cans to the West Coast of America, and we started the company there from scratch. Not all countries went equally as well, but most of them went enormously well.

The reason behind their success in the first 15 years, was due to the simplicity of the offering – one clear product that satisfied a gap in the market. Something that we are now doing with Snoooze.

What were some of the main lessons you learnt while you were at Red Bull?

If you have something that works – stay true to it. If you have a product that has an immediate, noticeable affect – like Red Bull – then you have a winner. As a result, the owner of Red Bull used to say: “Not even the worst manager can kill my brand.”

The product serves its purpose and is recognised for having an immediate impact on your body. Follow your marketing basics around this success and you won’t go wrong.

I also learnt about how to open a distributor, start a business in a new country, how to build a brand, how to do sports sponsorship, how to do sampling and always look to learn how to improve yourself.