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Red Bull Distributor Gains Steam

Zac Voss is bullish on Red Bull.

The owner of Voss Distributing and the person in charge of delivering the popular energy drink throughout Iowa expects sales of Red Bull to double this year.

Earlier this year, he purchased the rights to distribute Red Bull on the Illinois side of the Quad Cities for an undisclosed amount. And he expects to hire at least one more employee in the Des Moines area by the end of the year, bringing his company's workforce to nine. He wants to expand sales of Red Bull by placing it in vending machines in offices throughout Des Moines.

To run a successful distribution business, it helps to have a successful product to hawk. Red Bull has been a surprisingly strong performer, and is quickly rising as one of the most popular beverages in Des Moines.

The energy drink is the ninth-most popular single-serve drink in Des Moines, according to A.C. Nielsen data measuring the past four weeks of sales. The top-selling drink is Mountain Dew, followed by Pepsi and Diet Pepsi. Red Bull is one place behind Dr Pepper. It is the top seller in convenience stores in Denver and in several California cities, Voss said.

"They've come in and created an entirely new category, much like bottled water did 10 years ago," Voss said.

There is little doubt that one of the secrets to Red Bull's success is the strength of its marketing and advertising campaign.

One of the drink's other selling points is the presence of taurine, which Red Bull describes as an "essential amino acid" that the body naturally produces. "At times of extreme physical exertion, the body no longer produces the required amounts of taurine," the Red Bull Web site states. The drink also contains as much caffeine as a typical cup of coffee.

To keep the visibility of the energy drink high, Voss has a fleet of vans throughout Iowa that are painted with the Red Bull logo. He has three of the vans in the Des Moines area, two in Cedar Rapids and one each in Iowa City and Davenport. Voss handles most of the management of his company wirelessly through cell phones, which he has linked to e-mail accounts.

Red Bull's slightly irreverent Web site lists several occasions when consumers would consider drinking Red Bull. Among them:

When a long day is over and a long night starts;

On long sleep-inducing motorways;

During intensive working days when the date planner is filling up and your energy reserves are emptying out;

Prior to demanding athletic activities, or in a performance drop during a game. As Red Bull has not been formulated to deliver rehydration, we encourage people who are engaged in sport also to drink lots of water during intense exercise;

Before tests and exams, when there's no time to sleep; and

As first-aid after a long party night.

Voss said he first learned about Red Bull when he was helping a restaurant with its marketing plan. One of the restaurant's bartenders returned from a conference talking about Red Bull, and Voss said he searched the Internet looking for a way to have some delivered to the restaurant.

The only suppliers he could find charged too much, so he called Red Bull directly. He later wrote a business plan while on a post-college-graduation sailing trip in Europe. He obtained the distribution rights from Red Bull and incorporated Voss Distributing in October 2000.

The 26-year-old University of Iowa graduate regularly logs 70-hour workweeks, a pace he said he wouldn't be able to maintain if he didn't drink Red Bull himself.

"Everybody needs energy, and everybody can take advantage of this product," he said.

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