Top Tips For Launching Your Own Drinks Start-Up!
Launching a new drinks brand or adding a new product to an existing range is exciting but challenging. Whether you are tapping into the trend for no - low drinks, pre-mixed cocktails or establishing a new vineyard, it’s essential to have a clear value proposition and USP (unique selling proposition), a defined target audience, a robust business plan and identified your routes to market.
We spoke to a handful of innovative new drinks brand start-ups from Norfolk and Suffolk and the Broadland Food Innovation Centre project to get their advice and tips for new brand launches based on their experiences.
1. Work Out Your Value Proposition?
How does your product make customers happy? What is the value you offer? You are not going to be the first person to launch a new beer or alcohol-free spirit, but what is unique about what you do?
Robert Breakwell of Suffolk-based Niche Cocktails says: “Know your market and competitors; what makes you different / better / relevant / what is your USP? What are you offering the consumer that no-one else is doing?”
2. Start With Why
Ok, so we’ve nicked this title from best-selling business guru Simon Sinek’s popular book. When you start to talk about your brand and product don’t just focus on WHAT you do, the product details like the taste, or HOW you do it, but WHY you do it. If you can clearly communicate why you exist, what’s your purpose or belief and why should anyone care, you will stand out from the crowd and build loyalty.
"If you believe in what you are doing so will everyone else,” continues Breakwell. Andrew Stacey of Herbarium a Norfolk non-alcoholic spirits company adds: “Be clear on why and what you develop - are you mimicking an alcoholic drink or creating an alternative? Be clear with the consumer what they can expect taste-wise so you are judged accordingly.”
3. Identify Your Target Audience
As the old adage goes, if you are marketing to everyone, you are going to reach no-one! So be as specific as you can about what type of consumer you are trying to reach - whether it’s based on demographics (geography, gender, age) or their tastes, values and lifestyle. You can even create profiles of your typical customer to help build up their personality.
“Really get to understand your market” says Andrew Stacey - a statement supported by Robert Breakwell who says: “Understand your consumer and focus everything on making your promise to them sincere.”
4. Create A Business Plan
You need to have a destination in mind and a plan of how to get there, how will you know where to start and how will you know if you’ve succeeded. Thank about the time and resources you need to launch your brand or product, what are all the steps, process and
measures of success? It might be to sell a certain number of units or to launch in any number of stockists.
Alan Ridealgh, founder and partner of Humber Doucy Brewery in Suffolk, says “Have the best business plan you can create: think about the time and resources you need to build your business: do you need a space to create your drinks, equipment to make it, a website, packaging and marketing. Try and think of every element of your business from start to end.”
5. Ask For Help In The Right Places
There is a huge amount of support out there for businesses of all sizes whether you are starting from scratch or a long-established. Look for what’s available regionally, your local Growth Hub is a good place to start and perhaps your region has a Food Innovation Centre like the Broadland Food Innovation which supports business in Norfolk and Suffolk.
James Robins of drinks brand Jimmy’s Limoncello launching in Autumn 2023, explains how the advice and support he received from the Broadland Food Innovation Centre project has been invaluable. “The support I received has been crucial as a one-person business I have been grateful for having someone to listen to me and offer support beyond just business expertise. Above all the project have put me in touch with local likeminded businesses with
who you can share resources and collaborate. I’ve felt part of a wider community.”
6. Formulate A Budget
How much is it going to cost you? What are the fixed costs or those that vary on how many units you are producing. Can you calculate a breakeven point - so you know how many units you have to sell to cover your costs?
The reality is that the most common reason businesses fail is because they run out cash - so don’t forget your cashflow forecast.
"Have defined finance in place before starting and formulate a budget. Work how much it will be to set up, make your product and break even? How much can you charge and ensure you have the funding to ensure it survives," continues Alan Ridealgh, Humber Doucy Brewery.
7. Build A Memorable Brand.
Your brand is far more than your name, your logo, your packaging, it’s about every connection that your customer has with you. Brand is what makes people remember you and why they will recommend you to their friends, so make it unique, genuine and consistent.
8. Identify Your Routes To Market
Are you going to sell direct to your customers through a website or at events, or are you going to seek listings with independent retailers or aim high at supermarkets?
John Hemmant of Chet Valley Vineyards in Norfolk says “Plan your year and the season, including opportunities, events and key selling periods. Knowing you market helps identify when and where you will be in demand. Allocate stock for these moments as best you can. Running out of stock is bad for all business but having too much stock can also be detrimental. At the beginning it is hard to anticipate but try and ensure you have the right stock levels.”
9. Tell The World
Social media is an amazing free resource to grow a community of fans. Focus on the right platform for your audience rather than spreading yourself to thin by being on all of them.
10. Work Fast
Finally "Work fast – Being small gives you the opportunity to make decisions quickly and get there fast,” concludes Robert Breakwell.