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Let’s face it. If it’s good enough for George Clooney, Ryan Reynolds and Jay-Z, then why wouldn’t you want to get in on the UK’s glamorous, premium drinks market? And if you then go onto sell your brand, can you also set your sights on a $1billion price tag?

Having wooed you to keep reading by namedropping a few celebs, let’s get down to it. What do you really need to be successful* within the UK spirits market?

Personally, we find approaches fall into three categories:

1. They’ve got an amazing liquid in a bottle that’s ready to go to market
2. Hmm…not so much with the liquid, but you’ve got an appealing bottle and an idea
3. You’ve nailed it in your category in an overseas market, and the next logical step is to be in the UK, one of the most attractive spirits markets in the world

Our advice will vary, depending upon whether you’ve got a bottle, a liquid or an idea (or some combination of the three) but ultimately, we’re looking to create brands which display heritage, authenticity and true innovation.

For us, everything starts with the liquid. It is going to be consumed and enjoyed, so get this right first. It needs to be good enough to compete with other brands in the category and be markedly different from existing options, as the market place is too crowded for “me-too” brands. Whilst we’re about it, let’s talk size. By that I mean craft compared with a monolithic production line: being small or large, doesn’t necessarily mean your product is great or mediocre. I’ve tasted plenty of craft spirits that weren’t up to standard. Brands become global brands, because they deliver satisfaction at a price point that suits the consumer.

So, now you’ve got a product that ticks all the boxes. Great! You need a plan and sufficient resource to deliver that plan. A significant number of great products never get to market as they didn’t have the resources or know-how to open up the distribution channels.

You need cash. Lots of it, and over a sustained period of time as it is stupidly expensive to market and launch products in the UK. Take Duty: you will be paying £7.45 plus for a bottle of spirits, which needs to be paid immediately, whilst you wait 60-90 days to be paid by your customers. A lot of people don’t appreciate the amount of cash required to grow, the irony being that if you’re really successful very quickly, cashflow can be crippling or cause your business to fail.

Now how do you get into the distribution supply chain? Well, in this complex industry landscape there are a myriad of routes to market, but most involve negotiating an agency agreement with a distributor, such as Mangrove UK, or one of our competitors. How to choose the right agent for you is another whole conversation in itself: selecting between those that charge you a set monthly fee or those that charge a percentage. Look at what other products are in their portfolio and how your brand would sit alongside them, as well as checking that the agent has access to buyers who are relevant for your product.

There’s a new kid on the block in the UK, which I think will become more and more relevant for distribution as we enter 2019, and that’s using a consolidator. Already well established in the US (check out Park Street or MHW), they provide back up office solutions and delivery services for a fee, without taking a margin or doing sales and marketing. We’ve been working with the founders of UK consolidator, Tortuga Logistics who are very active in the wholesale and grocery markets.

Brace yourself: you also need to know your way round relevant UK legislation, or have an agent that does. Be sure to brush up on WOWGR and AWRS, which make the legislation structure a challenge to navigate.

After all that, now you need people to buy your brand – the fun bit! You need to create demand both at the user level (your end consumer, bar tender or grocer) and at the operator level. You need to create a pull effect, normally through marketing campaigns, tastings, competitions, partnerships, incentivising bar staff and, for some global companies, offering listing fees.

Any finally. You need a healthy dollop of luck. My totally unscientific analysis shows that every now and again a brand comes from nowhere, catching consumer imagination and exceeding everyone’s expectations with the speed of growth. Think Sambuca, Jägermeister or Fever Tree.

The lure of the UK market, one of the premium market places in the world, is a strong one. And who knows, you might just be on your way to making that $1billion.

At Mangrove UK we’re always happy to have a natter about your brand and give feedback, as are our colleagues at Tortuga Logistics. Between us we probably have a solution for the majority of brands, irrespective of size or ambition.

*Defining successful? It depends on your objectives of course, but for the UK we reckon you need to be selling 10,000 x 9litre cases to start getting noticed.