A cocktail brand born out of the pandemic has unveiled ambitious plans for the future, after selling over 200,000 units in just two years.
Nestled in a converted railway arch in Newcastle city centre, Kocktail was set up in 2020 to help people enjoy ‘world-class cocktails in the comfort of their own home.’
The brainchild of friends Andrew Hutchinson, Emil Stickland and Neil Donachie, the trio launched the business after struggling to replicate their favourite cocktails at home during the pandemic.
Neil – who was head bartender at The Savoy when it was crowned ‘The World’s Best Hotel Bar’ – was tasked with teaching the others how to recreate their favourite cocktails, however they soon realised there was a gap in the market for high-end cocktail kits and ingredients.
This inspired the launch of Kocktail, a cocktail subscription service providing eight ‘world-class, ready to drink’ cocktails a month to customers across the UK, produced with the most sought-after spirits and quality ingredients.
Fast-forward two years and the company has grown rapidly, establishing itself as the UK’s leading cocktail kit and subscription brand and employing 15 people. It has also signed deals to supply its new 500ml bottles to high-end retailers across the UK, including John Lewis.
“A lot of people said it would just be a lockdown fad and predicted that demand would fall off a cliff when restrictions were lifted, but we were confident that wasn’t the case,” Andrew said. “And we’ve been proven right.
“We added individual products and gift boxes to our range, giving us three core product ranges, and this has really helped elevate the business to heights even we didn’t envisage, selling over 200,000 bottles and securing deals with some of the biggest names in retail.”
One of the challenges facing the business during its growth phase however, aside from the pandemic, was ensuring the products remained of the highest possible standard while demand and its team spiralled.
After attending a series of workshops by the £10.9million Sustainable Advanced Manufacturing (SAM) Project at the University of Sunderland, the company introduced processes to ramp up productivity while standardising best practice and making it easier for new staff to understand the process.
This proved key to helping the company meet the increased demand from its clients and Andrew is confident that the increased output generated by the improvements will help the company to continue growing as it plans for the future.
He explained: “Due to Neil’s impressive bar background, he had really high standards which was what really set us apart from our competitors and the support from SAM was key to ensuring our production manager, George, was able to maintain this standard as more people joined the team and we began to really ramp up our output.
“As we continued to grow, we knew we had to keep standards high and make sure we were meeting them every single time, without being too mechanicalised or mass produced, and the support from SAM really helped us achieve that.
“It saw us standardise practices and helped us better understand how to implement procedures. We were already doing some of those things naturally, but they managed to put it onto paper so that everyone now sings from the same hymn sheet when they join the company. It’s really helped sustain our future and formalise aspects of the business we would never have done ourselves.
“As we look to the future, the plan is to continue expanding our presence across the UK, expand our product range and continue growing the business, and I’m confident that, with the support we have received and the team we have assembled, we have everything we need to achieve our goals.”
The Sustainable Advanced Manufacturing (SAM) Project is a £10.9m collaboration between the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the University of Sunderland and the Northern Powerhouse Initiative and Industry, supporting SME manufacturers in the North-East Local Enterprise Partnership (NE LEP) area to improve their products or processes and introduce new technology.
Roger O’Brien, Project and Technical Lead at the SAM Project, said: “It’s been fantastic working with the team at Kocktail to help improve their manufacturing processes and prepare for the future.
“Our manufacturing workshops are ideal for busy companies to learn best practice techniques and we are delighted at how much we are able to support at such a business-critical time.”