Northumberland drinks firm Artisan bottles success with lockdown exports rise

The founder of a Northumberland drinks company is bottling success after getting an exports boost in lockdown.

The Artisan Drinks Companywas set up two years by a group of experienced drinks entrepreneurs near Alnwick, Northumberland, with a mission to create quality, natural tonics and mixers for the growing premium spirits sector.

Despite the impact of Covid-19 on the hospitality industry, the company has continued to build on its success, and now exports its 100% natural drinks to Australia, Denmark, France, Malta, Italy and The Netherlands, with strong progress being made to break into the North American market and other major territories.

Founder and chief executive Steve Cooper said Artisan Drinks will sell more than 1.5m bottles this year, a figure it expects to rise as sales grow overseas.

The firm also has the backing of 38,226 members of the Craft Gin Club – the world’s largest craft gin club – which rates Artisan as the best tasting tonic ever to appear in its monthly boxes, beating 54 other tonics brands which have been featured.

Mr Cooper, former director of innovation at Coca-Cola and founder of Feel Good Drinks, believes that Covid-19 brought a range of challenges but also a number of opportunities.

He said: “When lockdown began we changed our direction slightly to concentrate on the direct-to-consumer market but that didn’t mean that we slowed down on building relationships with the on-trade market and expanding the e-commerce side of the business.

“We were already being stocked in some great locations and so we were determined to keep the conversation going, which meant we could pick up immediately once the hospitality business was open again.

“At the same time we continued with our plans to grow our export market and that again has put us in a very strong position.”

The company was founded by Mr Cooper and artist Alan Walsh when they were both working in Australia.

The pair struck up a conversation with mixologist Mikey Enright in his gin bar in Sydney about the future of the mixer market, prompting the idea for Artisan.

It provided the launch pad for Artisan, which now has seven drinks in its portfolio – Classic London Tonic, Skinny London Tonic, Violet Blossom Tonic, Agave Lemon Tonic, Pink Citrus Tonic, Barrel Smoked Cola and Fiery Ginger Beer.

New flavours and product innovations, including producing the mixers in 200ml cans, are currently in development and the company is planning on strengthening its retail outlets, having recently struck a deal to be sold in Holland and Barrett stores, along with now being listed by Diverse Fine Foods and Inn Express.

The company has concentrated on building a relationship with prestigious venues in both the UK and beyond, notably being stocked in bars such as the Dolce and Gabbana Martini bar in Milan, Italy.

Mr Cooper added: “We recognised that with the growth of premium spirits there was a gap for a really different premium mixer brand.

“We wanted to do things differently and raise the bar higher, to bring the same craft quality that’s now in the spirit industry to mixers. The combination of our high quality, natural ingredients, innovative flavours and the really stand out branding along with our passion and drive is paying off.”

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