Founder: Naomi Kibble and Helen McAvoy
The off-trade cocktail industry, which is doubling in size each year, has a new pioneer in Rocktails. The second business established by co-founders Naomi Kibble and Helen McAvoy – after founding the original distribution company to bring ethical bottled water to South Wales while at university – Rocktails is the first range of frozen cocktails on the retail market. Having sold out at Sainsburys.co.uk, been requested at Topshop and MTV press days and had an audience with Prince Charles all in the first two weeks after launch, it would appear there is a gap in the market for this innovative young brand.
The market opportunity
The global recession has redirected leisure activities back into the living room. The average household now spends £566 a year on drinks to consume at home, creating an off-trade market worth £15bn. For cosmopolitan young professionals – such as the co-founders – their desire to replicate the high-quality cocktails they would buy in a bar was unfulfilled by the supermarkets' offerings.
“When we did the research, we were horrified to find that so many pre-mix cocktails posing as authentic didn’t even have spirits in them – they're wine-based. If you look at food products then it's a legal obligation to put the ingredients and nutritionals on the back of the packet and the consumer would expect that, but in the alcohol industry, it's not – which means that alcohol manufacturers can get away with absolute murder,” Kibble says.
“The idea behind the Rocktails product is that they are wildly convenient, there’s only a handful of ingredients (including real vodka!), they’re free from artificial flavours and colours and it’s making those kind of bar-quality cocktails that you just don't get elsewhere.”
Indeed, Rocktails’ closest competitor is Funkin, which provides off-the-shelf cocktail ingredients, kept fresh in foil pouches – but these require consumers to add their own alcohol.
Kibble and McAvoy have maintained 100% of their business to date, raising £63,000 through start-up grants and personal funding. Their joint track record and integration into the entrepreneur community in Cardiff, where the business was founded, no doubt helped. The Welsh Assembly invested the largest chunk of money into their product development, as part of an innovation network.
Winning Shell Livewire provided £1,000 and the founders believe, “the biggest funding is through awards now.” Indeed, it was through Start-up Britain's 'Win a marketing agency for a year' initiative that Rocktails secured its contract with Pulse Group, a global leader with clients including Pimms and Blossom Hill wine.
Rocktails did not in fact win the competition, but the exposure was enough to catch the marketing agency's eye, which offered to waive its fee. In Pulse, the co-founders have also gained a set of mentors – a resource that they understand can be as valuable as finance itself.
The growth strategy
Social media will be key in communicating with the Rocktails consumer, with a Facebook giveaway and promo stands at Cardiff's rugby matches already prompting significant Twitter conversation.
As well as supplying retailers including Sainsburys, Ted Baker and another soon to be announced, the events industry offers a crucial second revenue opportunity. Rocktails’ HQ has already re-located from Cardiff to Hoxton – to be at the heart of the London events scene – where they took on their first member of staff. Rocktails’ website is also about to expand into ecommerce, to give fans a more direct line of purchase.
The co-founders describe their greatest challenge so far as “getting the actual product to market.” But having done it in half the time and budget that industry advisers told them they would require, the only way now, is up.
Spotting a gap in the drinks market, triggered by the recession, these young entrepreneurs are not only building an innovative new brand but seeking to raise standards in the alcohol industry, by fostering open communication with the consumer.