Ready to shake up ‘ready to drink’
Eblana Beverages is delivering new premium RTD sour flavours that it’s confident will deliver sweet success. Not only that, but its premium alcohol-infused dessert ice creams look set to melt buyers’ hearts. Gillian Hamill caught up with father and daughter duo, Alistair and Rebecca Tidey, to hear more about their plans for growth
14 July 2015
For a cocktail to be truly scrumptious, it needs to deliver a harmonious balance of its individual ingredients. This is something that the Tidey family, founders of Eblana Beverages (Easy Tiger) know only too well – not only have they delivered taste bud-tingling premium combinations within their range of ready to drink (RTD) alcoholic beverages – but their team could also be said to form the perfect cocktail of their component parts.
Alistair Tidey is the manufacturing pro; his brother Andrew, a former Tesco buyer, brings the retail knowledge, while the younger Tideys; brand manager Rebecca and her brother William, who is currently involved in merchandising, bring youth, dynamism and a knowledge of what the target market are looking for and how to communicate effectively to that market. “From my side, I’ve always been in manufacturing,” says Alistair. “I’ve been the world’s largest manufacturer of artificial Christmas trees; I was based down in Kilcoole in Wicklow and we had about 150 people employed there for 18 years. I’ve been in barbecues, patio heaters, hotel furniture; I’ve always been in product manufacturing so my expertise lies very much in being able to work with the team to concept and then bring the execution of that through, to create a product that from a value point of view is on target, because we get our manufacturing base right.”
Andrew Tidey meanwhile was a beers, wines and spirits buyer with Tesco (and previously Quinnsworth) for 25 years, before taking early retirement. His knowledge of the off-trade industry has proved instrumental in helping the company to progress. “It helps in terms of understanding the retail structure and what the buyers demand, both in pricing structure but also the promotional structure and calendar, and in-store operational knowledge,” says Alistair. “All that knowledge has been invaluable in terms of us getting rapidly on the tracks.”
This combination of talents has already delivered noteworthy results. Not only is the Paint the Town Red Cocktails range stocked nationwide in Tesco and Dunnes Stores in Ireland, but the business also scored an impressive coup recently by securing a listing in one of the UK’s ‘big four’; Morrisons. “Ireland is a very good market for us to bring the brands into the market and start their journey; but really to make a viable business, we need to secure those large UK accounts and Morrisons is our first,” he says. Paint the Town Red Cocktails are now stocked in 400 Morrison branches and “that is as a result of the success that we’ve been able to demonstrate in Ireland on a per store basis,” says Alistair. Ireland is also an important market to perform well in from the perspective that the Tesco and Bord Bia Supplier Development Programme will bring “embryo brands that have performed well in Ireland” before the UK buyers.
Ireland was chosen as a manufacturing base because of its strong reputation for food and drink. Moreover, due to the family’s Irish roots, Alistair was keen to manufacture in Ireland once again, having previously moved his base to Hong Kong due to international market changes.
With help from Bord Bia, the company has received “great support from the buyers in multiples, as an Irish company”. This support has been critical because as he points out: “We don’t have an endless budget, I’m not a Diageo or an Irish Distillers, I don’t have €3million to throw at a launch campaign so we are of course, dependent on the buyers supporting new innovative companies, Irish businesses that have a good product that is well-priced and competitive within its set.”
Innovating within RTD sector
The company is currently rolling out a number of new RTD products, and again the primary market for these is the major retail chain stores, not only in Ireland, but the UK, which actually has the world’s largest RTD market. The new products are Jambaloo (a sparkling infusion of five spiced bitter orange and ginger, infused with premium Scotch whiskey) and Sour Caterpillar (a classic whiskey sour). Since our interview, these two brands have been listed by BWG in all Mace, Eurospar and Londis shops in ROI and will be on sale in stores mid-July. Showing the company isn’t afraid of genuine innovation, it is also launching a range of premium alcohol-infused dessert ice creams, under its Paint the Town Red label.
Rebecca explains the market trends that led Eblana Beverages to develop its current portfolio. Firstly, when its RTD cocktails launched two years ago, this was driven by the on-trade explosion of a “cocktail culture which translated into the off-trade where people were looking for a more premium cocktail at an affordable price for entertaining with their friends,” she says. “Instead of having to go buy the ingredients of two different spirits; this is cheaper for them and more convenient.”
Premium RTD offering
Consumer demand for a more sophisticated RTD option represented a real opportunity for Eblana Beverages, and the company actually welcomes rival premium RTD lines as they believe they will all help to develop the category further and ultimately drive greater growth. “If you look at the RTD market as it was then two years ago, it was catering to the lower end of the market, with alcopops and [pre-mixed] cans,” says Alistair. “These were mainly brand extensions of big brands into that party, ready to drink market and where we saw an opportunity, and where we welcome all new product whether it’s ours or anybody else’s to that category, is through delivering an extended choice.” One that doesn’t just appeal to 18 to 24 year-olds, but 25 to 35 year-old women who want quality and value.
RTD is a fast-moving sector and it’s essential to keep a close eye on the latest consumer trends and this is where Rebecca reckons the company can excel, through developing new options that will pique the target audience’s curiosity. “Within the RTD category and the whole drinks sector, women are actually really interested in whiskey and again it goes back to bars; women are experimenting with new flavours, and Scotch whisky and Bourbon have become really popular because of [the influence of] Jack Daniel’s, which is now also targeting women. Women are abandoning vodka in favour of the brown stuff and that’s really interesting for us; it’s something new.” She also points to the rise in popularity of sour and bitter flavours, which lay behind the company’s decision to develop its Jambaloo and Sour Caterpillar brands. A good example of this growing trend is the rise of bitter spirit Aperol, which Rebecca says saw volume sales rise by 800% in the past 12 months at Waitrose supermarkets.
Not only is the company offering new spirit and flavour combinations moreover, but they’re also bringing added “newness” through the 50cl Sour Caterpillar offering, which is a new bottle size for this category. “I suppose what we’d like to feel, is that by being a small, niche, nimble drinks manufacturer we can offer the buyers that depth of range development that allows them to see the category as a whole start to appeal to a wider audience within the entire drinks sector,” says Alistair.
Adhering to price sensitivity
While Eblana Beverages has certainly showcased its creativity, they remain realistic about the price sensitivity inherent within the RTD sector, and this is why they’re focusing primarily on gaining listings from the major chains, over independent off-licences which “have been focusing their main attention on craft beer”. Alistair points out that RTD is a highly “price driven” sector, ranging from €1.50 a bottle at the lower end, to maybe €9.99 at the higher end, making it vital for the company’s offerings to stay “within that band”.
He sees Jambaloo as sitting in the “same bracket as West Coast Cooler”, which he describes as “a really good established brand for 25 to 34 year-old women”. Priced at €5 – €6, depending on whether or not it’s on promotion, Jambaloo will offer “another choice” and create more diversity within the RTD category. And as the name implies, the sourness of Sour Caterpillar has led the company to target this drink at both men and women. Sour Caterpillar will be priced at €4 to €5; Paint the Town Red cocktails at €2 to €2.80; and a 120ml tub of dessert ice cream infused with alcohol will be €2.20 to €3; depending on whether the products are on or off promotion. “As you can see, we are very sharp on pricing but because all the products are made with juice from natural concentrate and a high level of it, we do have a more premium content which is where we see the differentiation of what we’re offering,” says Alistair. Ultimately however, he adds: “The drinks industry is a very volume-driven industry; without the volume you are unlikely to succeed and therefore you’ve got to strike that balance between being premium where the market is or being premium where there isn’t a market. We’re very much premium where the market is and where we know we can drive significant volumes.”
Made in Ireland
Eblana Beverages is evidently proud of its ‘Made in Ireland’ status. “We’re happy to be playing our part in terms of driving new jobs and new business,” says Tidey. “We are sourcing all the component elements that make up the product, for example, the bottles, the caps, and the labels, and we then use a filler factory in Enniscorthy called P.D. O’Donoghue’s to do the bottling and they employ 72 people. For the ice creams, we’re using a company called Silver Pale down in Fermoy and we have developed our recipes with them but again we procure the packaging etc so they are third party contract fillers working with us.” Although it doesn’t have its own manufacturing facility, Eblana has its own warehousing facilities and company itself employs ten people. What’s more, using third-party fillers is an advantage which, according to Tidey, helps keep them “nimble”.
Another Irish business which has benefitted from the family’s entrepreneurialism is the Irish design company, Bold, which is based in Phibsboro, Dublin. The Tideys are delighted with the “unique, quirky packaging with shelf stand-out” that they have delivered.
Alcohol-infused dessert ice creams
The company has also ventured into a whole new area; alcohol-infused dessert ice creams and ShelfLife was keen to hear where the inspiration for this new idea came from. “I was in America last year and I saw that a big growth area was desserts infused with alcohol so that’s anything from a sherry triffle to a Christmas pudding at its most seasonal,” says Alistair. “But the range of desserts with alcohol has exploded, and ice cream is just one of the sub categories that has benefitted from that. I then came back and looked at who had done it within Europe and apart from really small artisan companies, nobody had really taken on an ice cream infused with alcohol in terms of a range of flavours.”
Having made the decision to launch this range, an initial production run to create samples has gone down a storm and the brand’s 9,000 Facebook followers have lapped the news up. With a 4% alcohol content, the ice creams are still classified as food and not excisable in any way, but the company has nevertheless been careful to ensure that it has acted with “due diligence”, in the way the product has been marketed and labelled as ‘Strictly for adults’. The last word goes to Rebecca though: “Everyone’s addicted; I can’t stop eating them!” We here at ShelfLife have to agree, and as brand endorsements go, that surely can’t be licked!