“Mixing for Success: How Fever-Tree is working hard to improve your drinks”

Seth:

When ¾ of your drink is mixer, how often are you thinking about what you’re actually drinking? We are honored to be joined by industry stalwart Charles Gibb, CEO of Fever-Tree USA, to discuss how the number 1 premium cocktail mixer and tonic company in the world is focusing their efforts on elevating cocktail experiences and occasions all-across America. Charles, thank you so much for joining us today!

Charles Gibb:

Thanks for inviting me! A great pleasure to join you!

Seth:

You began guiding strategy for Fever Tree (the parent company) back in 2017…and just over a year ago, Fever-Tree USA took over all US operations of the brand. Can you tell me a little about what went into the decision to take control of your brand and operations here in the US? What were the primary goals and some of the inflection points you anticipated along the way?

Charles:

We saw the tremendous potential for the Mixer Category in the USA, and knew that to realize the full potential of the Brand we needed to take control of the business so we could ensure the right focus, strengthen our marketing activation and grow the Brand through the right distribution network. Allied to this, we had the critical mass to establish our own operations, and thus took control from June 1st 2018.

Seth:

Now that it has been a little over a year, we’d love to hear what the journey has been like thus-far. It would be particularly interesting to hear your thoughts on the brand’s awareness/sentiment in the US originally, and how that compares with where you feel you are today?

Charles:

It’s been an extraordinary adventure, from establishing a company, recruiting a talented dynamic team, securing the right distribution partners through to kickstarting a marketing agenda focused on bartenders, chefs and tastemakers across the country! Critical to this has been the fantastic partnership we established with Southern Glazers Wines & Spirits, who have been core to the success.  The reception to the company has been phenomenal, as bartenders, retail store owners and consumers are all seeking to elevate and enhance their drinking experiences, something Fever-Tree delivers on thanks to the simple concept of the long mixed drink – Spirit-Mixer-Garnish.

Having just come back from Brooklyn Bar Convent & Aspen Food & Wine, the reactions across the restaurant and bar trade, as well as consumers has been exceptionally consistent. They love the quality, the natural ingredients,  Non GMO and above all the breadth of the portfolio, from our Aromatic & Cucumber Tonics through to our Spiced Orange and Smoky Ginger Ales, all designed to be mixed with a diverse range of spirits!

Seth:

I see that innovation has been a part of the roadmap – with many exciting new mixers/tonics getting released just this year. Can you tell me more about the inspiration behind these products? Are there particular insights you’re working against for American consumers, or is this a global effort to broaden the portfolio and offer new premium cocktail options?

Charles:

Absolutely! Innovation has been at the core of Fever-Tree’s success in many markets, and it’s been very exciting to see the reception for our new mixers. For every expression we start with a drinking experience in mind and think how can we both enhance and add a Fever-Tree twist to this. For example the Spiced Orange Ginger Ale took Hennessy Cognac as the inspiration, whereas for Mediterranean Tonic, Belvedere Vodka was the benchmark.  That said, we are evolving our Tonic and Ginger portfolios to suit a multitude of occasions, covering Low Alcohol and Zero Alcohol occasions, working with the likes of Aperol, St. Germain and Seedlip (non Alcoholic).

For the US Market, we look firstly at what consumers are drinking which differs greatly from the UK market, thus Tequila, Bourbon, Whiskeys, Mescal and Cognac play a greater role, along with aperitifs.

Seth:

Fever-Tree seems to do a lot around experiences and occasions – something we know pairs quite well with the work of your counterparts on the spirits side. That said, I’m curious where you see the greatest opportunity to employ experiential/occasion-based tactics most effectively for Fever Tree, and at the scale you’re looking for? And given your last role (as CEO of Belvedere), how do you view opportunities to partner with like-minded spirits brands on some of these efforts?

Charles:

We love working with spirits Brands!!! For us it is all about how we best enhance and elevate the drinking experience and thus all activations we engage in relate to ensuring we get the maximum levels of trial. “Once you taste Fever-Tree, you never go back” – I first tasted Fever-Tree back in 2006  and once running Belvedere insisted that we only work with Fever-Tree for all our events Globally!

Thus we are honored to be present at multiple events, either as the lead or support with a Spirits partner, and thus from Pebble Beach Food & Wine, through to Nantucket F&W, along with Tales of the Cocktail or Brooklyn Bar Convent, or even the US Open or PGA Championship, we partner closely to help craft the best drinks experiences for consumers.

Seth:

Finally, we always enjoy finishing our discussions by looking ahead. Can you give us 3-5 ingredients which aren’t being heavily used in cocktails today, that you anticipate becoming more popular in the near future (be they in the mixer/tonic, or the spirits)?

Charles:

The trends we are seeing relate to simplicity vs increased complexity in drinks, and thus the world of garnishing has tremendous opportunity. The look, nose, taste and even texture of a drink can be altered so simply with an addition of a more interesting garnish, in particular when looking at more interesting and unexpected herbs – I saw drinks last night garnished with Lavender, Rosemary, Rose petals and peppercorns, or even juniper berries, all of which enhance the drinking experience.

Thinking of garnishes, you can see the way we bring these to life on our Mix your Ginger and Mix your Tonic wheels.

Seth:

I absolutely agree. After all it’s the eye that “eats” first. Charles, this is fantastic! Thank you so much for joining our interview series today and for sharing your story.

Charles:

My pleasure and loved chatting! Remember that if 3/4 of the drink is the mixer….!!

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