Meet Niche Cocktails: masters of mixology

Niche Cocktails will toast in the new year with a new brand launch in February. Can their unique canned mixes do for cocktails what Fever-Tree did for mixers? CEO Rob Breakwell certainly thinks so.

Niche Cocktails was founded by Suffolk entrepreneur Bob Scott in 2019.

He converted his passion for mixology – first sparked on extensive business travels – into a craft drinks business making the ‘perfect cocktail in a can’.

Rob Breakwell – who joined as company CEO in early 2023 and is also a cocktail connoisseur – previously enjoyed a successful sales career working for brewing giants like Carlsberg, Adnams and Cameron.

With the hospitality trade temporarily derailed by Covid – and seeking new challenges – he started volunteering his expertise for free to small drinks producers hit hard by lockdown.

And then by chance he was seated next to Niche’s operations manager at a local food and drink event. “She mentioned they were looking for a new CEO and wondered if I could recommend any suitable candidates.

“I half-jokingly said I might be interested, and within a week I got the job!

Creating a cool brand

Rob enthuses, “I’m really excited about working with Niche Cocktails – we have a great product, a great brand and really great people working for us.

 “Authenticity is crucial to our team and Niche is focused on creating a cool brand which really understands its customers.

“Too many shop-bought cocktail mixes just don’t live up to the mark. They tend to be lower value ABV and syrupy sweet whereas our drinks use only natural ingredients and are premium strength.”

Rob points out, “The UK cocktails market was worth over £866m in 2022, mostly dominated by the big brands. Growth was 26 per cent in 2022 and predicted to be the same last year. No other segment of the drinks market currently has that kind of headroom.

“But a large chunk of the craft drinks market is targeted at the very cool, urban, primarily male customer. You know, the type who makes his own sourdough, drinks IPA and wears plaid shirts. On the other hand, there’s very little that appeals to the discerning female professional consumer.

“These are high-value mainstream customers left behind by marketers who have set their sights on either the quirky craft drinker or the best-value drinker.

“We’ve designed our cocktail range to appeal to these aspirational consumers who are looking for a little bit of everyday luxury. For example, we only use spirits from Adnams and The English Distillery in our mixes because they are world-class products.

“We hope customers will buy into the Niche brand in the same way they will, for example, only buy candles from the White Company, or a Barbour jacket, or Fever-Tree mixers for their drinks.

Mixology magic

Rob explains, “A lot of work goes into creating the perfect cocktail mix. It took about three months to perfect our new Negroni which is being launched this spring along with a Strawberry Daiquiri.

“The team ended up tasting 26 variations of orange to create the perfect Negroni spritz when you open the can. It turns out that Valencian oranges add just the right depth of bitterness and sweetness, and we are very happy with the result!

“Ultimately, however, I think we won’t have more than 10 cocktails in the range. We will try and keep it as tight as we can while offering interest and variety. It’s important for us to sell drinks that look, feel and taste like your best version of a classic rather than chasing today’s trend. Of course, we are always open to new categories, but we have quite a lot on our plate (or in our glass) at the moment!”

The local chamber of commerce has been very supportive but, while Rob would like to get some kind of government funding, “unfortunately there isn’t a great deal for our type of business.”

How to do well in business

So as a seasoned businessman, what advice does Rob have for budding entrepreneurs? He says, “It’s really important to understand the basics of cash flow and operations, but the very best entrepreneurs just know that their idea or project is right and have a belief and determination that they will succeed. If you don’t have that feeling about your project, you should probably do something else before you waste your money.

“If you’re looking to pitch to an investor, you must bring your vision to life. Show them that you really know your customer. Understanding your customer – and cash flow – are the key fundamentals for success. Get these two right and everything else will fall into place.”

The countdown begins

Looking forward to February’s rebrand, Rob says, “We want people to enjoy our story and have trust in the quality of our cocktails so that they will single them out and make them their first choice of purchase.”

With this in mind, the new-look Niche range has a quintessentially English pinstripe design, each sporting a different colour to make them instantly recognisable on the shelf: sunny yellow for margarita, lime green for mojito, etc.

Rob and the team are still busy working on the rebrand launch, and while a specific event hasn’t yet been planned, they will be appearing at events around the region to raise their profile as much as possible.

So – in Rob’s opinion – what is the perfect cocktail? “It’s the drink that makes your occasion the best it can be. I think it should be the highlight of your day!

“In essence, we are hoping to do to cocktails what Fever Tree did to mixers. If it means creating – or buying – more brands to meet our customer needs, then hopefully we can do that too.”

The Niche Cocktail range is available at selected stockists and online.

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