Meet the founder of Made for Drink
How did you get into the snack business Daniel?
I started Made For Drink almost 2 years ago now, but have been in the snacks fraternity much longer, having started my career at Pepsi Co 11 years ago.
My single-minded vision was to set up a small batch, ‘craft’ business to produce a new generation of classy snacks brimming with involving flavours, worldly provenance and foodie gravitas. To my way of thinking, a great snack should never be a chore, an after-thought or a quick scoff but an integral piece of a great night out with friends and family –nuts and potatoes aren’t always the answer!
Still this is rather impressive. When you created you first batch, were you nervous at all?
I had started the business originally as a project so had been cooking & creating these products in my own kitchen for some time. However when you sample your products externally, you absolutely feel nervous. To this day I still get butterflies when presenting to knowledgeable foodies (cooking is such a full-on, proud process and a little bit of you goes into every pack).
Three moments in particular stick out in my mind - when I first ever sampled my products with a potential buyer (The Fat Duck Group’s pub, The Crown in Bray), when we had the opportunity to launch our brand at the Observer Food Monthly awards before we had ever even sold a single pack (all my food heroes attend that event, I couldn’t actually sleep the night before with worry)and the final step change moment was the first batch we ever sold (The Crown in Bray). In this instance I was so anxious that I went round to my neighbours that morning and convinced them to pop out for a drink and try them, to make sure they were all as good as they could be.
How did Made for Drink perform when it first launched into the market?
It blew all my expectations out of the water and I’m a very positive person. When we ‘launched’ at the Observer Food Monthly Awards in Sept 2016 both Rick Stein & Fortnum & Mason got in touch the very next day. In the blink of an eye we were trading with The Fat Duck Group, Rick Stein’s Group & Fortnum & Mason. Who could have second guessed that?
When we started trading in November 2016 once again all our expectations were rocked to the core (in a good way). For example, The Crown in Bray sold out within two nights, Fortnum & Mason sold out in the first day & our rate of sale (which they set as a target of 10 packs a week) has hit above 70 packs per week for the first year whilst Rick Stein’s The Cornish Arms pub gets through a case every two days over the summer. It was these constant morsels of positivity that convinced me to hand my notice in at work and put 100% of my efforts behind Made for Drink.
What were you doing before launching and how do you think your previous experience contributed to growing an amazing brand?
I was at PepsiCo for 7 years and then at Concha y Toro (Chilean wine business) for 2.5 years. These two very successful FMCG business’s which gave me broadbrush blue-chip training, experience and expectations for success. I personally couldn’t have launched my business without having had that exposure or grounding.
Do you think powerful and long lasting branding comes from building a lean organic business?
No, I think it comes from an incredible range that people are willing time and again to spend their hard earned money on. It comes from a gritty determination never to give up during the tough patches and an unflinching commitment to never lose sight of your original vision. Of course some flexibility is inevitable, but never skimp on core values.
How do you balance it all – with business and personal life?
It’s hard but over the last two years I’ve had to prioritise my family first and business second, all else has been sacrificed. I’ve made a new year’s resolution in 2018 to start getting some normality back, seeing friends, playing sport and having a holiday.
What do you think sets Made for Drink apart from other brands?
A clear distinctive proposition encapsulated by our brand name, the quality of our products versus your typical bag on snacks and finally the simple truth that we are 100% in control of our own destiny; from making the product, the packaging, the personnel and the retail partners we align with.
It was certainly a brave decision & tied a lot of precious cash up early on in the formative months (setting our own manufacturing), but it gives us such an advantage with regards to product quality, new product innovation and consistency. I believe it really sets us apart from the crowd.
You’ve secured placement in incredible outlets; what advice would you give to entrepreneurs getting ready to pitch to big brands?
Be very, very clear on your vision and everything else (including pitching to big brands) comes easily from that.
Was there ever a point where you felt you were biting off more than you can chew? If yes, how did you get past those moments of doubt?
Yes absolutely, and as we grow, and move and change they still come now. I cope with it by surrounding myself with brilliant people in the business. On a personal level having a true confidant (my wife) makes a world of difference as our ‘keeping it real chats’ with closest friends & family.
My other priority is to get out regularly and sell our product face to face (whether that’s in-depth chats with the insightful Waitrose team, sampling in store at Fortnum’s or Daylesford or simply running a table at a festival or street market).
It reminds you every time that you have an amazing product when people swear with enjoyment and pay their own money for what you are doing and producing. It’s a buzz that I never tire of.
You’re passionate, determined and focused on your goals. Do you have a strategy to just get things done?
Totally – by setting ourselves simple, clear, big goals that we all stick to.
What is your ‘over-arching’ vision for Made for Drink?
To be trading in the Top 1000 pubs, bars hotels & specialist retailers by the first week of 2020.
And then, within 5 years I want Made For Drink to be the driving force in starting a new retail category whereby people are able to purchase their drinks and have complementary foods that will further enhance that experience e.g. dual merchandising).
What do you think entrepreneurs should be focusing on this year?
A return to real food values – quick fix convenience is a thing of the past!
What outstanding international territories would you love to launch in one day?
The USA South Africa and Australia are three regions where we already have a huge amount of traction and I just know that what we are doing could be big there too. After all, there is so much more to meaty snacks than biltong!
Are there any future plans to diversify the Made for Drink product portfolio?
Yes absolutely – the world’s drinking culture is awash with delicious product that we just can’t wait to bring back and produce under our brand. Look out this month for our Mangalitza Salami Chips (goes perfectly with a fruity Pilsner) a fitting tribute to an exceptional Hungarian salami.
Although there’s no escaping that our first 3 products follow a ‘meaty agenda’ that wasn’t intentional, so expect to find that our next tranche of products are vegan & vegetarian inclusive.