Craftwork bolsters portfolio with Irish whiskey

New distributor Craftwork continues to bolster its burgeoning portfolio with intriguing spirits and the latest addition is Hyde Irish whiskey.

Jeremy Rockett, a former senior executive at First Drinks, M&S, Gonzalez Byass and Marblehead, set up the firm after identifying a dearth of pure distributors in the UK drinks trade.

Hyde's range joins the likes of Babicka Original Wormwood vodka and various spirits from Spanish producer Osborne in the nascent portfolio.

Rockett told DRN: “When you look at the explosion of brands in the market, there aren’t enough pure distributors. In other markets there are more distributors.”

He only set up the business a couple of months ago, along with Mark Dawkins, founder of Langley’s gin and a long-time colleague of Rockett, and they have already been inundated with requests from craft producers, but they have to be strict about which ones they work with.

“We need to make sure our selection of brands is right for the market,” said Rockett. “It’s very clear to us who has a vision for the market. I ask, what’s your ambition, competitive set, price on shelf, cost price, distribution margin, what resources and investment you will put in the market?

“There is an explosion of brands, but an awful lot of people haven’t looked at how to make it a commercial success. As a distributor it’s easy to turn those people down, but we can add that skill. We are looking for good quality, and quality to price ratio. It has to have a point of difference and it has to have the story and history and provenance, and the ability to cut through.”

Another job is convincing retailers to take on a new supplier, but Rockett is encouraged by buyers’ increasing appetite for exclusive products to differentiate their ranges. 

“There are lots of brands looking for a distributor, but do buyers want another supplier?” he said. “It costs them money every time they take on a supplier, so how do you add value to them?

“Retailers want products in their stores that are not stocked elsewhere, so they can differentiate their ranges.

“Every time we look at products we are looking at where we can sell that and tailor making it for the retailer. We are small and fast moving and flexible, which can help us bring in products that add value to retailers. There is a demand for gin, whisky and rum.”

He added: “We are experienced people that have a particular philosophy about how to be a distributor: being a partner and having a transparent relationship.

“Mark and I worked for First Drinks and Gonzalez Byass, fantastic companies. We really want to create an exciting place to work, where people and brands want to come and work with us, by behaving well, having transparent relationships and creating something where we are having a lot of fun. 

“If we are an open book we can use our resources to achieve the best possible growth in the market for them. Some may say it’s naïve, but I don’t think it is. Every transparent relationship I have had with a supplier has worked really well, because you get trust. The end game is to use the information to help each other grow.”

Irish whiskey is a growing segment of the spirits category, and Conor Hyde, founder of Hyde whiskey, is sold on the Craftwork vision.

“This is an important moment for us, the global market for Irish whiskey is continuing to grow and it’s imperative to have a complex market, like the UK, represented in an agile and considered way,” he said. “We are pleased that the team at Craftwork will get under the skin of our brand and drive the strategy forward.”

The range encompasses a number of special release and limited edition Irish whiskeys.

Rockett added: “Our selective approach to partnering with high quality spirits brands has enabled us to open a number of new trade accounts, and take significant orders from the on-trade, wholesalers, e-commerce channels, as well as the traditional large UK retailers and HYDE’s premium whiskeys really complement our portfolio.

“Hyde’s excellent reputation precedes itself and, while the brand already has a foothold in the UK market, we have ambitions to take it to the next level. We believe we can build significant demand for HYDE with a wider community of drinkers including a younger, new generation of whiskey connoisseurs.”

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