Last year, Charlie Turner (pictured right), co-founder of Penrhos Gin, won a supply contract with Aldi, as part of ‘Grow with Aldi’.

The competition looks to find new products from small to medium producers to add to its Specialbuys section.  As the supermarket launches the competition again for 2022, Turner shares his tips and advice for this year’s hopefuls.

The first thing applicants have to ask themselves, he says, is are they physically able to make and package 15,000 bottles of their product.

“Last year, applicants were ruled out for capacity reasons,” he explains, “not just taste.”

 At the start of his own journey, Turner had to take into consideration the other stakeholders at Penrhos.

“I wasn’t sure how they would feel about supplying Aldi,” he says. “Most distilleries will probably look to Waitrose first, but I have to say Aldi has been great.”

He initially pitched to buying director Andrew Maxwell via Zoom, and Turner emphasises that it’s important to have more than just a good product.

“You need to offer the overall package,” he explains. “Something that will help sell the product. I’m a fruit farmer and we create waste, so the story for us is about using that waste to create our gin. It really gave them something to shout about.”

Turner says the first inkling he had that his application was in the running was a call about an audit.

“I’m a farmer, so I’m used to audits and it didn’t bother me – it’s actually a good thing to do. But it’s important you’re prepared for this if you’re a small distiller – it might put some people off.”

Turner also recommends doing a bit of homework. He says he phoned wine, cider and beer producers who work with the supermarket and “no one could say a bad word”.

Breaking out of local

The experience has helped to put the Penrhos brand on the map. “The number of bottles we sold last year probably tripled compared to the year before,” says Turner. “A lot of that is because of Aldi but it has had a massive impact on sales.

“The biggest challenge for distillers is trying to get out of the 40-mile radius of your distillery – and this opportunity with Aldi includes around 900 stores.”

Part of the criteria when Turner entered was that he wasn’t allowed to be supplying other supermarkets, but looking forward, he believes the Aldi deal has done him some favours.

“I can get the attention of other retailers now, and you’ll also find you have a track record. A lot of retailers won’t take you seriously because they don’t think you can do it,” he explains.  

When Aldi gave Penrhos the green light, Turner says there wasn’t long to get everything ready.

“I was getting up at 3am and firing up the still,” he says. “And we didn’t have the bottles. We had to create bottles that were limited edition for Aldi but also at a price point that matches Aldi’s desire to sell gin for under £20.”

And then there’s the space, which Turner says applicants will need plenty of. Fortunately for the farmer, there were outbuildings on the farm that could be converted into bonded warehouses.

If he was going through the whole process again, Turner says he would’ve kept his wholesale partners in the loop a bit more. “They would’ve appreciated it,” he says, especially since the indies usually like to have different products to supermarkets.

Of the whole experience, Turner praises Aldi’s Maxwell, who he says was “flipping brilliant”.

And while he’s mindful of what he can say, Turner does let slip that there’s more to come from Penrhos, he just doesn’t say what. Watch this space.