The rise of the start-up is as prominent in the drinks industry as it is in other FMCG categories in the UK. Craft is nothing new, you have craft gin, craft beer and craft quinoa vodka, for goodness’ sake, and the category continues to ferment as new brands bubble into the market daily. It’s incredibly competitive but there’s some notable small batch gins really making noise in the industry, like Manchester Gin manchestergin.co.uk also up for a Great British Food Award for 2017
Together with the rise of craft is the tonic and soft drinks industry, with emerging brands like Fever Tree, Fentimans, and Franklin & Sons, now giving market leaders like Schweppes a run for their money. It’s also worth noting the emergence of the ‘low-cal’ category, which suit a more nutrition-conscious nation.
Staying with soft drinks for a moment, a few other categories have experienced growth and seen new contenders enter:
- In spring water, Cano recently launched Canowater, a brand focused on sustainability and the environment, cannily (sorry couldn’t resist the pun) created aluminium cans of sparkling and still waters, where the packaging alone is enough to tempt you to make a purchase.
- Tapped Trees is another brand busily making flavoured water cool again from the sap of the birch tree
Another thing I’d like to mention is the wide range of spin-off industries like subscription services. Whilst wine clubs have been around for aeons now, the subscription-based gifting services, whether drinks or cosmetics, or whatever it may be, are still really gaining momentum. One notable is Gin Craft Club with a staggering 20,000 members who receive a different gin every month/two months, along with a hamper-style box filled with related gin paraphernalia enabling you to create your perfect G&T in the comfort of your own home. There’s also a similar one called Caskers for Vodka lovers.
I think it’s a great time to be a consumer in the UK at the moment as the need for brands to keep their innovation pipeline relevant and fresh has never been more important. The result of this is a wider range of ingredients, new categories emerging, and innovative brands at our disposal, resulting in a range of highly creative products on our shelves like never before. However, life is not all about socialising and consuming, so here’s some critical success factors that I have put together about how to find work in the burgeoning drinks industry right now:
How can I get into the drinks industry?
Get yourself out there before you apply anywhere
More often than not you will learn your trade through the trade, so if you are applying for jobs with drinks companies, get out there and understand the brand perception. Identify if they are mass market or premium, who their competitors are, what the price-point is, what the promotions are, and if it tastes good. This first-hand research is especially important if you are making a switch from an entirely different industry.
Choose the business type carefully
If you are a sales professional looking for entry level positions, consider whether you want to work for an SME or if you want to join a larger business where you could get training development, and a better appreciation of other functions and resources like category management, shopper marketing, and consumer insights.
What traits do drinks companies look for?
Show you understand the business
The on-trade to off-trade transition will forever be an issue. If you are a NAE/NAM currently in the on-trade trying to make a switch, you will need to find comparisons with the Grocery/Retail channel. For example, building and negotiating Joint Business Plans (JBP’s, category management approaches, or where you have perhaps had crossover with colleagues in the off-trade in projects before.
Be a brand ambassador!
As we’ve seen with some of the recent trends, this is a really exciting, yet competitive time to be in drinks, so if you are considering a move to a Craft Gin, Beer or Tonic brand, bear in mind that there’s probably a high percentage of other people in the UK who also think it’s a cool job too. To get ahead, ensure that you are able to demonstrate your industry knowledge at interview, it sounds obvious, but think about what brands you like, and why, and make sure the company knows you have been into the trade and done your homework.
At the more experienced end of the market, let’s say you are thinking of making the switch to SME (another interesting blog covered by my colleague, Richard Bowen) you must be able to demonstrate real (and excuse the somewhat overused term) entrepreneurial spirit: how you’ve progressed, how you’ve worked cross-functionally, and where you’ve created/implemented processes from scratch.
Be prepared to work in your own spare-time
This is something probably more relevant in drinks than most other categories. You may be expected to go to festivals (what a drag!), attend events, collaborate with other brands in sponsorship agreements, deliver tasting sessions, and do pop-ups etc.
Ultimately working in the Drinks industry can involve lots of hard-work yet be extremely rewarding if you are passionate.