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The Start Up Drinks Lab has the recipe for success

By Hannah Fisher - Posted on 17 January 2019

Hannah Fisher and Craig Strachan both studied at Strathclyde Business School. The duo went on to set up The Start-Up Drinks Lab and here Hannah talks about their entrepreneurial journey.

I met Craig through Entrepreneurial Spark in 2016. We had both studied at Strathclyde Business School and we were both entrepreneurs looking to launch our own soft drinks companies. We quickly found we had the same problem – we couldn’t find a suitable facility to help us develop, test and manufacture our products.

So we decided to grab the bull by the horns and launch a contract manufacturing facility specifically for craft drinks – and The Start-Up Drinks Lab was the solution.

The Start-Up Drinks Lab is an ideas factory with the mission of ensuring that all great craft soda ideas can make it to market. We offer an end-to-end service, including product development, manufacturing, packaging, storage facilities and collaborative routes to market for all craft soda producers.

Since June 2018, the facility has filled nearly 300,000 bottles for a selection of drinks companies across the UK. Approximately 57% of our client base are small-medium sized drink companies who haven’t been able to launch given the volume restrictions for larger contract bottlers. Our remaining clients are large drink companies who have their own bottling lines but are wanting to innovate quicker, launch experimental new products and trial them before committing to large volumes.

This is where The Start-Up Drinks lab is perfect as it can give accessible manufacturing to the smaller drink companies but also innovate for companies like Tennent Caledonian, Brewdog and Eden Mill.

But we’re not just a bottling hall – we focus on every part of the business of enabling drink ideas to become a reality. As part of this we offer the “Craft Soda School” – a client entertaining and corporate team building experience that allows 10 guests per day to create a craft soda from scratch. Not only do our guests decide what type of drink they’ll make, but they develop a unique flavour, design the branding, physically bottle it and then, two weeks later, they receive 200 complete bottles of their uniquely branded drink!

Craig and I are also excited about launching three new craft soda and mixer brands of our own in collaboration with Scottish bartenders. With Steve Mutty of Dandelyan fame, we’ve produced “Just the Tonic” – a Scottish tonic water, “Sparklingly Sober”, a non-alcoholic rose wine, and “Wee Davie Cola”, a Scottish cola containing malt extract as the perfect dark rum mixer.

It was really important for us to demonstrate to our clients that we had, over a short period of time, developed unique recipes, created brands and launched all three drinks into bars, restaurants and shops throughout Scotland.

We’re delighted that Scotmid is our sole external investor - their backing has given us excellent support through the initial phase of our business and we’ve developed a close working relationship with them.

We’ve also worked with a number of premium hotel chains and distillers, including the Hilton, who wanted to create a drink brand not only bespoke to them but which will give their guests a completely unique experience in their venues.

For all budding entrepreneurs, our advice would be that you shouldn’t be afraid to take risks and tackle your problems head on!

It would have been easy for us to just accept we couldn’t find an accessible manufacturer and that the multinationals would continue to dominate. Instead we turned our problem into an opportunity and are confident we can help all craft soda producers bring provenance and experimental flavours to the market.

The Start-up Drinks Lab is now based at Kelburn Business Park, Port Glasgow. They can be found at www.startupdrinkslab.com and on Twitter @startupdrinkslab



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