Phenomenal growth for homegrown drinks

The Premium Liquor Company was established in late 2017, and since then has experienced phenomenal growth. The company was the vision of Hamish Gordon – he already had a commodities business and a manufacturing business and felt the next logical step was a branding business. This would ensure that there were brands being created with vertical integration in mind. The Premium Liquor Company has evolved rapidly into not only a manufacturer of brands, but a distributor as well.

“New Zealand is a small fish in a very large pond, but as a nation, we produce world-class products,” said general manager Matt Bruce. “We are a well-funded, agile business with people full of entrepreneurial spirit.”

Premium Liquor started off with Sundown Gin and quickly realised that building a balanced portfolio was essential for long term success. With the strong uptake of Sundown gin, the company has now established itself as the market leader in its category for low sugar gin premixes. This platform has allowed Premium Liquor to develop further brands; Hint NZ Vodka, Honey Badger and Vodka Slider.

Managing director Hamish Gordon and general manager Matt Bruce

“The development of Sundown came after seeing the worldwide rise in the gin category,” Bruce explained. “For our other brands, we have looked for gaps in the market and industry trends. Keeping current with worldwide brands is also a big part of our development and we are continually looking for the next big thing.”

Over the last year, Premium Liquor has also been approached by a number of other brands to distribute on their behalf which has enabled the diversification of the Premium Liquor portfolio and grow the business.

“Our philosophy is to have one or two strong brands in each of the alcohol categories to round out our portfolio, while we develop our own brands at a rapid pace.”

The company has offices in Auckland and Tauranga, where all production is done with sister company Pure Bottling. The team is small but effective – five full-time territory managers service New Zealand’s off-premise liquor stores, a two-person marketing team creates and manages the brands, while an NPD manager oversees the conception and execution of new brands.

“Within our first year of trading, we have managed to break even in the third and fourth quarter, which is a real achievement considering the high outlay in building brands and putting a full national rep force on the ground.”

The focus so far has been on off-premise, but that is set to change.

“This year we plan to put more resources into building the high-volume pub and club scene. Our premix options are ideal for behind the bar, with a guaranteed pour and no hassles with mixers. They’re a natural fit.” While Premium Liquor is only now making moves into the on-premise sector, one thing Bruce has noticed is the change in attitudes towards being tied into contracts with one of the big brewers. “Free houses are becoming more and more prevalent, which fits well with what Premium Liquor is trying to do in the market.”

Marketing has played a big role in the rapid growth of the company. “We’ve found getting our product on lips is the really the proof of a good brand, so we tend to do a lot of tastings, events and sampling,” Bruce said. “This is strongly supported by social media – it’s a great medium to communicate to our consumers, providing real-time feedback and response.”

The company recently employed an export manager with a focus on developing business in Australia. “There have been enquiries from as far away as Denmark and Taiwan from distributors wanting to represent our brands in their market,” Bruce said. “With the addition of this export opportunity we will look to triple our New Zealand business in our second year. Fingers crossed.”