The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic are far reaching across different areas of the drinks industry. With the on-premise taking an extreme hit, many producers and suppliers are feeling the negative knock on effects in their business.
Independent Australian spirits distributor Nip Of Courage is an example, but as we’ve reported previously during the pandemic, they’re not giving up in the face of such adversity. They continue to innovate, pivot and think outside the box, most recently, with an increased focus on uniquely serving independent retailers.
Founder Kathleen Davies said before COVID-19, most of their business was made up of on-premise customers. Even as venues begin to reopen around the country, there’s still a level of uncertainty, especially seeing what’s happened with the second Victorian lockdown, so she knew something had to change.
“It’s just really up in the air at the moment, but we’re trying to stay optimistic and look for other areas to grow our business,” Davies told National Liquor News.
One of these areas is based around educating people on spirits categories, while showing the value of Australian spirits. The first example is Rye July, a tasting box of four whiskies from Belgrove Distillery, that includes information and a virtual masterclass to help people understand rye whiskey, and build their confidence to explore the category more.
“We’ve been putting them together at two different levels – one is rookie and one is geek. A lot of the industry are doing [virtual masterclasses] at the moment, our team has sat in on them and those from outside the industry got a bit lost in some of the masterclasses, because they weren’t at that geek level of knowledge that a lot of industry people are,” Davies explained.
“We thought there was a good opportunity to introduce a rookie level, where people can feel comfortable learning from scratch about things in layman’s terms. It explains things a little bit better along the way so that people don’t feel left out and to make it more approachable.”
The Rye July box, as with all Nip Of Courage products, has been made retail friendly with an individual barcode (on the back of the box pictured) and a built in margin. Inside is a Youtube link to a virtual masterclass for customers to go through at their own pace. It’s an easy way for retailers to boost customer interest and understanding in the category, while still making a profit, as everything has already been taken care of by Davies’ team – all that’s left is for a retailer to put the pack on the shelf.
But as with any business solution, there’s no one size fits all option, and so the educational packs are customisable, with retailers given the ability to work with the Nip Of Courage team to create something unique to them, their brand and their customers.
When Nip of Courage put out the call to some existing retail customers about this new offering, there was a great response, including from the 2019 ALIA Liquor Store of the Year, The Oak Barrel. Working with their needs, Nip Of Courage has helped organise a live masterclass featuring Belgrove Distillery’s Peter Bignell and Oak Barrel spirit expert, Scott Fitzsimons.
The opportunities are almost endless though, and can be catered to suit an individual retailer’s needs. Davies said it can be with any type of spirit, branded with a retailer’s logos or artworks, and educational elements can be live or pre-existing – it’s as interactive as the retailer requires.
“We want it to be tailored. Obviously we can pre-make the kits and let them know what we’ve got, but if [a retailer] wants to have a special session with the distiller live, then we can do that and actually help promote it… so there’s the opportunity to just sell them willy nilly, or to create an event around it, that we can help facilitate,” Davies said.
Not only has the COVID-19 pandemic boosted the popularity of these types of virtual events, it’s also brought another trend that Nip Of Courage caters for – a consumer shift towards Australian products. Davies said Rye July and other tailored educational boxes are well aligned for success in this current climate.
“People are really craving to learn new things right now, and this gives them the opportunity to learn about local products by supporting local producers and stimulating the local economy, which is really important right now… and I think for something like whiskey right now, we have more of a chance in getting someone across the line with a trial pack like this where they’re trialling lots of different things,” Davies said.
“And then it sets them up to come back to the store and say ‘I want a bottle of that Belgrove Rye Whiskey.’ And [retailers] don’t need to buy a pallet of it from us either – we work with the retailer on what they need. That’s the beauty of small businesses working with small businesses. We can work together on good outcomes, rather than setting unrealistic expectations.”