Proof and Company is a business created in 2011 by three lawyers, who wanted to open a bar in Singapore and bring to the city the best bits of the best bars from around the world and offer consumers in the city outstanding bar service.
The trio open 28 HongKong Street, a bar that pioneered the incredible bar scene that is now thriving in Singapore. The hotel chains saw what Proof and Company had done at 28 HongKong Street and they wanted part of the action and asked the team to bring 28 HongKong Street to their hotel.
Proof and Company’s Australian General Manager, Damian Kaehler explained to The Shout what happened next, “The guys said ‘we’re not going to build 28 HongKong Street because that’s our bar, but we’ll build you a bar’. So we started off with the Regent Hotel in Singapore and we built Manhattan Bar there, which is now number three bar in the Asia. Then we launched Atlas, which is a standout bar and we’ve done a number of bars around the world now for Four Seasons, and so Proof Creative was a business born out of us creating 29 HongKong Street.”
He added: “What we also found was all these bars wanted these great products, but they couldn’t source them so we were buying in pallets of stock at a time, but you couldn’t sell all of that to all these bars and so our distribution business started. We had to go out and sell to other bars and then also train them how to use them.
“So this niche distribution business started out of necessity and supplying people with all this cool stuff. So we’ve got this really cool arm of Proof and now we’ve done about 15 to 20 really top end bars and hotel lobby bars and restaurants in Australia. As a distributor you don’t normally do something like that, but we are different, we’ve got Proof Creative, we’ve got our distribution business and we have got EcoSpirits which is unique and absolutely making a storm in trade at the moment.”
And while Proof will work on all aspects of the bar from lighting and bar set-up through to the drinks list, Kaehler said the team remains bipartisan when it comes to what the bars will stock.
“We help with the design but when it comes to ranging, we don’t just sit there and say ‘you have to take all Proof products’, it really depends on the style of the bar and what they are trying to achieve. So we’ll sit down with them and with Diageo and with Bacardi, Campari and SouthTrade and say right ‘out of their portfolio, what is going to suit you best for what you are trying to achieve?’
“That’s really important because you need credibility, and just telling them they have to range all our products is not the right thing to do.”
Although the team do not insist bars stock their products, the Proof portfolio has been carefully curated to meet changing consumer demands, which are still driven by premiumisation but within that macro trend we are seeing greater consumer focus on sustainability, craft and independence.
“We curate our portfolio as we would at a bar,” Kaehler explained to The Shout. “That’s the nucleus of what we do as a business. We only deal with independent spirits, premium craft spirits, and as we go out to bars more now we are hearing from bartenders that the repertoire of consumers is so much greater, coming in and asking for specific products.”
As with virtually all hospitality-linked businesses Proof has had its challenges over the last couple of years, and while the pandemic has not brought major changes to the portfolio, Proof has been able to work to help grow brands that are really engaging with new consumer trends.
“Never Never is a great example,” Kaehler explains. “They are only a five or six year old business, so not a lot of people were aware of Never Never. We’ve been able to support that local grown, highly credible, high quality on-premise brand into more of that saliency across market because it is a locally sourced product.
“Sullivan’s Cove and other brands are engaging more and more people because they are looking for a highly credible, Australian whisky and are comfortable paying a premium price for that. We do continue to adopt different brands within our portfolio that are curated more for on-premise, but we’ve really able to generate growth within the portfolio with our locally sourced products like Never Never and Sullivan’s Cove.”
Growth is something Proof has seen a lot of recently both through Proof and Company and Proof Creative and Kaehler explained that with consumers being increasingly more comfortable with going out again and ordering drinks, that he thinks this growth will continue.
“Our whole mission is to bring the second golden age of fine drinking. We are such an on-premise business, that’s how we started out by launching our own bars. We have loved seeing our bartender fraternity get back behind the bar, and consumers getting out and buying more drinks. Speaking to people like the Made in the Shade Group and their takings on cocktails is so much stronger, so we think the growth within the trade is going to continue for us, as we rebound out of Covid.
“Consumers have been drinking better at home and that will allow us to continue to drive our portfolio in the independent channel, which we haven’t done before. So our growth will continue just from the sheer necessity of consumers wanting premium spirits. But the on-premise is what we are most passionate about and we want to help see people rebound back out into bars and continue to support such a great, great industry.”
To find out more about the Proof and Company portfolio, or how Proof Creative could help your bar, contact your local Proof & Co representative.