$10m idea sparked in dimly lit smoky bars

 

Melbourne's canned cocktail company Curatif has shaken up the ready to drink booze market with its top shelf line of bar favourites.

The concept was created by a team of industry veterans with decades of experience in "dimly lit smoky bars and nightclubs" and appeals to an increasingly savvy drinker.

It partners with Australian cult producers Four Pillars gin, Archie Rose vodka, Tequila Tromba and the Caribbean's Plantation rum, revolutionising the market traditionally dominated by sugary mixes aimed at teenage binge drinkers.

Curatif has been trading for a year but has already recorded rapid growth.

In January last year it raised $2 million ahead of its June launch. It then sought another round of funding in August and earlier this year to currently boast a valuation of more than $10 million.

Co-founder Matt Sanger told news.com.au the company is now stepping onto the world stage aided by its deal to sell online through Amazon, which launched its Australian alcohol division this week.

Curatif founders Matt Sanger, Jeremy Spencer and Sam Lane.
Curatif founders Matt Sanger, Jeremy Spencer and Sam Lane.

Before the coronavirus brought the world to its knees and crippled the hospitality and travel sectors, Curatif had struck deals with major and boutique hotels to stock its range of negronis, espresso martinis and margaritas in mini bars across the country, New Zealand and Singapore.

It had also nearly completed deals with airlines Qantas, Singapore Airlines and Korea Air to be consumed in the sky.

And while many businesses struggled under the weight of the pandemic-induced economic shock, the booze supplier capitalised on the lockdown to expand its access to consumers.

"Our distributor and major trading partners had to stand down all of their staff, and a lot of our on-premise customers stopped dead in their tracks," Mr Sanger said.

"Accommodation is a big channel for us, we've got our products in big name hotels and a lot of premium boutiques.

"On the flip side, our product is perfectly designed to be delivered, it is perfectly designed to be consumed in the home.

"And for that reason, we had a really big uplift in online sales both through our website and our major partners Woolworths, Dan Murphy's, BWS, Jimmy Brings and so on."

The team identified a thirst for quality produced drinks among an increasingly literate cross section of drinkers.

Both in Australia and overseas, alcohol is being consumed less but the value of each transaction is increasing, meaning consumers are opting for more expensive, top-end brands.

Mr Sanger said drinkers are more aware of boutique brands and have a greater passion to consume better at home.

"All of that fed into this concept that we could make premium partner-led world class cocktails that people could have at home, on the boat, in the aeroplane, or in a hotel mini bar," he said.

The range also acts as an affordable access point to introduce consumers to the construction of cocktails, Mr Sanger said, eliminating the need to spend more than $100 on a list of ingredients.

"At $13 for a single or $50 for four-pack, it means they can make it at home, learn about the process, and decide if they want to advance their own cocktail skills," the co-founder said.

"Then if they decide they want to make their own after, that's when they can go through the process of paying those extra dollars for the big bottle.

"Our product and our brand is a huge interface because it drives trial on the larger bottles, it introduces people to brands they might not have engaged with."

 

The negroni contains classic, premium ingredients.
The negroni contains classic, premium ingredients.

Curatif joins a number of smaller producers available online through Amazon including pre-made drinks SOFI Spritz and Tasmanian gin maker Lawrenny Estate as well as iconic brands such as Penfolds, VB and Johnnie Walker.

"There's no point producing the best product in the world if you can't get it to your customers," Mr Sanger said.

"When you talk about availability, when you talk about consumption, if you're making world class cocktails or gin you need to be on a platform that allows you to get that product to your consumers.

"When the world's largest retailer has turned up here and is creating another platform for producers and manufacturers, it's only good for us."

Queensland University of Technology retail expert Professor Gary Mortimer said the e-commerce giant had left their run into the booze segment late and will struggle to compete with established players First Choice and Dan Murphy's.

"They've added categories progressively over the last two or three years, and the addition of beer, wine and spirits is certainly of value to their existing customer base but I'm not sure if it's going to attract new customers as there's already existing offers in the Australian market," he told news.com.au.

The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated online consumption in Australia but Prof Mortimer doubts alcohol is the best fit for the shopping platform.

"They tend to be a convenience purchase, you tend to buy a bottle of wine or a six-pack of beer on the way home," he said.

"You don't traditionally buy small volumes and wait for the next day's delivery, although there may be a market for larger volume sales.

"This is Amazon possibly taking advantage of a growing market that is open to shopping online."

Originally published as $10m idea sparked in dimly lit smoky bars



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