Vindependents eyes up spirit growth as it launches own gin

Vindependents, the UK wine supplier founded by and supplier to independent wine merchants, is continuing its foray into spirits with the launch of its first own label gin, in a bid to boost its members margins.

The Eclectic Gin Society is made up of each member of Vindependents who are represented on the label

Managing director Jessica Hutchinson said the new spirits line would allow its members to make the same margin on selling spirits as on wines.

She argued that the gin boom started in the indies but since becoming more popular, small boutique brands are available “everywhere”, making it harder for merchants to make margin on it anymore.

“Members wanted something with their mark on it, that looks and tastes great and also makes some money on,” she said.

The Eclectic Gin Society Original Blend is made by Kinrara Distillery in the Cairngorm National Park, using seasonable botanicals foraged on the estate. Each member of Vindependents, who make up the Eclectic Gin Society, are represented on the label by an object they feel best represents themselves or their company – which Hutchinson said gave an extra talking point to the members’ customers.

The agency launched two different styles of Armagnac a few months ago, and md Jessica Hutchinson said these were already exceeding sales expectations.

“The idea of us supplying spirits seems to be working,” she told db. “We now have our first own brand gin, and will take on more spirits on a spirit by spirit basis.”

New spirit

The supplier is looking at adding four or five new spirits in 2019, starting with a Bourbon, Cognac and Vodka.

Bourbon, she noted, could difficult for indies to come by as it either involve shipping small quantities directly from the United States, or going through a supplier who takes a cut and lessens the merchant’s margins. Combining forces for a larger shipment made more sense, she noted.

“We will probably work exclusively with a producer, but if we can’t find what we want, we will go down the own-label route,” she told db, explaining that while there was a lot of work involved in producing own-label spirits, it was often the only way to ensure members exclusivity – something particularly true of gin following the explosion in its popularity.

The supplier’s wine range has grown to around 1,000 lines in the last year, and Hutchinson said the next move would be to fill in gaps at different price points.

“We want to work with producers for the long-term and wouldn’t take on another product from the same appellation unless we are taking all of their supply, but where we have a key wine, we want to give some choice so members trading in the same area don’t have the same offer. Now we’re branching into different price points”

The agency is still on track to boost its membership to 50 members next year, despite losing founding members the Oxford Wine Company and Corks Out earlier this year.

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