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Kiwi business revolutionises the humble beer cooler

Beer lovers rejoice, the days of drinking warm beverages are over thanks to Kiwi brand Huski.

Frustrated by the lack of good beer coolers in New Zealand, husband and wife Simon and Meika Huesser were keen to find a solution. With some inspiration from overseas, the help of family members and 304 stainless steel, Huski was born and warm beers became a thing of the past.

Since its launch in New Zealand in 2017, the brand has since expanded into Australia and the US, and has even won an award for its Huski Wine Cooler. The team at Huski are committed to delivering the very best drinking experience possible and are proud to be 100 percent New Zealand owned and operated.

Here we chat with Huski’s founders on their mission to design products they hope will make people’s lives and the environment that little bit better.

What’s the big idea behind your business?

We simply want to make good drinks better. A hard-earned beer at the end of a long day is good, but an ice-cold beer that stays cold the whole time you’re drinking it, is great! Our main aim is to deliver a better drinking experience no matter what you’re drinking – beer, wine, coffee, tea, water, kombucha – by keeping your drinks colder, or hotter, for longer.

What’s the origin story?
We’re a husband and wife co-founder team who met and studied marketing together at the University of Waikato. Before starting Huski we went travelling and lived in London for about 10 years which was incredible, but very fast-paced with long work hours. When we moved home to New Zealand to be closer to our family, we also wanted a lifestyle change, so we decided to really test our marketing skills and start a business. 

We had a number of ideas, but the one that stuck, unsurprisingly, was the idea of helping keep our beers colder for longer. We had come across some cool products overseas that solved this problem, but none fit New Zealand beer bottles. We figured we might be able to fix that.

We built the prototype for our first and second products in the shed of Simon’s parents farm in Taranaki, with his Dad who’s a retired fitter and turner. We then worked with an awesome NZ design agency, Blender Design, who helped us bring our product vision to life.

Five years on, we’ve now got a range of products, and we’ve expanded from a team of two to a team of six including Simon’s brother and Meika’s sister. It’s a real family business through and through. Even our toddler gets in on the action featuring in some of our marketing and social photography.

Huski Co-founders, Simon and Meika Huesser

What’s your point of difference or what makes you better than your competitors?
We start with trying to make the very best product possible. We look at the current solutions in the market and ask ourselves, and our customers, how it can be better. Then we make it better. 

We’re the opposite of fast fashion. We design products that are best-in-class, built to last and are timeless in style so that it’s better for the planet and our customers. 

What are the challenges you’ve faced along the way?
Although we’ve both worked for big retail and homeware brands in New Zealand and the UK, neither of us had actually built physical products before starting Huski, so it was a steep learning curve. We quickly discovered that it wasn’t feasible to make our products in New Zealand, as we’d originally hoped. The manufacturing tools and processes we needed for our products weren’t available here, which meant we had to go overseas for the production of our designs. Quality is very important to us and we had a lot of trial and error before we found the right manufacturing partner. We now work with an amazing team in China who understands our needs and believes in our vision. They are also a husband and wife duo with a toddler, so we share a lot of common ground.

COVID-19 also threw us a bit of a curve-ball – we couldn’t ship any products at level 4 and all our retail partners were closed until level 2, so it was a tricky few months. However, our customers have been amazing and were really supportive of both us and our retailers when we could get back up and running. Because we had a diverse mix of sales channels including selling through Amazon in the US and Australia, this really helped us weather the COVID storm when it was at its peak here.

What consumer trends or needs have informed your idea? Where do you see the growth/interest? 
We really listen to our customers. After the launch of the original Huski Beer Cooler, it was our customers who helped us decide what our second product would be – they said ‘We love this, but can we have something for our wine?’ and so that’s how the Huski Wine Cooler came to be. When it came to designing the new Huski Beer Cooler 2.0, we already had a product that was very highly rated, but we wanted to do better. So we used our reviews to help inform our brief, which led to some of the coolest new features like the detachable 3-in-1 bottle opener in the base and its ability to double as a tumbler. 

We also keep a close eye on upcoming drinks trends both locally and internationally. For example, with the rise in popularity of craft beers and seltzers, cans are becoming increasingly important, where-as 5 years ago when we launched the first Huski it was primarily bottled beer that dominated the New Zealand market. For this reason, we designed our new Huski Beer Cooler 2.0 to fit both bottles and cans which was a particularly tricky design challenge. As a result of these design changes it now also works for not just New Zealand beers but also most international single serve cans and bottles, which opens up a new world of opportunities.  

What stage is the company at now?
We started the business not even in our own home, but in other people’s. We house sat to save money and ran the business from other people’s houses for about the first year. We also had amazing support from our friends who were among our first customers and even helped us pick and pack the very first Huskis! 

Today we’re less start-up and more small business which is pretty cool. We’ve now got a small team of people who are passionate about building great products and growing the business with us. We also work with a number of amazing partners who we consider extensions of the team who help us with product design (Blender), logistics (Coghlan) and retail (Source Home + Object).

How many stores/sites stocking your product now?
We sell direct to consumers worldwide via our website huski.co.nz and we have a network of over 100 retail partners who sell Huski in their stores around New Zealand. Huski products are also available through New Zealand loyalty platforms including Airpoints and Flybuys. Internationally we also sell on Amazon.com and Amazon.com.au, as well as our US website huskicoolers.com.

What’s next? Where do you hope to take this?
We want to continue to make awesome products that people love. We’ve got a lot of ideas for new products, and our customers keep putting in their requests as well, so this will definitely be a focus for the future. 

We’d also love to continue to grow the Huski brand and take it to the world. We’ve just dipped our toe in the water internationally, but we’d like to make a bigger splash in some of our key international markets, including but not limited to Australia, the US and the UK.

Above all, we want to build a business that delivers an awesome experience for our customers and offers a great work life balance, giving us the opportunity to spend quality time with family and friends and enjoy a few ice-cold beers along the way.

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