Home / Venture  / Brands get in the spirit of rare species

Brands get in the spirit of rare species

When Peter Darroch and Phillip Clark set out to create a new spirit label to take to the world, they wanted something that oozed pure New Zealand.

Darroch has 20 years’ experience in marketing and branding, with Clark a hospitality exec for the Nourish Group, and while peddling wine together at Campaign Liquor, Darroch spied an opportunity in the less populated market for Kiwi spirits and they formed Simply Pure in 2012.

When it came to brand identity, rare birds were the match for the rare opportunity – with the two products named Blue Duck vodka and Black Robin gin.

“New Zealand makes such great food and wine and beverages, but doesn’t do a lot of spirits,” says Darroch. “The most distinctive side of New Zealand was our bird life. I had a penchant for the blue duck because I’m a fly fisherman and I know a bit about them. We decided on naming the products after endangered species.”

The business taps into a post-GFC trend of consumers hunting artisan products with an authentic and hand crafted feel, says Darroch. The vodka and gin are batch distilled and use as few additives as possible, he says.

The premium feel is backed by bottles made in France and labels with organic inks. And it helped to have personal friend Andrew Barns-Graham, a photo realist artist, on hand to create the black robin and blue duck visuals.

That was developed into broader creative by Auckland designers A Plus. And Simply Pure’s association with Forest and Bird is more than just lip service – it launched last October with an art auction that raised about $60,000 for the charity and donates the organisation a percentage of its profits.

The brands are distilled in Tauranga and distributed by Negociants in New Zealand, offered nationally at bars, restaurants and liquor outlets. Queenstown entrepreneurs Ben and Tam de Haan came on board this year as investors and the venture is currently looking for more private capital.

The focus for the next 18 months is traction among Kiwi and Australian duty free stores and in the US.

“The duty free channel is incredibly important. It’s also a really high visibility channel and customers will see it – and if they see it, they’ll try it,” says Darroch.

Simply Pure has a distribution deal in the US that will see it ship 20,000 cases in the next 12 months. In that market the number of new entrants in the vodka category at the annual International Review of Spirits was over 142, a record. The US accounts for 53 percent of all global consumption of premium white spirits ad since 2009 there’s been 7.4 percent compound annual growth in volumes.

Gin growth in 2011 rose 24 percent compared to levels seven years ago, with the premium category doubling in size from 2007 to 2012.

“We want to be a world class super premium brand from New Zealand,” says Darroch. “It’s not that we’re a New Zealand brand that’s world class. It’s a subtle difference but an important one.”

Amanda Sachtleben is an Auckland writer and social media type, who's also Idealog's former tech editor and business journalist.

Review overview