A touch of Panache: The Adlington lads aiming to take the UK drinks market by storm
When it comes to drinks, gone are the days when the most exotic end of the UK's flavour spectrum ended at orange squash and cider. These days, thanks to a proliferation of unique and distinct flavour palletes, a whole new world of zest, fruitiness, hinting undertones, and tropical blends is available. And, frankly, we love it.
In 2018 alone, the value of the UK's flavoured gin market increased by 751% to hit around £2.7bn according to the Wine and Spirit Trade Association, and with culinary globalisation opening up Britain's doors to a plethora of dishes and cuisines about which we could have previously only dreamed, the world of beverages has expanded to incorporate new flavour profiles too.
As David Turner, Vice President of Content at market intelligence agency Mintel wrote in 2017: "UK customers are in love with the exotic."
Started by a couple of lads from Adlington and looking to provide that burgeoning market with as exotic a menu as possible, Panache Natural Flavour Infusions creates concentrated syrups ranging from Peruvian lime, sweet violet, and dark cherry to passionfruit, blueberry, and orange zest and aniseed star. Used to flavour gin, put a twist on classic cocktails, create bespoke mocktails, and everything else in between, Panache is adding a little panache to the UK drinks market.
"Me and my business partner, Lee Gaskell, had a friend who worked in the flavour industry, so we thought we'd do something together," says Co-Director Phillip Booth. "We thought about making a flavoured gin, but that was a saturated market so we decided on an alternative to allow people to flavour their own gins as opposed to committing to one flavour.
"When we rolled it out, it took off, and now it gets used for loads of kinds of drinks: cocktails, mocktails, vodka, rum, all sorts," adds Phillip. "Not everyone can have £1,000-worth of flavoured gin sat at home, but anyone can buy a bottle of Gordon's and a few flavours of Panache and have loads of different drinks."
With their head offices in Westhoughton and their factory in Burnley, Panache has made titillating taste buds its raison d'être since its founding just over two years ago and is now stocked by two of the biggest drink distributors in the North West and across the Channel Islands with their biggest brewery. But it wasn't easy to begin with.
"I'm a bit of an entrepreneur myself, but it was difficult at the start," explains Phillip, 35. "It's very tough to work in the drinks industry because, as big as it is, it's very close-knit so penetrating it was the hardest thing. We realised there was nothing like this in pubs, so we rolled it out to them but we had to do a lot of legwork and, because it's a new product, you can't just put it behind the bar and wait for people to come up and ask for a gin and Panache.
"We managed to build a large portfolio across the North West but we had a bit of an issue with the supplier, so we were in two minds as to whether to carry on," continues Phillip. "Then we got a message saying we'd been accepted to Dragon's Den."
An entrepreneur's Everest, Phillip says he has always dreamed of having one of his businesses featured on the programme but unfortunately, come their filming date, he was unable to join Lee, 26, for the pitch as he was in Las Vegas for his brother's wedding. "Lee's a very confident salesman and very good at what he does, but he said it was the hardest pitch he's ever had to do," says Phillip.
Despite leaving the den with no investment - an outcome they anticipated due to the business' lack of turnover and fledgling status - Phillip and Lee were spurred on, bolstered by the fact that they had just been able to sell Panache to a TV audience of 4.7 million. "Since then our retail side has gone right up," says Phillip. "It's gone really well."
Enjoying the knock-on effect of finally finding a more secure foothold in the increasingly-saturated drinks industry, Panache is in talks to export to Colombia and to supply cruise ships and, while the UK struggles with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, is turning its focus towards the retail side of the business.
"People want choice and the chance to personalise," says Phillip. "We want to take the brand worldwide."