Four years' work, from a garage to a cocktail glass, got Neil Fitzpatrick a fruitful audience with one of New Zealand's booze barons.
Taking his premium pre-mixed cocktail concept - Loud&Lola - to DB Breweries managing director Brian Blake was a move that set Mr Fitzpatrick's fledgling company, Oh!Group, on track.
The colourful 750-millilitre bottles hit liquor stores under the DB flag last week and, with a three-year renewable distribution licence with the big drink company, Mr Fitzpatrick's choice to ditch his information technology job to make cocktails is panning out as a good decision.
An Englishman who moved to New Zealand with his Kiwi wife, Mr Fitzpatrick found a country in which innovation seemed to be the way of life: "New Zealand is one of those environments that is naturally innovative - it gets under your skin."
Surmising that most people who attempted to mix cocktails at home ended up with something unpalatable, he came up with the idea for Loud&Lola's bottled Boston Ice Tea, Margarita, Mai Tai and Cosmopolitan drinks.
Priced at $18 a bottle, Loud&Lola is an alternative to a bottle of wine or an expensive cocktail in a bar, Mr Fitzpatrick said.
But Loud&Lola was more about the cocktail concept than getting people plastered. Changing attitudes to drinking was part of the product, with the drink designed to be "sipped and savoured" rather than "chugged", he said.
"We are not a booze company, we are an experience company."
With the cocktail products going into 121 bottle stores this week, the company was already moving into the next development, with more sophisticated cocktails in the pipeline and eyes on Australia and Britain as export markets.
But the future for Oh!Group was in filling a gap in any market through collaboration and innovation, Mr Fitzpatrick said.
Bringing together experts in juices, design and drink mixology was just the first step, with "everyday indulgences" an option in many sectors. "We have aspirations and dreams to be New Zealand's first uber brand," he said.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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