Entrepreneur Andrew Brodie knows that good branding can be a great remedy for an ailing food and beverage company.
Now he's applying the lessons he has learned to his latest venture, syrup and essences firm Finest Foods.
Brodie bought his first business, Roasted Addiqtion coffee, in 2000 at age 23. He had to "beg, borrow and steal" to scrape together $180,000 to purchase the company which was then an unprofitable coffee distributor.
Through the power of Roasted Addiqtion's alternative, funky branding, Brodie transformed it into a highly successful roasting business that produced five tonnes of coffee a week. In 2011 he sold the company to Australian giant RFG (Retail Food Group) for $4 million.
"Roasted Addiqtion was always a play on coffee being a necessary drug. The brand was fun, a little bit edgy and it got a bit of a cult following," Brodie said.
"When the company started, the other coffee brands on the market all had fancy Italian-influenced names. We got into stores because supermarkets were after a brand of coffee which suited the 18 to 40 age group."
Last year he bought Finest Foods, a 30-year-old business which produces milkshake syrups, essences and coffee syrups for supermarkets and hospitality companies under the brand Supreme. He immediately set about transforming the look of the products.
"Finest Foods was a solid business and the Supreme milkshake and coffee syrups were really good products, but it was in desperate need of a rebrand," Brodie said.
Graphic designer and marketer Darryl Parsons, whose previous branding efforts include 42 Below, Moa and Ecoya, was given free reign over the Supreme packaging. Parsons redesigned the milkshake syrup package as a retro-style milk quart container with a Mexican wrestler label.
"The old packaging was just so awful," Parsons said. "I went with the [Mexican wrestler design] because, well, I like them . . . and they have some cool costumes. I think people underestimate how savvy kids are so I thought this might appeal."
The rebrand has paid off. Since launching the new packaging in December the company has seen a 20 per cent rise in sales through supermarkets. There has also been demand for new products such as Supreme's sugar free coffee syrups.
But rebranding is only part of Finest Foods' transformation. Brodie has upgraded the Auckland manufacturing facilities and invested heavily in mixing technology from Swedish company Alfa Laval. That technology, also used by Lion and Independent Breweries, increases product mixing efficiency. It has lifted production capacity from 6000 to 10,000 litres a week.
"When I bought the firm the fixed asset value was less than $50,000. I've spent over $500,000 on plant and equipment and I've funded that on my own."
The new technology has enabled Finest Foods to launch a new premium coffee, cocktail and hot toddy syrup under The Goodness brand. Launched in June, it competes against the likes of French syrup company Monin and Kiwi firm Shott, targeting high-end cafes and bars.
"When we bought this company it was a strategic decision so I could have a distribution platform for The Goodness," Brodie said. "We've got it into some top-notch Auckland bars and cafes such as Bambina. It's about placement and getting it into quality-driven, influential hospitality outlets."
The point of difference for The Goodness is that the product is made with Fair Trade sugar and natural colours and flavours. Its cocktail syrup range also comes in unique flavours such as lavender and elderflower.
The company is exporting small quantities to Hong Kong, Korea and Australia, and hopes that having a presence at upcoming trade shows in Melbourne and Hong Kong will increase market share. Flavours such as Mojito mint and Caprioska lime are targeted at hotel resorts in international locations where certain herbs and fruit cannot be naturally grown.
"There are about 12 syrup producers in the world. Monin do a good job in the bar world but they are sitting in that category on their own. That's the plan, if we can offer a unique, quality product then we can enter that [bar] market," Brodie said.
The Goodness is only a small share of Finest Food's business but Brodie has been encouraged by early feeback and repeat orders. The Supreme range is the company's highest volume product but 30 per cent of sales come from contract jobs producing vanilla essences and electrolyte sports drinks.
One upcoming contract job is producing 10,000 litres of sugar syrup for a honey maker. The syrup is given to the bees after a harvest.
"I don't know anything about farming and this bee business was completely new to me when I bought the company - but it's amazing the things you learn," Brodie said.
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