Two Rooks adding luxury to the cola market
Two Hamilton men are taking on the big guns with a superior soft drink.
Chris Howard, 27, and Michael Saaranen, 31, started selling Two Rooks Cola just over six months ago.
The company has produced a "luxury cola", aiming to produce a top product to mix with top-shelf alcohol.
The idea came about after Howard and Saaranen were out one night in Melbourne treating themselves to Johnnie Walker Blue Label, but it disappointed them that the bar used a generic mixer.
"You're already spending a decent amount of money on whiskey or drinks at the bar, why is it the mix available is in a can and why isn't it a premium option?" Howard said.
"I did a quick search and there wasn't really anything. Everyone used either the big plastic bottles or generic cola."
Neither of the two had hospitality experience and after searches to find a manufacturer in New Zealand proved futile, they tried their luck in Thailand.
"We hit a snag where a lot of places didn't do carbonated drinks, only the big companies did. So we went to TC Pharmaceuticals, who first made Red Bull and they just told us to leave."
They had success with the final company - a factory producing Dr Pepper.
"Over a few days, we developed the formula - which actually was pretty flavoursome - that would mix well with things and it also tasted good on its own as well. We didn't want to target just alcohol drinkers, because we know the market is bigger than that.
"I had a few factors that I wanted," Howard said. "I wanted a stronger initial taste, have smoother carbonation, I didn't want people to get the burps. I wanted natural sugarcane and electrolytes and I wanted it to mix well."
Howard was also conscious of the anti-sugar movement, but believes it's all about moderation.
"We didn't want artificial sweeteners. We wanted a good form of sugar, because of all the artificial sweeteners out there. Your body absorbs it the same as sugar but takes longer to disperse, where natural sugar, it spikes your insulin and then it's out of your system."
They also wanted the product in a can, so that bars could crush them down after use and which would be acceptable at events where glass is usually banned.
Howard and Saaranen wanted to signal luxury with the name, something that suggested a slightly better lifestyle, so when people picked up they felt better.
"Two Rooks - which in a chess piece can overthrow a King or Queen, you can use them in a checkmate-type situation - which kind of works, as we're trying to take on some of the major players in the game. And also Rooks - the fact that we had no idea of anything we're doing in the industry so we are technically rookies."
They've imported 300,000 units of product and hope to do a further three shipments in the next year.
They are also looking at getting into the Australian market.
The 250ml cans retail for between $2 and $3 at various shops in the Waikato - see the website for stockists.
"We've had a couple of the bigger companies sit out the front of the business taking photos. A few shop owners have mentioned that they have been offered a better price if they dump Two Rooks."