Meet The Founder: Cracker Drinks – Leading a New Dimension of the Craft Revolution

Meet The Founder: Cracker Drinks – Leading a New Dimension of the Craft Revolution

3rd August 2020 by Michaela Salomon

When investing, your capital is at risk.

Craft has become a hot topic in the last few years – powering an evolving market for beer, snacks and beverages of all kinds. 

The attention of the modern consumers has been gradually taken away from larger corporate brands that have been around for years (with little product development), in favour of more authentic, local brands that challenge the status quo. Cracker Drinks is doing just that with its innovative range of craft juices. 

They source high quality fruit only – oranges from Brazil, lemons from Spain and mangoes from India – and blend them using expert techniques, with no artificial sweeteners added. They’re vegan-friendly, wrapped in environmentally packaging and jump off the shelf with a bold brand identity. That’s their craft. 

We asked Executive Chair, Christopher Banks for the details.

What is Cracker Drinks all about?

We want to lead the craft revolution in juice and juice drinks, like the one in beer!

A series of happy coincidences brought our current team together back in 2016. Myself; the ex-MD of Coca-Cola GB (who had already successfully grown and sold a group of businesses in healthy food and drink, including juice); a Director of J R Theakston (brewer of Old Peculier, the original craft beer); a former lead investor and NED of Johnson’s Juice; and a former investment banker. You can see how our skills and experiences would complement each other. We knew exactly what it would take to succeed in this market because we’d all done it before! We also knew what it would take to run and grow a leading brand and business in the UK and internationally. So now we’re aiming to do just that.

How did your professional experience prepare you for this venture?

I really enjoyed running divisions of large international corporates, and then leading a Management Buyout of a small part of Coca-Cola GB. I used this as a platform to put together a small group of growing businesses which I subsequently sold to trade buyers. I was able to combine the professionalism I learned while working for big businesses with the agility and entrepreneurialism of running an SME.

What does the competitive landscape look like and how does Cracker Drinks differentiate?

It is competitive, there are some very large players in the market for soft drinks and juice and juice drinks. At the other end of the market however, there are some very small, highly innovative startups. I think our clear positioning as leaders in the craft juice and juice drinks space helps differentiate Cracker Drinks.

Looking at the competitive landscape going forward, particularly when considering generational trends, we see incredible opportunities for Cracker. To quote industry research: millenials are more health-conscious; they are drinking less alcohol, as non-alcoholic beverages surge in popularity. As reported by BusinessInsider and The Wall Street Journal; they want to know what is in the products they buy and where they come from – and they’re more environmentally aware than ever. The Financial Times showed that millennials have a taste for authenticity when it comes to all consumer industries, none more so than with beverages, and that’s exactly what the Cracker name represents.

For this purpose-driven generation, “authenticity” is a must and the pressure is mounting every year for the big brands to authentically prove they align with these ideals – these are the key principles that underpin the Cracker Brand. That’s why I’m very optimistic about the future and our place in this space. 

How has the business grown over time?

In 2019, we made the decision to expand into single serve packs, for the first time. This has worked really well, as it has enabled us to make our CRAFTED range available in Holland & Barrett, WHSmith Travel and an increasing number of deli’s, farm shops and other small stores. Right now, our brands are sold across the UK in multiple grocers, health food retailers, pubs, bars and restaurants and we already have underlying revenue of over £1 million.

We also have a healthy pipeline of new products which we’re really excited about, and we’re always in discussion with potential new stockists. We are working hard to make our drinks available in more pubs, bars, cafes and restaurants as well as to expand internationally in a limited number of carefully selected markets and to add to our range of craft products. 

What will be the greatest challenge going forward?

Focus! We have so many ideas and opportunities; the real challenge is going to be knowing how to prioritise them to match the resources available. That’s one of the reasons we are raising additional funds – to enable us to unlock more of the opportunities we have identified. 

The coronavirus crisis remains one of the biggest challenges we will all face, certainly for the next year, and the drinks industry – and indeed Cracker Drinks – are not immune to its implications. While some key industry trends accelerated by the crisis have worked in our favour, such as a greater consumer focus on health, ingredients, and quality of all food and drinks products, our sales through on-trade venues suffered early on in this crisis and we have had to find ways around that.

Being featured in the Craft Gin Club box for July was a great way of introducing our drinks to even more people during this testing time; it is something we hope to do more of, with drinks to your door growing in popularity. There remains a big opportunity for producers like us post-covid, as on-trade venues re-evaluate their offering, and we believe we have the strong product they and their guests seek. The money raised will go towards ensuring we are in a position to make the most of this as we emerge from the crisis but for now, this remains an undeniably tricky year for hospitality and food service.

How would you describe your company culture?

Given we’re a small team, achievements to date have been really incredible and we’re looking forward to what’s next. Every member of our team has a healthy obsession with great-tasting all-natural drinks so naturally, so we take quality in all we do very seriously. As a collective, we have a strong entrepreneurial spirit and are very hands-on, meaning we know how to balance that energy with proactivity and professionalism just like bigger corporates in the way we run our business and make important decisions. Partnerships are also important to us – we know that people – not companies – make a partnership a success, so we put a lot of effort into developing and nurturing relationships with other players.

Why did you choose crowdfunding to raise capital?

We want to enable more and more people to enjoy the quality and taste of our craft juice and juice drinks. We are looking forward to expanding our network of brand supporters and allow everyone who shares our vision in this market to come along on the journey. Together, we can unlock the opportunity and bring about a craft revolution.

What’s your favourite flavour?

My go-to is CRAFTED Mango & Passion Fruit. It tastes great, and it’s super versatile. You can enjoy it at breakfast, to refresh during the day, or at the heart of a tropical mocktail (or cocktail!) in the evening.

Where’s the best place to enjoy a Cracker Drink?

Anywhere – your favourite pub or bar, at home, or on the go. The more important thing is to serve it well: always chilled, over plenty of ice.

To find out more about Cracker Drinks, visit the pitch.

Michaela Salomon

Michaela Salomon

Campaign Support Team

Digital Agency Kent