Sovereign Beverage Company is the UK’s leading exporter of premium beverages. We work with UK-based suppliers to give them a global presence, managing their export operations for them and securing listings with our customers overseas.
Wemakes export simple by offering a turnkey solution to our suppliers, and by giving our customers an export-complaint, reliable supply of premium products, at brewery-direct prices.
We currently work with a portfolio of over 130 products from seven carefully selected suppliers, all of whom are UK beverage producers including Greene King, Saltaire Brewery, Thatchers Cider, Robinsons Brewery, Carlsberg-Marstons Brewing Company, Innis & Gunn, and Westons Cider.
We have customers in over 60 countries, ranging from retailers, distributors, and wholesalers, both on- and off-trade. We have over 120 customers globally, including brands such as Carrefour, 7-11, Consum, and Walmart.
How did you come up with the idea for the company?
I knew from a very young age I wanted to be an entrepreneur. My Dad owned businesses, and at only nine years old I was working for him during the school holidays, developing and honing my work ethic, and becoming familiar with the logistics industry. I studied business and finance at university, before following my Dad into the supply chain business within the beverage industry.
Throughout my career, my goal was always to gain experience and then adopt it to the right business idea when it came along. I was constantly researching different business ideas, looking for a good fit, and as part of that research I read Robert Craven’s ‘Kick-Start Your Business’ – that sparked my first ‘commandments’ of business.
I listed out my 10 commandments, and decided that any business I was going to establish would have to fulfill most, if not all of those commandments.
It was in 2006, when I was working as an Account Director and was meeting with a brewery that an offhand conversation led to the birth of Sovereign Beverage Company. I realised that the brewery in question had an untapped route for sales in the form of global export – but had no infrastructure and the risk was too high for them to take in house.
After talking to many breweries and importers, I saw that there was a huge gap between product availability and global demand, as the breweries lacked the supply chain knowledge, time and other resources to manage their own export.
It was in 2008 that we launched Sovereign Beverage Company, working with leading British beverage suppliers such as Marstons Brewery and Batemans from day one. Since then, we have increased our annual sales by almost 10,000% (in litres sold), expanded to a full-time team of nine, and we’ve become the UK’s leading exporter of premium beverages, with over 10 million pints sold annually worldwide in the year 2021.
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How has the company evolved during the pandemic?
The pandemic saw huge changes for Sovereign Beverage Company, and we were fortunate to come out of that very challenging period with growth both of our team and revenue.
In 2020, we very quickly adapted to a remote working environment. Our already-established cloud-based system enabled the team to work from home without interruption to their usual tasks, and as a team, we were able to come together using the various e-networking tools at our disposal.
We made the decision not to furlough any of the team, instead choosing to maintain consistency of relationships and to continue the team building and development we had started before the pandemic. We were able to recruit another Export Account Manager into the sales team, and increase the number of markets we operate in.
However, as we know, COVID-19 saw a global shut down – freight was stopped, breweries were working on a hugely reduced capacity with export operations taking a backseat, and customers were prevented from importing goods due to their own local restrictions – for instance, South Africa and Thailand temporarily banned the sale of alcohol, Brazil and much of the EU was placed under curfew, restaurants were closed globally and when they eventually reopened, it was with much lower capacity – all of which negatively affected our customers’ sales, which in turn reduced their export needs with us.
These restrictions and challenges did not improve in 2021 and were in fact exacerbated by the Suez Canal obstruction, which had a very negative impact on freight. There were still global vessel and container shortages, and production costs continued to rise. However, 2021 was our best year to date despite these difficulties.
The team’s productivity only improved with the onset of working from home, which we have recently decided to make a permanent thing. Through a combination of continued efforts and the signing of an excellent product (Trooper beer), we were able to ‘unlock’ South America. This is a largely untapped market due to the complexity of product registration,
and so it became a key, lucrative market. We’ve developed new, exciting ways of supporting our existing customers, allowing us to increase their product ranges and become more involved with the marketing process for the end purchaser. We’ve also made enormous strides in securing exclusive distributions with key suppliers.
What can we hope to see from Sovereign Beverage Company in the future?
We currently sell 55,000 Hectolitres (HL) of product annually, and our goal is to increase that to 100,000HL by 2024. We’re going to drive that through our existing suppliers, and bring on some new suppliers in key categories. We are excited to keep developing partnerships with the UKs leading beverage brands.
We also intend to expand our product categories, potentially looking at RTDs and low/no-alcohol brands. The growth of low/no products is huge, and we intend to support our customers with the development of this category.
We are also looking at expanding our product line, potentially looking at global products rather than UK products only. We will use our model, processes, and systems to feed those into our current customer base.
Finally, we will continue with the growth of the team, recruiting annually, and continuing to invest in ongoing training and development.