The latest specialist producer to sign up to Tried and Supplied is Riddles ‘ tequila ice tea, the brainchild of Charlie Odunkwe II. We caught up with him at the recent Restaurant Show in London, where he told us the story of how he first thought of this unusual new drink, and how he started his business producing it.
I did a chemistry degree at Loughborough University, which proved to be very useful. And after that I got a job as a beverage technologist. Most people don’t know this but every proprietary drink you buy needs to be safe, as well as taste good, and be profitably manufactured. For example, one entrepreneur came to us with an idea for sugar-free strawberry drinks. We trialed a number of different recipes, offering a sort of quality control, helping them to find a factory, to consider different production methods.
After a while of doing this, I found I was inspired by these creative entrepreneurs… lots of them were young, like me. I thought, ‘I can do this!’
Light and dark – my tequila ice tea is a riddle!
I started with the idea of tea. I went back to my home in Nigeria and asked my mum for her suggestions. She recommended this very special type of tea… it’s really a type of super-food.
So we had this very healthy tea. But I wanted to make my product a sort of riddle (hence the name of my company, Fountain of Riddles), a paradox if you like. I wanted to counter balance this very healthy tea with something a bit evil… something technically bad for you…so I thought of tequila. There you have the riddle – you’re not sure if you’re healthy or drunk!
Getting the business going
I started initially with funding of about £5K – this just covered the ingredients. And I only made small quantities, my first production run was about fifty glass bottles. I sold my tequila iced tea at events, pop-ups of one kind or another. Demand built mostly by word of mouth.
I was originally producing it myself, but as demand grew I knew I had to find producers. I found one, and that didn’t work out. Then I found another. That one messed up at the last minute. That was quite worrying.
Switching to cans from bottles
But in fact it turned out to be a good thing. I’d been asking these producers to put the drink into bottles. But I began to research the market more carefully. I discovered that all my competitors were putting their drinks into tins. And I found that, in the supermarkets, all the premixed drinks like mine, were in the same area, all in tins.
Moving to tins has made all the difference to my sales. Now the purchasers really get it. It’s easier for them to place me.
There’s still a way to go before Riddles’ Tequila Iced Tea is fully established in the market, but for the future, Charlie is already conceiving more creative drinks… watch this space!
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