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Entrepreneur team behind new drink category

Charles Rolls (left) and Tim Warrillow (right) set up Fever-Tree after wanting a premium tonic for their G&T

As Australia’s small-bar culture continues to grow, punters are becoming more knowledgeable and discerning about what they drink.

Tim Warrillow, co-founder of the premium drinks company Fever-Tree thinks he has a product to match their sophisticated tastes.

Along with his business partner Charles Rolls, Warrillow founded a new category of drink – the premium mixer – challenging the status quo of Schweppes, which dominates the market.

The pair reasoned that since people were willing to pay for expensive spirits there would also be a market for premium mixers. They weren’t wrong. Created in 2004 Warrillow and Rolls now sell their products in 50 countries.

“When you stop and think that typically 3/4 of your gin and tonic is tonic, it stands to reason that the quality of the tonic water you use is as important as the spirit,” Warrillow tells Dynamic Business.

As Warrillow explains, premium food products typically developed in reaction to the mass commoditisation of food and drink that was prevalent in the 70s and 80s.

The premium mixer drink category was no different and it developed in response to the domination of a single brand.

“It was very clear that many people were very particular about all aspects of their gin and tonic. The quality of the gin, the glass, the nature of the ice, the type and cut of the garnish and importantly the tonic,” Warrillow adds.

Wanting to create mixer drinks that avoided the use of the artificial sweeteners and preservatives, Warrillow and Rolls travelled around the world to source natural ingredients.

Tim-negotiating-with-Cochin-Ginger-producers[5]
Tim Warrillow negotiating with Cochin Ginger producers
“As we found out, they are often grown in the most inhospitable regions,” Warrillow said. “None more so than the source of our quinine, grown in the most volatile part of the eastern Congo. It is the perfect climate and elevation for growing quinine and as a result it is the most sought after in the world.”

However, it was not always a case of negotiating roadblocks with local militias – the pair had a far less stressful experience sourcing their lemons from the foothills of Mount Etna in Sicily.

When Fever-Tree products found their way onto menus at Spain’s El-Bulli – one of the world’s most famous restaurants – their reputation was secured.

The drinks are now available in Australia and Warrillow expects his brand will perform well in the country’s energetic and knowledgeable gourmet culture.

With recent changes in alcohol licensing restrictions, making it much cheaper and easier for bars to set up and operate, a new drinking scene has emerged.

Sydney alone is home to over 80 small-bars that typically cater for up to 50 patrons.

Warrillow believes that featuring in these niche bars will be crucial if Fever-Tree is to succeed here.