So here’s a new idea I have been thinking about for some time. And an idea I want to put to action. But I need your input on this! So, if you can provide me with feedback … that would be very much appreciated.
Here’s the idea. Or at least an introduction to it. I feel that, even though craft distilling is in a growing phase, there is still a bottle neck to be managed. Not talking about fermenting. Not talking about distilling (hey, we took care of that, right?), not even talking about mashing (even though I feel we can help out there too, in some time).
The real bottle neck, business wise, is about marketing, about selling product.
Making product is one thing, and I am sure most of you are able to create great drinks. The only thing is … nobody cares. I do not mean this in an offensive way. For sure I care. And I know many people into or close to the craft distilling scene do. But most consumers don’t. Do you disagree? Do you need proof? Look at what part of the market place is covered by craft distillers. And at how much the big distilleries sell. Yes, I know, most of those big players sell what we feel is pretty crappy most of the time. But they do hold 99% of the market in their hands. Ergo: making product is one thing, but marketing really is the craft distillers bottle neck.
Back to my idea. Or at least to an analysis I feel is pretty adequate. iStill provides distillation equipment worldwide. Many craft distillers use our equipment to introduce new, high-end spirits to the market. Most (if not all) of the craft distillers, using our equipment, sell locally or regionally. That makes perfect sense. “Local is the new global”, etc. And, let’s face it, for an American craft whiskey distiller … to get his product on the shelf in Europe (and vice versa) … is pretty much impossible. Even those craft distillers winning awards have a hard time to expand from “regional” to “national”. And with more and more craft distillers entering the market, “going national” will only become more difficult.
But we are living in the 21st century, right? And we do have the internet. And iStill has a network of people making and sellling high-end drinks, located all over the world.
I feel we all can take advantage of that. Maybe by establishing a sort of internet shop AKA platform organization for our drinks. I mean, we have many people making whiskey in the USA and Canada … and there is a huge market for high-end whiskey in Europe. On the other hand we have an iStill client making palm tree brandy in Africa. For sure an exotic product like that would meet favourable market conditions in the USA, if we can get it on the shelves.
How about us starting that platform organization or internet shop, where craft distillers using iStill equipment can promote their products? How about you, already selling your own products, use your network to sell drinks made by other distillers using our equipment? Not saying you should start importing whiskey, if whiskey is what you make yourself, but how about a coconut brandy or a vodka?
Making product costs money, selling it is where you start making some.
An example. I know a very, very good Flemish distillery. It is relatively big. Well, according to Belgian and Dutch standards. But worldwide … they are a very small and specialized player. Their non juniper berries flavoured, West-Flanders style Genever outclasses most (if not all) whiskey I know, but since the market place for Genever is small, they also import a single malt from Scottland and some liqueurs from Italy. They make more money as a reseller than as a distiller! And guess who is selling their Genever on the Italian and UK market space … Not a big market, mind you, but they sell each and every bottle with a bonus margin.
Now I feel that, with the iStill network in place, we can accomplish something similar. First of all a global market place, where our clients can sell their products. Second of all a purchase network, where those, interested in resellling as well as distilling, can get in touch with providers of drinks situated on other continents. Or maybe there is a “third of all”, where we just make an internet likker shop, introducing all of your products to the global consumer community directly?
I can ask the questions, but you need to help me with the answers. We can set-up a website, aimed at selling your drinks to consumers directly, without a problem. But is that what’s needed? And if it is, will you ship directly to those consumers? Or will you ship to me (in Europe) and will we do distribution from here? And how about European, Asian, or African manufacturers? Who will establish an American import organization?
Or is a different approach needed? Do we need that platform organization, where producers (and thus sellers) can meet other producers, and help them out, selling foreign product on their continent?
And how about revenue? Would you feel that it is most appropriate to pay the producer per bottle? Or should we ask for a defined fee, just to become a member of that platform organization I envision, as a seller, as a producer, or as both?
Here’s my point: I feel iStill can help customers bringing products, made with iStill equipment, to the global market place. I am just not sure yet as to how we should organize this. And that’s where I need your help, that’s where you guys chime in. Or so I hope.
I want to invite all of you, start-ups too, to let me know if and how this could, would or should work. Not via the iStill Blog, but via a personal email. Please let me know your ideas, your thoughts, so we can sharpen our wits and make this idea into something beneficial and viable to all of us. Let me know your thoughts via an email. And if you state “iDrinks” in the header of the message, that will help!