A sound export strategy is a sure fire way of scaling your business. We spoke to Raissa and Joyce de Haas co-founders of Double Dutch Drinks – a London-based premium tonic and mixer brand – about how they managed to get successfully listed in 22 countries.
Raissa: My name is Raissa and, along with my twin sister Joyce, I’m one-half of the founding members of Double Dutch Drinks. Our products are made using flavour-pairing techniques and molecular gastronomy. This allows us to find unique and well-balanced flavour combinations that bring the best out of the spirits they are mixed with.
How did you come up with the idea?
Joyce: We were exposed to the world of premium spirits from a young age, as our parents were very knowledgeable and discerning when it came to choosing what food and beverages they purchased. By the time we grew up and began to drink alcohol ourselves, we already had an appreciation for high-quality spirits.
By the time we got to university, we soon realised that the mixers on the market lacked diversity in flavour. This was frustrating, as we understood the impact that good mixers had on the drinking experience. This frustration grew through university, which soon became a passion to find a solution; before long, we started making our own mixers.
It started off as quite a primitive operation, with us making syrups and then mixing them with carbonated water. Soon after university, we started Double Dutch and released Pomegranate & Basil and Cucumber & Watermelon as our first flavours. We always smile when we think back to those days, as we realise how incredibly far we have come.
At what stage was the business when you decided to start exporting?
Raissa: We started looking into exports quite soon after we started, as we knew it would be a great opportunity to grow. We saw it as a way to fast track the development of our business, as we needed to achieve some economies of scale. The food and beverage industry is built around bulk production, which is due to limitations in bottling, labelling and ingredient supply. Looking into new markets gave us another sales avenue that allowed us to produce more efficiently.
Joyce: We were also lucky to have a product that is easy to export, as it has a long shelf life and there are not many restrictions for storing and moving stock around. We first made a move into countries that were geographically close to the UK and also had similar demographic profiles. The first countries we started exporting to were Ireland and Benelux (i.e. Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxemburg).
What strategy do you follow in order to get listed in a new country?
Raissa: When it comes to setting up Double Dutch in a new country, it is incredibly important for us to find the right partner. Initially, it can be really difficult to find someone dependable who has the right sort of portfolio to work with, as well as the passion for premium products. Whoever our partner turns out to be needs to act as an extension of Double Dutch in that particular country, so it needs to be someone great!
How do you find the right partner?
Joyce: We do a lot of research and due diligence to make sure we are looking at the right sort of companies and individuals to work with. There are a lot of people who only have their own interests at heart, so we choose to be patient in finding partners who are interested in long-term relationships.
We also work a lot with DIT (Department of International Trade) Exporting, which is a great campaign that helps connect businesses across borders in order to facilitate growth into more international markets. The UK government is very helpful in fostering the positive growth of exports for local businesses. This has been really helpful in speeding up the time it takes to find the sorts of people we want to move forward with.
Raissa: We also love to travel to countries, experience their culture and learn how each market has a different relationship with different drinks and spirits. Getting to travel and see all these countries and meet new people is a definite passion of ours, too.
What impact has exporting had on your business?
Raissa: Our export strategy has ultimately allowed us to grow a lot faster than we ever expected while allowing us to take a big step towards becoming a global brand. Adding more markets has opened up a lot of doorways to interested consumers, which has led to a substantial increase in our sales. In turn, this has caused our margins to grow accordingly.
Joyce: We have also learned a lot about business practices by dealing with all sorts of different people across the world. The raised complexity of international trade has forced us to grow up as a company and embrace best practices, allowing us to successfully service our 22 (and counting) international markets.
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