Making exporting work for you: Fever-Tree

Nowadays, our globally-connected world means there have never been more opportunities for startups to export. For businesses not sure where to get started with exporting, UKTI -  the government's Trade and Investment department - provides support, opportunities, and resources for businesses that want to spread their wings.

UK premium drinks brand Fever-Tree are a company who've seen huge benefits from exporting. Their high-quality tonic water has been a huge hit, both in the UK and outside. Saskia Meyer, Fever-Tree's Marketing Director, talks about how you can make exporting work for your business.

Fever-tree - founders and tonic

In 2005, Charles Rolls and Tim Warrillow founded our company, Fever-Tree, with a single ambition: to create the perfect high-quality tonic water for mixing with the ever-increasing number of premium spirits on the market.

Having sourced the best possible ingredients from around the world, including quinine (the key ingredient and essential bitterness in tonic water) from a plantation on the Rwanda/Congo border and cold-pressed bitter orange from Tanzania, the Fever-Tree band was born.

Our range of tonic waters and mixers quickly grew, winning several accolades along the way. This included being named the best-selling and top trending tonic water in Drinks International’s World’s 50 Best Bar Brands Report 2015.

However it wasn't just in the UK that our business took off, and now 68% of our annual turnover comes from sales in over 50 countries.

We always believed the quality of our products would resonate internationally, but it was a phone call from Ferran Adria at, what was then the world’s best restaurant, El Bulli, which really launched our export business.  A lot of companies don’t think the global demand is out there for their product. Our advice is – if you have faith in your product or service, go for it.

The opportunities to grow your business overseas are huge. And research shows that companies that export are more profitable, productive and innovative than those that don’t. They’re also more resilient to economic ups and downs.

There’s also plenty of support available out there. We worked with UK Trade and Investment, the Government department dedicated to enabling businesses to export.


In 2006, when we wanted to accelerate our overseas expansion, our International Trade Advisor recommended the UKTI Passport to Export programme that helps businesses to prepare for international markets. We also took advantage of a Tradeshow Access Programme grant to exhibit in the UK Pavillion at the international food and hospitality show, Gulfood, in Dubai.

We didn’t have a dedicated international sales and marketing person at the time. So, this support was invaluable – enabling us to identify potential markets and get our products in front of influential international buyers.

Last year, our CEO and co-founder Tim was invited to join a trade delegation to New Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore, where we secured contracts with many of India’s top hotels like Oberoi, Hyatt Taj and Marriot.  With India being the spiritual home of tonic water (the British Army invented the Gin and Tonic in India in the 19th century) this was a fantastic opportunity to launch into our 50th market.

We continue to work with UKTI to grow and promote our brand overseas. Looking forward, we want to crack new, exciting markets like China, South Korea and South Africa.

At the start, making that move into any new market can seem a bit daunting. And it’s great to know that UKTI are at the end of the phone to help us find the answers or distributors etc we need.

What we know now, is that there are people all over the world - in Asia, Europe and the Middle East - who love our brand and want our products. Ultimately, if what you sell is good, the demand is out there for you too.

So check out the Business is GREAT website to see how UKTI can help you take that first step on your exporting journey. And, when you do, don’t forget to celebrate with a Gin and 'Fever-Tree' Tonic. Cheers!

Get the Virgin StartUp Business plan