Four years ago, at the tender age of 20, Laura McCarthy founded Drink Botanicals to produce infusion kits for those who enjoy a G&T with a different flavour twist. Now McCarthy, who has recently completed her degree in business studies at TU Dublin while running her business full time, is expanding her product line-up with a range of flavoured syrups in time for the summer cocktails season.
“When the shift to home drinking accelerated during the pandemic, and consumers started drinking more sophisticated cocktails, I noticed there were no natural, reasonably priced syrups on the market to put into them. Also, the majority of the syrups that were available contained tons of artificial colourings and flavourings,” says McCarthy. “That set me thinking, and I can honestly say that Covid-19 presented me with an opportunity and a gap in the market that I decided to fill.”
McCarthy says what differentiates her syrups from others on the market is their texture, natural ingredients and authentic fruit flavour. There are six 500ml varieties in the line-up – lemon, grapefruit, orange, cucumber, sour cherry and raspberry – and they are on sale at a recommended retail price of €12.95.
“Our syrups are aimed at the premium end of the market and are very different to other brands as they are pulp-based and thick in texture,” she says. “The packaging is also unique, as the products are paper wrapped. As someone who majored in marketing at college, I believe presentation is critically important and is the ‘silent salesman’ as you have to stand out from the crowd.”
The initial idea
McCarthy got the idea for her business four years ago when she found herself paying a hefty price for a fancy G&T with a “garnish” of rose petals or juniper berries. She began looking into how to make them at home, and towards the end of 2017 she approached the owner of her local off licence with her idea for a flavour fusion kit for gin that people could experiment with at home. The kit contained botanicals such as juniper berries, grapefruit peel, hibiscus flower, chilli rings and rose petals, and the off licence placed an order for a dozen kits, which sold out within a week.
This was all the encouragement McCarthy needed. She followed the gin kit with one for vodka and then a cocktail set containing mixology equipment and garnishes. Drink Botanicals’ fusion kits are now stocked across Ireland and the company employs four people. This is expected to grow during 2021 as the rollout of the syrups gets under way.
Production of the range has been outsourced to the EU, and it will be officially launched in Ireland this month. “The syrups are aimed at bars and restaurants and at consumers who want to add a layer of flavour to their drinks,” says McCarthy. “The syrups will also save bartenders making their own from scratch and they can be used with ice and fizzy water to make lemonade or to flavour desserts.”
Start-up costs for Drink Botanicals were about €35,000 and this was largely self-financed, with support from Dublin City Local Enterprise Office. The business has been generating income since the beginning, and McCarthy has reinvested to help it grow and self-fund the development of the syrups.
“Competition does exist in the market. However, I am not too worried because I know consumers will switch brands when they realise that the quality and taste of our syrups is superior,” she says. “Personally, I enjoy competition because it inspires me to work harder and it makes you keep up with the latest market trends and to be as innovative as possible. The feedback I’m getting already has been hugely encouraging as I’ve been told that my product is better than the leading brands currently on the shelves.”