East Imperial is once again looking to establish itself in Australia’s bar scene as the tide of premium mixers rises and consumers understand the importance of mixing premium spirits with premium mixers.
The mixer brand did previously look at the Australian market, but Co-Founder and CEO Tony Burt explained to Bars and Clubs, that several things worked against the team at that time.
“Australia is just a vast country, right,” Tony said, “plus there’s wholesaler-type, three-tier market in Australia so it’s really challenging to be competitive in that market and plus there’s the huge cost of moving cases around, which means there’s not high margins.
“Also at that times we were three people and we were getting great traction in Asia and New Zealand and we were getting started in the States and pockets of Europe, so we made the decision to say ‘let’s revisit Australia at another time’.”
That traction, particularly in Asia saw East Imperial become very popular in some of the regions key bar areas, including Singapore, Hong Kong and China.
“Our strategy was very simple and that was to be found at the very best bars within the region,” Tony said. “So it’s the likes of Atlas Bar in Singapore, Manhattan Bar, 28 HongKongStreet. And that was really the only thing we wanted to do, was be in those influential bars, being used by the top mixologists and being part of top cocktail scenes.”
That model was one that saw East Imperial grow successfully in other markets as well like Los Angeles and Miami, as Tony explained, “We didn’t try to be everything to everyone, we would just identify the top 50 bars in the city and then make sure we get into them.”
But now the time has come to revisit Australia and while they have adopted a slightly different approach by being listed in Dan Murphy’s before tackling the on-premise, but Tony told Bars and Clubs, “we’re on the lookout now for a distributor to do the on-trade for us”.
So with Australian consumers now understanding the premium mixer market, what makes East Imperial different, and why is it so popular in these influential and world-leading bars?
“I think what’s really important around any sort of drinks brand or FMCG brand is contents and story and ingredients and this is the pretence and foundation that this brand is built on,” Tony said.
“We spend a lot of time and attention sourcing our ingredients, where they come from, why they come from there and why is important and is part of our story. You talk about East Imperial and it’s all about a celebration of the East. You’ve got Thai Dry Ginger Ale with the roots coming from Thailand; you’ve got Mombasa Ginger Beer, which is East Africa and ginger root from Kenya; you’ve got Burma Tonic Water which is from Rangoon and the quinine coming from Indonesia. So these ingredients are hard-baked into the brand and we’ve paid a lot of attention of those.
“We talk a lot internally and externally in some cases about being ultra-premium. It’s become very easy and fashionable to call yourself premium. So we want to go above that and be ultra-premium and the reason we can do that is because we have these truth points linked to our ingredients and their stories. Now, if that’s the way you are going to present yourself, then you have to be able to back it up and so we spend a lot of time making sure our products measure up to the story we are telling.
“We want people to feel that every time they engage with East Imperial, or have an East Imperial it’s an exceptional experience. We ask everyone we work with and all our partners to really put that lens on everything we do and I think that’s what really helped the brand to grow and be positioned where we are.”
East Imperial is available through Metcash with 11 flavours in Australia, plus a tasting case and is currently working on developing its on-premise presence.