“We sell a sophisticated drink,” says Briggs. “And we’ve found that in the UK retailers fall into two camps: those that want to give their customers the ‘latest’, best quality products (the likes of Harvey Nichols, Wholefoods Market, Waitrose); and those that just want to sell big, ‘safe’ best-selling brands.”
The latter category includes stores like Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons. These corporations demand that firms notch up a strong track record with their products, before they’re willing to stock them on their shelves.
“This naturally limits the growth potential of a start-up brand,” says Briggs. “You quickly hit a distribution ceiling.”
Instead of courting these reluctant giants, Briggs went “rogue”. He explored international markets as a fast-track route to brand saturation. “The great thing about exporting is that ‘early-adopter’ retailers exist right across the world,” he says. “You can build up distribution, without having to wait years for the likes of Tesco and Sainsbury’s to take a punt on you.”
Firefly Tonics currently boasts a £2m turnover off the back of this international strategy. “We reached a sustainable turnover sooner, without having to sell out to the discount-hungry retailers.”