Fever pitch

Founder of Fever-Tree, Tim Warrillow, chats to us about re-inventing the G&T and re-shaping the drinks industry.

Fever-Tree is a true David and Goliath story: two entrepreneurs who take on a global brand to become the UK’s most valuable soft-drinks company, revolutionising the UK’s drinking habits along the way. It’s a story about quality, perseverance, innovation and good old-fashioned values. We chat to founder, Tim Warrillow, to find out what it was like launching the game-changing brand.

How did you get into tonic water and what was the inspiration behind Fever-Tree?

It actually all began over a cup of coffee! I was exploring opportunities in the drinks sector and was put in touch with Charles Rolls who had previously done a fantastic job revitalising Plymouth Gin. However, at our very first meeting, the conversation quickly turned from gin to tonic. We had both happened upon the same realisation that whilst premium spirits, especially gin, were becoming increasingly popular and using higher quality ingredients, in stark contrast, the mixer category was being overlooked and had become driven by manufacturing efficiency, rather than quality or flavour.

It struck us as extraordinary that consumers were buying these wonderful premium spirits but had no choice but to drown them with mixers that were often full of artificial sweeteners and preservatives. After all, if 3/4s of your drink is the mixer, surely you should care just as much about that as the spirit!
There and then – although possibly on our 3rd or 4th coffee by this time – we decided to set out to create the highest quality mixers possible! Little did we know what a journey we were about to embark on, taking us from the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo where we still source the quinine for our tonic, across the Yucatan province in Mexico in search of amazing limes through to the hills of Cochin in South West India to find the ideal ginger for our ginger beer and ginger ale.

Did you ever imagine it would revolutionise the drinks industry?

My father-in-law certainly didn’t! Although to be fair to him he wasn’t alone, most industry ‘experts’ we spoke to were equally as sceptical, this was primarily due to the fact that the category was totally dominated by one very large, muscular global brand. However, Charles and I were pretty single minded and always believed that, if we focused on making a fantastic tasting tonic using the very highest quality ingredients, there would be a market for it given the growing interest that was starting to bubble up around the gin category. However, what we didn’t imagine was one day our tonic water would become bigger than Schweppes and this has been truly exciting and is a wonderful demonstration about how our commitment to quality has really resonated with both consumers and bartenders alike.

Can innovation and old-fashioned values – such as good quality ingredients and sustainability go hand in hand?

Absolutely. In essence, innovation doesn’t mean compromising on values. In fact, it can mean enhancing them. By staying true to our commitment to quality and embracing sustainable practices, we’re able to innovate in ways that are both responsible and forward-thinking. It’s about creating products that not only taste great but also respect the planet and the people involved in their production.

What have been your favourite moments at Fever-Tree?

I am loath to single out any one moment as it is like trying to pick the favourite of my four sons….which changes day to day I assure you! However, I must admit becoming the No.1 tonic brand in the US last year was a pretty special moment and really highlighted the strength of the brand and our global presence. Of course none of these moments, such as product launches, awards, and international expansion, would have been possible without the effort and drive of the whole fantastic Fever-Tree team. From the early days to the present, the dedication, creativity, and hard work of everyone here have been truly inspiring and it is exciting that so many of the original team are still with us.

What inspires you when it comes to new flavours and launches?

With our mixers everything comes back to ensuring we are enhancing the quality of the overall drink. We are constantly speaking to bartenders and spirits companies to explore new opportunities and once we have landed on a new product, it is then about going out, talking to plant hunters and growers to try and find the best quality ingredients before our innovation team work their magic on the liquid itself.

It is also about spotting consumer trends across the wider drinks space. For example, our newest launch is a range of cocktail mixers including a Mojito, Margarita, Espresso Martini and Passionfruit Martini, that tap into growing excitement around cocktails and especially consumers making them at home…..the Expresso Martini flew off the shelves at Christmas and we think this could well be the summer of the Mojito!

Quick Fire

Favourite tipple

That changes day to day but I am writing this with a Paloma in hand, using Casamigos Tequila and our Pink Grapefruit Soda, wonderfully refreshing and reminds me of a particularly entertaining trip to Mexico to find citrus.

Favourite bar

Bourbon & Branch in San Francisco, I moved my family out to San Francisco when we were launching Fever-Tree in the US and one of the tough aspects of the job is you have to spend a lot of time visiting the best bars!!! Bourbon & Branch was this fantastic speakeasy that you needed a password and entered through an unmarked door, very cool and fantastic cocktails.

Favourite restaurant

El Bulli in Spain, it wasn’t open for very long but was consistently voted best restaurant in the world, it was the most extraordinary gastronomic experience. Ferran Adria was the creative inspiration behind the restaurant and we remain very indebted to him as he not only discovered Fever-Tree and introduced it to Spain but he liked it so much that he didn’t just use it in his G&T’s but he made it into a dish on his world famous tasting menu.

Place you find most inspiration

No question the Fever-Tree headquarters, quite uniquely we do our innovation in house, we have a fantastic bar and in-house flavour room, combine that with a brilliant team, all the ingredients needed for some inspiration!

Who would you most like see headline Glastonbury

Dire Straits – the music I grew up to, fantastic.