Start-Up Stories – Kolibri Drinks
Ever had a lovely drink but it was just too sweet? Or not sweet enough? Kolibri Drinks are giving us the power of choice! Let us introduce Kamila Laura Sitwell, founder of Kolibri Drinks, who tells us all about her awesome start-up journey!
Tell us all about Kolibri Drinks!
Kolibri is the world’s first adult, alcohol-free drink with sweetness and flavours tailored to preferences. It’s a new category of bespoke alcohol-free drinks designed for prestige hospitality.
“The concept of customisable drinks is a game-changer for consumers who want healthy, great tasting and indulgent options but also new experiences, engaging ritual and theatre.”
Co-creation of drinks and focus on personalisation are prevalent in many categories such as coffee or cocktails but packaged soft drinks have never explored this territory. Kolibri was created to ensure that now guests can enjoy crafting their own bespoke drinks to match their individual and unique needs.
Mass-produced and standardised approach to food and drinks must change because guests expect their unique preferences recognised and catered to, especially in the hospitality sector. You can’t control everything in your life, but you can control what you put in your body.
Kolibri drinks are very unique, how did you come up with the concept?
I spent many years investigating trends and insights for many leading soft drinks brands. Sugar has been a massive challenge, not just in the UK but globally and across many food and drinks categories. However, all the industry solutions seemed painfully inadequate to me– penalising sugar tax, smaller bottles, controversial sweeteners, niche and often weird-tasting alternatives.
I had a ‘eureka’ moment when out dining with friends. We ordered the same drink – homemade lemonade. It should have been an easy order, except it wasn’t! The drink created by the barman delighted my taste buds, but none of the other girls liked it. They fussed over sugar content and the taste of lemons. We all expected the drink to match our own preference. The barman had to re-create the order but this time, one drink at a time, mixed to each individual taste.
“I was mesmerised…Then late at night – bingo! All the insights, industry knowledge and trends I studied for years suddenly made so much sense – I realised that the future of the soft drinks must be bespoke”
as there is no other way to satisfy the growing number of highly discerning consumers.
How did you take it from a concept to a reality?
I came back from the holiday and dived straight into data, analysis and research, but found no evidence of bespoke bottled drinks anywhere. I spoke to every leading insight agency in the UK, no one heard about customisable softs. I approached a couple of colleagues I admired greatly in the beverage sector, they thought the idea was great but impossible to execute.
“I become obsessed. Most manufacturers declined to work with us because the concept was too niche, complex and risky.”
It took a very long time to find the right partners, and then we spent three years in testing and product development, but bespoke soft drinks are now a reality.
What mistakes have you made along the way? What did you learn from them?
I was so excited when I finally found a bottler who seemed to get the concept and was keen to work with us, I paid him upfront for the recipes’ development as he asked. He organised a product tasting session for us where he elaborately mixed some juices from Tesco with extracts and then carbonated the concoctions.
“I was speechless, the guy clearly had no idea what he was doing! But paying upfront – what a rookie mistake!”
Always, always check the credentials of the people you go to business with, don’t let anyone pull wool over your eyes, there is a lot of amateurs out there!
What do you think the most important trait an entrepreneur should have?
I read somewhere about the 4Ps of a successful entrepreneur and it’s been stuck in my mind ever since.
“Passion. Perseverance. Positivity. Patience.”
There are so many hurdles and challenges to overcome that without all 4Ps, any entrepreneur will struggle. One more thing worth mentioning is self-education. There is no need to re-invent the wheel, every business challenge has been analysed and then written about in detail and from every angle. I read voraciously, 100+ books a year. All business subjects from strategic planning, finance and funding, selling strategies, pitching, social media hacks, inspiring biographies and brand stories as well as books on mindset and motivation.
Where can people find your delicious drinks?
We launched a few weeks ago, end of May, but we are already stocking some of the best bars, restaurants and hotels from the likes of Harrods’ restaurants, Champneys SPAs, M Restaurants, Gaucho and many others.
How do you see drinks trends evolving; what are the next trends we should be aware of?
Alcohol will continue to decline and the quality of all drinks will be scrutinised. Those who increasingly abstain, and there will be more of them, will require healthier yet more adventurous alcohol-free drinks. The likes of Seedlip – alcohol-free spirits, will continue to excite trade and consumers with new alcohol-free possibilities. Water is currently the winning category but in the war on unnecessary packaging and consumers becoming more ethical, bottled waters – healthy but delivering zero experience – are being increasingly replaced with jugs of garnished tap water. This will hurt operators bottom line while consumers will feel ‘cheated’ on the overall dining experience. No one wants to go out and sip tap water in establishments which should delight with gourmet experiences across all food and drink categories.
Where do you see the business in 10 years?
I’m a believer in the power and importance of big dreams. Big aspirations that take hold of you and your life and won’t let go. In 10 years’ time I see an exciting product range, well-established category of bespoke drinks and international presence. Bespoke will be the future. It just makes sense.
Kolibri drinks are destined for huge things! We can’t wait to see where they’ll be in a years’ time. Be on the lookout for their tasty trio and if you want to know more about the company check out their website here.
Like this? Check out our Start-Up Story on Denzel’s, an awesome start-up bringing dogs healthy snacks. You can read all about their journey here!