Grabbing Retail Opportunities And Scaling Our Hard Seltzer Drink Brand [Update]

Published: June 16th, 2023

Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started.

My name is Charlie Markland and I founded Tribeology Ltd. Bodega Bay hard seltzer in June 2019.

We launched into the UK after witnessing firsthand the explosive growth of this category in the US. We were the first ‘named’ Hard Seltzer and quickly established ourselves as the Premium and Social Mission-driven Seltzer in the UK.

After landing listings in Morrisons and Tesco + over 400 pubs and bars things were going well and revenue was about $50k a month. However, the category of Hard Seltzer in the UK just didn’t take off in the way that everyone in the industry expected.

Even after being voted Most Loved Hard Seltzer in the UK by 90k people we started to lose listings as retailers became underwhelmed by the rate of sale/sales throughout of the category.

Embrace the unknown will always be qualified to go back to what you do now in the unlikely event it doesn’t work out!

Read the first part of the story here.


Tell us about what you’ve been up to. Has the business been growing?

Having started Tribeology Ltd to become a disruptive drinks portfolio we knew it was time to launch our next brand to support the business ambition. So we worked with a major grocer and the leading cocktail bar group in the UK to create a range of insight-driven Pre-mixed cocktails which fill a big retail gap in the current cocktail market.

Sitting between the plethora of 4/5% abv. offers at the £2 mark and the stronger abv. offering from brands like Moth at 14.9% closer to £4.

They are called Tribeology Cocktails and they are delicious…



We then sent out a presentation to all the UK supermarkets containing info on the:

  • the consumer problem we are solving
  • the retail opportunity
  • the success so far
  • a commercial proposal with pricing
  • our marketing plan

And from this, we got a listing in Sainsbury's [now live] and a commitment to list in two other supermarkets in their April 2024 ranges. Bringing us back up to the $50k a month run rate we had at the height of Bodega Bay.

What have been your biggest challenges in the last year?

Well, good news, Tribeology Cocktails launched at the end of April straight into a hard-won listing in 277 Sainsbury’s Superstores nationwide. Early rate of sale data shows that we have hit a key consumer segment. In the later slides, we will give you a glimpse of the marketing campaigns kicking off now which will build on the fast start the brand has demonstrated already.

Find your local store here.

In the first 3 weeks since launch, we have taken 8.37% Value share and 7.88% Volume share of the single-serve pre-mixed cocktail category in Sainsbury's. The repeat purchase rate is ~4% on each of the 3 cocktails we have launched which means there is a strong growth outlook for the brand within Sainsbury's.

The weekly average sales per flavor/per store is in line with what Sainsbury's had set us as to ‘what good would look like’.

However, it has not been plain sailing to get to this point. Cashflow has been a challenge to manage for various reasons, the most significant of which have been:

  • Since earlier CoGs forecasting for the cocktails, inflation has continued with its relentless increase squeezing the margin we can achieve on the cocktails in these earlier production runs. We have a solid plan to reach the key milestones that will bring the CoGs down through unlocking greater minimum order quantities subject to adding a further Grocery retailer which we are working very hard on. Impact on costs +£22k.
  • A new beneficial post-Brexit regime of alcohol duty fuelled the appeal to launch canned cocktails at 8% abv. specifically, announced by Rishi Sunak in 2021, was delayed unexpectedly by the chancellor- adding significant Duty costs to our first production run. The good news is that these changes will take effect in August after being delayed by six months. The Chancellor has ruled out further extending the scheme's introduction, which will see drinks taxed based on how much alcohol they contain. Impact on costs +£19k.
  • An inexplicably unlucky Trademark clash led to 100k cans of the Cocktails needing to be renamed/relabelled at a moment’s notice. The short version of the story is that the name we had was deemed to carry very minimal risk [almost all characters have some level of risk].

While the Trademark was open to objection, a major Spirits brand bought a relatively unknown wine brand, which had a sub-variant of their product dormant in the category. Not only did the Spirit brand decide to revive the dormant brand, they incidentally got it listed into Sainsbury's with the same go-live date as our cocktails! Impact on costs +£37k.

What have been your biggest lessons learned in the last year?

Pay for Trademark advice: unless you think of something unusual they all carry risk, get good advice on what is a tolerable risk.

K.I.S.S keep it simple stupid: an overly complicated financial model has tripped us up more than it has helped us.

Cash is King: the business will fail faster than a falling stone the moment you relax on cash flow.

What’s in the plans for the upcoming year, and the next 5 years?

New retailers are coming on board, new formats, and hopefully, in time another brand or two…

What’s the best thing you read in the last year?

The 10x rule - Grant Cardone

Atomic Habits - James Clay

The 4-hour workweek, Tribe of Mentors and Tools of Titans - Tim Ferris

Play Bigger - Al Ramadan

The Infinite Game and Start with Why - Simon Sinek

The Obstacle is the Way - Ryan Holiday

The Rational Optimist - Matt Ridley

Purple Cow and This is Marketing - Seth Godin

Advice for other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to grow their business?

Find an industry-specific advisor: pay with favors, cash, equity, or whatever you have to learn from their mistakes and successes…mistakes we could have avoided with the right advice have nearly tanked the business despite, now two, great brands/products.

  • Read books instead of getting an MBA.
  • Ask yourself: What is your life’s moon shot?

Know this: The only difference between the people you admire and those you don’t is that they all read to expand their knowledge of their field!

  • There has never been a better or easier time to raise money.
  • CV19 has proved the importance of managing one’s destiny.
  • You can jump first and build the plane on the way down.
  • If you are thinking of launching a business tell everyone what you ARE launching. This unlocks opportunities/advice and corners yourself into committing.
  • You get what you pitch for.
  • Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage. Most people choose unhappiness rather than the uncertainty of breaking the status quo or their assumptions. Embrace the unknown will always be qualified to go back to what you do now in the unlikely event it doesn’t work out!
  • Pretend you are sat interviewing yourself 10 years from now...what would you say, picture what they would tell you they wish they had done differently, risked, or had achieved, and then go and do it.
  • There are no adults, everyone is figuring out as they go along, figure it out and do it - Naval Ravikant

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

Not at this time. We are moonlighting as an FMCG Start Up advisory business though: learn more here at Shaper Insights.

Where can we go to learn more?

If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!