A Bristol biochemist who has created a way to turn a bottle of alcohol into bourbon, gin, vodka or rum is hoping to transform the beverage industry with his invention.
Mark Stone, who previously worked in the food and beverage industry, developed a (seemingly magical) way to turn premium spirits into two parts: concentrated gasoline and alcohol.
The result is a bottle of spirits called Hocus – a nod to alchemy – that comes with a case of capsules that blend together to create different types of branded drinks.
The company works closely with high-end craft and local brands, which go through a special process to create a concentrated version that can be mixed later.
How it all works is a well-kept secret, but Stone says the drinks “taste the same” as the original and the bourbon capsule won an award against some top brands in 2021.
Hocus is already garnering strong interest from retailers, with Fortnum & Mason making a major deal to sell the brand earlier this year.
Mr Stone has come a long way in just two years, when he initially launched 1Spirit (the parent company of Hocus) in Bristol.
He grew the business to a team of eight and brought in designer Chris Malbon, who has worked with Disney and Nike, to transform the brand.
âWe are very proud of the appearance of the product,â he said. âIt sells really well.
He’s also mentored by David Gluckman, an 81-year-old beverage industry pioneer, who started Baileys in 1973.
âWhat a legend he is,â Mr. Stone said. âHe gave me his time and his marketing advice was fantastic.
âHe says if you have the intuition to go for it, in terms of marketing. He’s amazing and that’s the only time I’ve ever felt a bit stunned.
Mr. Stone isn’t just targeting the beverage industry with his invention; he also hopes to help airlines reduce their carbon emissions by storing Hocus on board.
“Rather than planes storing glass bottles, which can weigh a lot, Hocus would save space while allowing airlines to offer a wide range of well-known brand drinks,” he explained.
“Instead of just three or four first class choices, it would be a Hocus bottle and 150 different brands in capsules.”
He recently attended the UK Aviation Show with the aim of demonstrating to airlines that there is a different way to store spirits – and has since contacted a number of carriers.
âThe concept went very well in the area of ââinnovations. Saving weight, space and CO2 was an important feature and a requirement of the event.
âAny small economy in any area is the industry’s goal at the moment, so it was amazing to see all of the future technologies coming in.â
But it was not all easy for Mr. Stone; The lockdown hit when the renowned version of the drink launched in 2020, and it took six months for the company to start picking up again.
âIt was a real struggle because it killed the element of showing and saying, which is so important to Hocus,â he said.
âBut in the meantime, I have managed to speak to a lot of high-end craft companies that are going to enter as part of the Hocus Golden 10 that we are launching in March 2022 in bars, clubs and restaurants.
âIt will be Hocus as the vehicle and 10 award-winning spirits under their brand. This will give space on the shelves of small brands. Eventually, it will be Hocus with a publicized brand underneath. “
Hocus will partner with other brands – and profit from them as well, with both taking a percentage share of every shot sold.
The company is also considering seeking investment, which Stone said he was “reluctant” to do before.
âA lot of people offered me an investment in November of last year, but I couldn’t take it because it was foreclosure and I didn’t want to take anyone’s money knowing there was such a uncertainty.
âI had to make sure we passed. I prefer to invest with professionals who know the risks rather than people who know me. I would feel bad if I even lost someone Â£ 10.
Over the next 12 months, Mr Stone hopes to sell Hocus to high-end restaurants and is planning something in the Magic Arena, although he cannot disclose what.
He admits he was also approached by a company investing in television – something he has turned down for the past two years but is now considering.
It also has ambitions to move to a larger facility and start expanding internationally, particularly in the United States.
âScotch whiskey has a 40% tax in America and it’s going down there because of the price,â he said. âBut if our method is used, they could essentially remake a scotch whiskey or malt, which would be the same product minus the levy.
âMy plan is to go out there and present to different companies. I have to start small for now and there is a lot going on. We will get there one day.
His advice to other potential entrepreneurs is to step out of their comfort zone.
He added, âGo ahead and do it and surround yourself with people who will look at the positives rather than the negatives.
âThere will be people who say that some things cannot be done and that is not necessarily the case. But also listen to advice, because it really helped me in my professional career.
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