StrangeLove will remain weird and wonderful despite a mega acquisition

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StrangeLove products are geared toward adults and use an eclectic tone of voice in branding.

Adult soft drink brand StrangeLove may have carved out a lucrative niche for itself by disrupting the typical range of Australian soft drinks that dominate pubs and shelves, but the co-founders aren’t one bit afraid to join their ranks.

The brand was acquired by Asahi Beverages this week in a coup for Byron Bay pals Stafford Fox and James Bruce, who launched StrangeLove nine years ago with a vision to take over the soft drink market in Australia.

The benefit of StrangeLove was clear from the start – positioning a non-alcoholic drink for the adult population by using local ingredients to create eclectic flavors that drinkers typically only see on the cocktail list, like yuzu and ginger.

But doesn’t Asahi – which counts Schweppes, Solo and Cottee among the family – represent what StrangeLove sought to subvert? On the contrary, says Fox SmartCompany.

“Asahi Beverages is the best for a reason – their variety is unparalleled,” he said.

“Our brand development and reach will accelerate with Asahi Beverages, where we can learn and share with other leading Australian and global brands.

“To be honest, we’re thrilled to stand alongside these truly iconic names and to know that we have the backing of the best beverage company in Oceania.”

StrangeLove was born after James Bruce and Stafford Fox quit their 9am-5pm jobs and moved to cultural capital Byron Bay for a gap year in 2009. The couple said they would let off steam on the business and work on a subversive project.

But the thriving brand, which was launched at a time when organic companies were bursting onto the scene, struck gold in 2013 when the guys sold one of their products to celebrity chef Kylie Kwong at a market in Byron.

Kwong loved the drink, and soon she signed a deal with the impressed founders to stock StrangeLove at the Sydney organic restaurant she opened with chef Bill Granger, the since-closed Billy Kwong.

When gin enjoyed an explosion in popularity in 2016, StrangeLove went the other way and sold “shovels in the gold rush”, launching a range of premium mixers to complement the 335 brands of gin that hit the market at lightning speed.

Since then, StrangeLove has built a legion of die-hard fans – the drinks brand boasts over 20,000 followers on Instagram – and signed deals that see the shelves of Woolworths and Dan Murphy stocked with this distinctive drink.

An acquisition as mega as Asahi is a dream come true for many startups and entrepreneurs building brands in a dense market, Fox continues, especially if the acquisition is inked on the condition that heart and soul remain.

“We saw when they acquired companies like Allpress, Mountain Goat, 4 Pines, Pirate Life, Balter – the product is as good, if not better, than it was before the acquisition, and those companies have continued to grow and disrupt as part of Asahi,” he said.

“In addition, StrangeLove’s management team will remain in place to ensure we maintain the unique identity and business ethos that have made it so successful in the past.

“It was really important to us.”

And the unique identity is present in every aspect of StrangeLove’s branding, with its website telling how the company’s first ginger beer was “so hot it was almost undrinkable”.

“We soon realized there were a lot of really deranged people out there who like to suffer while consuming a drink,” the website continues.

“We quickly developed a cult following, which was ironic as there were many actual cults in Byron Bay, some of which we had previously suspected were following us.”

As the lucrative soft drinks market takes off in Australia, Asahi Beverages keeps pace with the trend.

Along with a $16 billion acquisition of Carlton & United Breweries (i.e. Victoria Bitter, Carlton Draft and Crown Lager), Asahi also acquired coffee company Allpress last year.

“Asahi Beverages is committed to growing its multi-alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverage portfolio in Oceania as we continue to make significant investments in jobs, new products and manufacturing,” Asahi Chief Executive said. , Robert Iervasy.

Fox says the future is golden for the StrangeLove family, as the brand plans to keep it weird and wonderful for years to come.

“We can’t wait to see what the next few years have in store for us! »

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