The makers of Ned whisky, an Aussie RTD range, are preparing to steal market share from the US big guns.
Top Shelf International is looking at an initial public offering for the distillery later this year.
The Ned Kelly themed brand is currently available at 300 liquor stores and expects sales of Ned whisky in ready-to-drink cans and 750ml bottles to reach $3.4million during Q2 of FY19, up from $460,000 in the previous 12 months during the soft launch of the brand.
Top Shelf has spent the last four years building a huge distillery in the Melbourne suburb of Campbellfield. It features a full automated spirit wash and beer brewhouse, Australia’s largest pot stills, and canning, bottling and kegging facilities to produce more than 70 million cans and 40 million bottles a year.
Founder Drew Fairchild told The Australian: “We looked at the market and through the Ned brand you could prospectively win 5% market share. So we decided we needed to build a site capable of doing that. That’s our starting point. So that is what we have done. We had no ability to scale this brand unless we put in this infrastructure.”
Top Shelf recently completed a $3.5million raising from its private investors that values the private company at $50million.
And it has some pretty impressive names behind it.
Fairchild is a former chief financial officer for Cleanaway and Shell, chairman Adem Karafili is a former executive at vitamins giant Swisse.
The Australian lists its high-profile investors as AWH’s Bruce Neill, Gerry Harvey, Sydney investment firm Alium Capital Management, Aurizon chairman Tim Poole, Robert Mead of Endeavor Asset Management and Richard Pegum and Paul Henry of Bennelong Asset Management.
Top Shelf says it’s followed a deliberate strategy of building a following in independents with the aim of being sold in bigger outlets further down the track.
It told The Australian it’s tracked data in 34 outlets that shows, on a like-for-like basis, “consumers have been buying Ned whisky at 75% the rate of Jack Daniel’s sales, 65% of Jim Beam and it is outselling Canadian Club cans by 150%”.
According to MMR, Ned’s creative advertising agency, a grassroots marketing strategy is working for the NED range.
“The brand has quickly developed an engaged, loyal customer base and has been successful at continually increasing its distribution network throughout Victoria and interstate,” MRR said. “With the support of a considered social media and marketing program, it has become an established brand in a highly competitive market dominated by global billion-dollar businesses. Feedback has been overwhelming positive that NED is the drink for all Australians.”
Ned weathers controversy
In December, 3AW’s Tom Elliott questioned the use of bushranger Ned Kelly’s image on a range of RTDs.
A listener told the radio host he was checking out a liquor website when he stumbled across the Ned whisky images.
“Which I found quite offensive,” the listener said. “Because they’re profiting out of a chap, as we all know, murdered two police officers.
“It’s got ‘legend’ on the can and other types they have include ‘courage’, ‘mateship’ and ‘optimism’ and I just find it a bit distasteful to have that sort of terminology associated with a cop killer.”
Elliott agreed: “I’ve always struggled a bit with this. I don’t think it’s appropriate to use the image of Ned Kelly to sell whisky and coke, and say that he’s a legend, he wasn’t! He was a convicted criminal.
“It would be like having Tony Mokbel themed bourbon and coke.”
However, MMR notes: “The NED brand is a celebration of Australia’s most enduring legend. His legacy has stood the test of time as a symbol of the Australian spirit – mateship, loyalty, passion, irreverence. It embraces the spirit of the underdog with the courage to take on all comers.”