MARLO MEETS: TIM WARRILLOW
This week we're thrilled to catch up with the co-founder and CEO of Fever-Tree, Tim Warrillow. Tim gives us a wonderful insight on what it took to create the UK's most popular tonic, what impact the pandemic had on Fever-Tree as well as telling us who he'd invite to his fantasy dinner party.
Tim founded Fever-Tree alongside his business partner Charles Rolls in 2003, aware that there was a huge gap in the market for a genuine, high quality, luxury tonic. Treacherous trips through Congolese forests to discover new botanicals and a simple slogan of 'If 3/4 of your drink is a mixer, wouldn't you want it to be the best?' paved the way for Fever-Tree to establish itself as one of the worlds leading tonic and mixers brands.
1. Tell us a bit about how Fever-Tree started, and how's everything going at the moment?
I co-founded Fever-Tree with my business partner Charles Rolls back in 2003. We both had looked at the tonic and mixer category from different perspectives and clearly shared the same view.
The movement towards higher quality ingredients, craft and provenance that was sweeping the drinks industry had passed the mixer category by – it had become a long forgotten, overlooked category dominated by large multinationals, who had ultimately ended up focussing more on manufacturing efficiency than quality or flavour. It struck us as extraordinary that people were paying good money for high-quality spirits yet had no choice but to drown them with increasingly poor quality and increasingly artificial mixers. After all, we reasoned, if ¾ of your Gin & Tonic is Tonic, surely the quality of the tonic should be as important as the quality of the gin.
Fortunately, the idea and products have really resonated with the worlds G&T drinkers but the really exciting aspect is this we are still early on in our journey, the interest in premium spirits continues to grow at pace and most importantly people are wanting to drink their spirits mixed in greater numbers than ever, so we have been developing different mixer drinks to go with Vodka, Rum, Bourbons, Tequila, Whiskies, Vermouths….even Jagermesiter so there is an exciting and thirst quenching opportunity ahead.
2. What impact did the pandemic have on Fever-Tree?
The pandemic was extremely testing, half our business prior to the pandemic was based on sales to the hotel, bar & restaurant trade around the world, so to have 50% of your business shut down overnight was a daunting prospect.
However, fortunately in lockdown people turned to making and mixing drinks at home as a way to entertain themselves or indeed as a necessary means of getting through home schooling, as a result we remarkably managed to make up for all that lost hospitality business.
3. Who would you invite to your fantasy dinner party, and what restaurant would you hold it at?
Well I would have it at home, the drinks tend to be stronger and faster flowing. My wife would of course be first on the guest list (just in case she reads this!). Whilst I am a keen cook I could do with a hand so I think Jamie Oliver would be a useful guest, he strikes me as someone who is happy to role his sleeves up and help out. Apart from lots of drinks and great food, a good laugh is a essential ingredient so I think Rob Brydon and Hugh Laurie would be amusing guests, then I think you need a bit of Hollywood glamour but crucially people who would be suitably loose with the gossip so I think Emily Blunt and Emma Thompson would fit that bill. Then I think every good dinner party has to have an ex leader of the free world, so Barack Obama would be on the list but mainly because he can also hold a tune and in the end a great dinner party should end with a rather inebriated sing along around the piano. So finally i would need someone who knew their way around the piano so I think Elton John would be good, although only if he is prepared to take requests!
3. What's the venue that you're most proud to see Fever-Tree stocked at?
El Bulli in Spain, we had the remarkable good fortune of having, at the time, the world’s most feted chef Ferran Adria decide that Fever-Tree was not only good enough to drink and serve at his restaurant but actually make it into a dish ‘a granita of Fever-Tree tonic’ as part of his world famous tasting menu. We spent a couple of glorious evenings at El Bulli on the shore of the Mediterranean, eating and drinking our tonics!
4. If you were on Desert Island Discs, what would your luxury be?
A fishing rod, I have never had the time or patience for fishing but assume that wont be an issue once stranded on a desert Island!
5. What's your favourite Fever-Tree product, and what's your ideal drink to mix it with?
Well I am currently drinking rather too much Tequila mixed with our new Mexican Lime Soda, delicious and refreshing and very difficult to put down!
6. When not drinking Fever-Tree, is there a particular wine which is your go-to?
I have recently rediscovered my love of oaky Chardonnays and I also find a really leathery Rioja or Bordeaux hard to resist
7. What's in store for the rest of 2022?
It is thrilling that people are back out and about in the hotel, bars and restaurants so we are really enjoying driving that part of our business again and I am eyeing up a few trips to go and find some new exotic ingredients as we continue to broaden the range. Lots to do.