Craft soda company Six Barrel Soda is expanding into new markets internationally despite ongoing disruption from Covid-19.
The Wellington-based syrups manufacturer recently launched into the United States and Canada, and is forging ahead with its plans to sign a major distribution deal in North America.
Founded in 2012 by restaurateurs who saw a gap in the market for interesting-flavoured drinks, prior to the rise in popularity of kombucha, Six Barrel Soda products are stocked in more than 500 retail shops, restaurants and bars.
It exports to Australia and Hong Kong, as well as the US and Canada.
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This year so far, approximately 30,000 bottles of its syrups have been sent offshore and despite disruption caused by the shut down of hospitality venues it supplies to, Joseph Slater, managing director of Six Barrel Soda Co, still anticipates company growth through its export channels.
The company sees itself as a hospitality product first and foremost, but is expanding its retail presence, including by opening its own bricks and mortar locations.
Six Barrel Soda first expanded into Australia two years ago following a partnership with a sparkling water company. It has been exporting to Hong Kong for about 18 months, supplying product to bars and hospitality venues.
It broke into North America at the end of 2019, through retail stores and via its own Amazon channel.
Currently, its product is available in stores in 10 American states.
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"The idea now is we're able to say we're in 40 states, even if it is only two or three stores per state," Slater told the Herald, adding that eventually the company would look to expand to on-premise sales in the market.
"It's really early days there. We're talking to national retail groups who could get us into stores in most states, so that's the plan. The potential there is a lot of our focus for Six Barrel now," he said.
"The US is the traditional home of soda so we see it [the market] as a pretty interesting challenge to see if we can offer something unique."
The company is currently in talks to have a national retailer stock its products in Canada. It hopes to have another confirmed in the US by the end of the year.
"This year is a bit chaotic ... everything so far is tracking more or less as we planned, maybe slightly slower with stores not taking on new products, but we still expect some groups to come on [board]."
Despite disruption from Covid-19, the company signed a distribution deal to be stocked in Harvey Norman stores across Australia.
"That was a really good sign that we can still get new groups on board," Slater said.
"[Disruption] definitely hasn't bumped [deals] as much as we initially thought."
The company's first retail store opened on Auckland's Karangahape Road a few days before lockdown, and subsequently closed for seven weeks as part of Alert level 4 restrictions.
Now open again, Slater said if the store performed well, it would look to open another in the next two years.
Six Barrel Soda is keen on growing its retail footprint, with a store in each of its main markets. The long term dream is to have a soda venue in Brooklyn, New York, and another in Melbourne.
"Having one or two [stores] in key markets is a great way to showcase the brand, what we can do and be able to talk to our customers," Slater said.
"We're born out of hospitality so doing more hospitality is exciting."
Six Barrel Soda was founded in 2012 by Slater and Mike Stewart. The pair started their first business together - Monterey, a bar and restaurant in Wellington - in 2008.