Sunderland craft gin producer Poetic License Distillery is set to boost its annual production capacity from 100,000 bottles a year to 1.5 million bottles per year as it capitalises on growing demand for British craft gin overseas. 

The company, which already exports its range of spirits directly to customers in Japan and Cyprus, is in the process of purchasing a new 2,000 litre gin still, the tool used to distil gin, which will increase its total production volume by 1400%.

Poetic License Distillery decided to invest in a higher capacity still after observing the high rate of growth in the gin export market. HRMC figures show that exports of gin rose in value by 21% to £283m in the first half of 2018 with this number predicted to reach £600m by the end of the year.

A recent contract with a new distribution partner in South Africa, coupled with anticipated growth in the size of orders from its existing export customers, means the distillery is expecting to see its exporting revenue increase from 10% to 30% of its annual turnover over the coming 12 months. The business has now hired a new apprentice distiller to help manage its growing output, bringing its total staff count to eight.

The company is also in discussions with a potential new buyer in China, whom it met after attending the Food & Hotel China (FHC) trade show in Shanghai last year.

The business attended FHC as part of a delegation of North East food and drink producers on a trade mission organised by the UK Government’s Food is GREAT campaign, a cross-departmental initiative between the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Department for International Trade (DIT) to showcase UK food and drink overseas and help more firms export.

It also plans to target markets including Australia, where sales of British craft gin have doubled in the last six months.

Mark Hird, founder and managing director, Poetic License Distillery, said: “We first realised the scale of demand for British gin abroad after receiving a number of enquiries from overseas customers interested in buying our products. We had a few export orders that were just too big for our existing set-up – having our new larger gin still means we’re now fully geared up to handle whatever opportunities exporting may bring.

“In our experience, export success is all about research and preparation. Last year we started working with government International Trade Advisers, who helped us develop our export strategy and identify new partners overseas.

“Exporting can drive serious business growth but there have been a few challenges we’ve had to overcome. For example, each market will have its own legal requirements for alcohol sales. In both the South African and the US markets, we’ll have to redesign our bottles from the UK’s 70cl standard to the South African and US 75cl standard size. It’s a small but essential change that will enable to us to enter additional gin export markets.

“Exporting can be tricky at times, but the benefits can be huge. If a business like ours can do it, there’s no reason many others can’t too.”

David Coppock, Head of region, North East, at the Department for International Trade, said: “British gin exports are booming, driven by the creativity of our producers and the UK’s global reputation for quality goods. What’s more, demand is expected to continue growing and Poetic License Distillery has been quick to ensure it’s ready to make the most of this.

“We know exporting can help boost profitability and increase resilience. I’m encouraging businesses of all sizes who are interested in seeing how they could benefit from selling overseas to get in touch – the support is out there, and you could be too.”

Firms looking for support should contact 0345 136 0169 or email northeast@mobile.trade.gov.uk. They can also visit great.gov.uk which has a wide range of live export opportunities currently listed and includes general information on exporting and events.

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