Cocktail Keg Company creates nine new jobs with £500k deal with Musgrave Group

The deal should increase the number of retail outlets to which it supplies its premium pre-mixed cocktails to 100 by the end of March

By Claire Cartmill
Thursday, 10th March 2022, 1:14 pm
Innovataion Factory assistant centre manager Shauna Topping toasts the arrival of the business with Cocktail Keg director Anthony Farrell
Innovataion Factory assistant centre manager Shauna Topping toasts the arrival of the business with Cocktail Keg director Anthony Farrell

An award-winning Northern Ireland cocktail company has signed a major deal worth more than £500,000 with Musgrave Northern Ireland, creating nine new jobs.

Cocktail Keg Company, located at Innovation Factory in Belfast, signed a new distribution partnership with the leading food and drink wholesale company, whose retail brands include SuperValu, Centra, Mace and Musgrave MarketPlace, as well as drinks company Drinks Inc.

Paul Burns, who owns the company with fellow mixologist Anthony Farrell, said the deal should increase the number of retail outlets to which it supplies its premium pre-mixed cocktails, to 100 by the end of March.

He said: “We are very excited to be in partnership with Musgrave, which will substantially increase our off-trade business. Musgrave is Ireland’s leading food retail, wholesale and food service company, and this partnership demonstrates how our business is going from strength to strength.”

Musgrave NI Trading director Julie Cherry, explained: “Musgrave spends £160 million on local food and drink each year and works in partnership with 150 local suppliers. This latest partnership is a further example of our commitment to supporting local and we are looking forward to offering this premium brand to our customers.”

This recent success is a result of Cocktail Keg Company changing its business model during lockdown. It hasn’t been an easy two years for the company, which was forced to undergo major restructuring when sales to the hospitality industry collapsed during Covid-19.

Anthony Farrell explained that the company had been supplying bars and restaurants with premium, handmade cocktails since 2017. When lockdown hit, they lost their main income overnight.

He continued: “We had to look at other options and this enabled us to focus on distributing to off sales. There was significant demand for established cocktails such as espresso martini, bramble and strawberry daiquiri, so we began selling through shops and online deliveries.”

Sales to supermarkets, off licences and online home delivery took off quickly and they were crowned regional Best New Regional Start Up at the Intertrade Ireland’s Seedcorn Awards last November.

Winning the contract with Musgrave NI has led to the creation of nine new jobs and the company has moved its sales and development staff team to the Innovation Factory on the Springfield Road while retaining production at Bankmore Square.

Paul stated: “Innovation Factory is perfect for our needs. It offers excellent meeting space for our team with strong WiFi and on-site parking. It also offers us the space as the company continues to grow.”

Not only are they anticipating growth into other markets but they are continually developing new, sustainable ways to create and package their products.

“We can’t understate the importance of environmental practice to our company ethos. It’s integral to everything we do,” he added.

Among their innovative practices, they have developed an indigenous citrus product so that they don’t have to import limes and lemons; have developed a way of making a sugar substitute using beer; a vacuum pump system for their bar customers that negates the use of CO2 gas and they plant a tree for every order placed online.

Majella Barkley, centre director at Innovation Factory concluded: “Cocktail Keg Company is an innovative business that has used the challenges of the pandemic to explore fresh ideas and techniques to meet a rapidly changing business environment. It is now one of the most dynamic independent cocktail makers in the UK and Ireland and a company that shows Northern Ireland businesses can compete with anyone in inventiveness.”

Innovation Factory is owned by Belfast City Council and operated on their behalf by Oxford Innovation. The £9.1m business hub was funded by Belfast City Council and Invest NI with support from the European Regional Development Fund.

As well as providing jobs and developing entrepreneurship in West Belfast, the centre is dedicated to engaging with the local community through outreach programmes, education, and work placements.

Customers include a range of start-ups and growing businesses in a variety of sectors including digital services, creative industries, business services, financial services and research and development.

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