Jeffrey's aims to revolutionise the tonic category

DRN caught up with Mike Robinson, founder and managing director of tonic brand Jeffrey’s, to find out more about the opportunities in the tonic category.

What makes Jeffrey’s stand out in an increasingly crowded market for tonic? What are its unique selling points?

We use the strapline ‘Lift your spirits’ for Jeffrey’s Tonic Syrups, because that’s exactly what it does. Our tonic syrup recipes, created by my wife, Mo and myself, are genuinely different to everything else that’s out there. So, when used with gin or indeed any spirit, they create a drink unlike any other. A gin and tonic using Jeffrey’s is truly awesome ,as described by our consumer base, because they have a transformative effect on spirits. 

In terms of taste and versatility we believe these syrups are a bartender’s dream. And the on and off-trade are always on the lookout for something new, exciting and high-end, but not too pricey. We are also proud to say that they are hand-crafted and we use unusual and exotic ingredients so there is no other product out there that can match the complexity of taste and satisfying experience that Jeffrey’s has.

We use natural herbs, botanicals and spices and cinchona bark instead of the standard quinine extract. And they are a simple yet highly effective offering in non-alcoholic drinks.  So, for those who want to keep their cocktail menus fresh, lively and different, these syrups are a very worthwhile investment behind the bar. Almost everything about Jeffrey’s makes it stand out in a crowded, yet somehow bland market for tonic. The branding is clean and beautiful, but there are a number of very clear USPs.

These are versatile tonic syrups – think of them as tonic cordials – where you can vary the strength with sparkling water to customise your drink to your own taste. Our Not So Plain is a beautifully rounded tonic water, when added to sparkling water, which is slightly less bitter than a normal tonic and is a superb mix with an herbaceous gin, but which some people love on its own.

The other recipes are less bitter, so make beautiful soft drinks. But because they are less bitter, they actually heighten the experience when mixed with gin, so that people often tell us, ‘It’s like you’re drinking gin for the first time.’ We have developed pairings which are truly awesome, which do not at all negatively impact the gin, or indeed other spirits, but which complement and enhance flavours in a quite amazing way. We have some absolute favourite pairings with craft gins, which demonstrate just how the subtle flavours of great gins are enhanced. Jeffrey’s Tonic is for all those people, a major part of the population, who do not like tonic water.

Could you tell us a bit about the process of creating the tonic? What ingredients do you use?

We make Jeffrey’s Tonic using an infusion of natural ingredients, including cinchona bark for the quinine, then we clarify it and add organic Sicilian lemon or lime juice.  Any tonic has a sweetener of some sort, and we have so far found that it is impossible to make one that really tastes good without sugar, so we also use cane sugar and a little sea salt.

There are four Tonic Syrups in our Jeffrey’s range. The Original Recipe combines warm spices of Cassia bark, nutmeg, clove and allspice with cinchona bark and Sicilian Lemon.  It has a festive feel to it and can be mixed with a wealth of spirits, especially spicy gins   You can try adding just a drop to neat whisky & ginger to take this traditional mix to a new level.

Not so Plain tonic is a unique marriage of flavours bringing together cinchona bark and organic Sicilian lemon juice. This comes into its own as a mixer with herbaceous gins. Another favourite with consumers is Lime, Galangal & Orange. It’s a complex and unusual blend with strong hints of the Far East and works well with citrus based gins and rum. And last but definitely not least is the Yarrow, Rosehip & Elderflower syrup with cinchona bark, yarrow flowers, rosehips and elderflower juice which has delicate, warm and sweet notes and is recommended by itself or with floral or fruity gins, vodka or even prosecco.

Where does the branding come from? Who is Jeffrey?

When we were thinking about the right type of name for our new company, we wanted something that gelled with the positioning of the brand.  So wanted a brand name that sounded traditional, high-end, friendly and had the right gravitas. Mike’s Tonic didn’t really cut it somehow, but Jeffrey’s Tonic did.  It’s also a bit of a nod to the legend of a US bartender who we saw at work using tonic syrups with great enthusiasm and was our inspiration for the journey.

What trade channels are you targeting with the range? What is your message to trade buyers about why they should consider stocking it?

We are targeting all sectors as we see our range as having a key role in the on and off trade.  The market for gin has gone stratospheric so it makes sense to offer our range to pubs, bars, restaurants, hotels and anyone in the foodservice sector where drinks are a key feature.  We are stocked in many hotels such as The Lowry in Manchester and an increasing number of bars and restaurants. The range is available in optic formats as well as in the standard 200ml bottle. We know that the format and the quality of the Jeffrey’s range fits with an aspirational demographic so ideal in high end outlets. Our research tells us that consumers love a gin and Jeffrey’s.

We’re also keen to build a stronger presence at retail level as consumers are increasingly staying in over going to the pub and they want to replicate what the bars are offering.  Currently we are stocked in Ocado and we have a distributor, Springvale Fine Foods, selling into speciality outlets, farm shops and delis, etc.  Our giftboxes are listed in Lakeland. The plan is to get into a greater number of high-end retailers. 

Our key message to trade buyers is that Jeffrey’s Tonic Syrups can fulfil a need for new and exciting drinks by simply adding a few drops of any one of the four variants. And it literally transforms the taste of standard gin and tonic.

We offer versatility, mixability, taste, quality and affordability, and an easy way of keeping cocktail menus exciting.  And with the no and low category gaining traction, our range can fulfil the need for a non-alcoholic upsell. Consumers often tell us that a Jeffrey’s with sparkling water provides the taste sensation of a real drink. This is largely because of the great mix of botanicals in our range. Trade margins are healthy and when the product is communicated well to consumers, it’s a win win.

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