Lubbock Fine client, Inkorporate, is the market leader in a market of its own making. Clever stuff. The company designs, develops and manufactures premium brand communication pieces for the drinks sector. From point-of-sale to premiums to new ways of serving drinks to gifts, they tackle projects as diverse as a one-off display cabinet to a million-piece glassware run.
“As soon as it was clear that our business was expanding internationally, we needed dependable accountants and business advisors, with that all-important personal touch and a global outlook, with international reach,” said Wes Pickering, Inkorporate’s managing director. “Lubbock Fine is invaluable to us in that they’re able to provide both a wealth of advice and the benefits of Russell Bedford, their international network. Their huge professionalism, delivered with a warm and friendly approach, means it’s a pleasure working with them and after two years now, we can’t remember a time when they weren’t on board! The support is so good that we feel we simply don’t have to worry about that aspect of our business. And from our side, all our financial matters are held together and co-ordinated by our amazing finance manager, Adele, an essential member of our team.”
Having studied something completely different at university, and as so many students do, Wes worked in bars at a time when cocktails were slowly becoming more trendy and losing their ‘Only Fools and Horses’ image of little paper umbrellas decorating garish looking concoctions. Cocktails were on the up and up.
In 2001, when the cocktail revolution was at an embryonic stage, Wes moved from Edinburgh to London. Ironically, he came to the Big Smoke to get out of the bar industry and so use his education more productively. A stint working for The Independent’s magazine section gave him a taste of Canary Wharf and some real job status but soon, a contact in Scotland who owned bars, asked him to consult for them. There began his real career as he advised across a number of new bar openings in London. He soon met and married Elena and together they formed Inkorporate in 2006.
"Wes and Elena are a great team"
Elena’s background in luxury manufacturing, working for clients such as Dunhill and Hugo Boss, and Wes’ understanding of the drinks business, is an ideal match for the business they’ve created together. Together, they have a great understanding of manufacturing high quality goods around the world – the genesis of their business. The product is great fun and the company has a real family feel to it.
Mark Turner, Lubbock Fine managing partner
Back in the 1990s and before, there had been two drinking extremes in the UK, either cheap and cheerful or good quality but old-fashioned hotel bars. Younger people were seeking new drinking experiences, which largely provided stimulation for the rise of the new brands. It was a fertile time for new ideas. Setting up at approximately the same time as Fever Tree Tonic, the businesses have developed in tandem as boutique spirit brands have gone stratospheric. Whilst Fever Tree, with its single minded offering, has become a multi-million pound global organisation, Inkorporate isn’t complaining about its own rapid growth.
“Previously in the UK” continued Wes, “there was no strong design aesthetic around drinks. Design is now better and choice is ever growing as demonstrated by the explosion in Gin brands. Craft brands, something virtually non-existent a decade ago, are now huge.”
When the company launched in 2006, an early client was Martin Millers, a craft gin. Since then, Martin Millers has been joined by around five hundred UK gin brands and around six thousand globally, which is indicative of what’s been going on across the drinks sector. There are now more bars, more brands, far more consumer involvement and a big industry support network, of which Inkorporate is a part.
All of the company’s products stem from client briefs. Sometimes clients will be very exacting: from a whisky brand with a particular demographic needing a means of drawing customer attention, to a vodka brand asking for a copper owl drinking vessel, to a client who wants a new and interesting ritual for serving champagne.
An unanticipated boost to the sector has been the social media surge. The need for a design-led product to help serve better drinks, and different vessels to highlight varying facets of drinks, has led to a more theatrical experience in bars. The customer now experiences much more of a ritual around drinking making it a far more exciting and rewarding experience. Instagram ‘drink moments’ are now ‘de rigueur’.
“We’ve been able to help Inkorporate in a number of areas,” said Simon de Souza, Lubbock Fine director, “from advising them on setting up a manufacturing arm in the Far East to mitigation around Brexit. Their clients might ask them to import into any market and so we’ve spent some time thinking about where to set up appropriate entities. They’re great to work with because along with having endless ideas, they listen carefully to, and act upon, the professional advice they’ve taken.”
The proliferation in the market has rapidly spread from big cities, to country pubs, to a worldwide cocktail rebirth. Global consumer awareness has increased with the UK representing just a small part of the overall market.
According to an NHS survey (2018) involving around 10,000 young people in the UK, the proportion of 16 – 24 year olds who drink, are drinking less and binge drinking rates are falling. CGA Market Measurement, Data and Research Consultancy’s 2018 mixed drinks report shows that the value of on-trade cocktail sales jumped by 7.5% year on year in the first quarter of 2018 – outpacing a 4% increase in the wider spirits market.
An estimated 8.7 million British consumers now enjoy cocktails when drinking out-of-home.
Borne out by this and by empirical experience, Wes believes that “young people now drink less but are prepared to spend more on fewer, higher quality drinks. There could be a number of reasons for this including increased health consciousness, using leisure time for healthier pursuits and not wishing to be seen drunk – on Instagram. Perhaps today’s younger generation also has less disposable income than their parents. In general, young people are drinking less wine but more high quality cocktails and craft beers.”
Inkorporate’s big ambition is for a future where they can keep delivering creative, exciting design in ways that are wholly green. That is now the sole focus of the company as they seek eco-friendly materials and processes, working with factories that entirely share their values and vision. They are investigating all possible sustainable initiatives, looking at manufacturing processes and energy use.
The aim is to work in ways that are beneficial to everyone in the supply chain whilst also being good for the planet. Their client relationships are changing as they explore how to engage with the product, which even if eco-friendly, needs to be designed for reuse, recycling or composting. When producing and supplying a product not essential to life, Inkorporate believes that it has a responsibility to be super environmentally sound. Additionally, they are painstakingly examining all their processes to ensure that everyone working for and with them is well treated and paid a fair wage.
“Elena and I both have a passion for design and are obsessed with that in business and at home”, Wes concluded. “We’re fascinated in how to make ‘stuff’ whether that’s how to manufacture from stainless steel or distilling gin or brewing beer or even cooking a meal. We find ‘making stuff’ the most interesting part of our business.”