Shaper: Martin Watts

Show aired on 17th September 2016

Transcript

Martin Watts is co-founder of Cellar Trends, an independent wine and spirits distributor. Founded in In 1999, with David Marriott (previously a supplier to Findlater) Cellar Trends is an independent distributor of wines & spirits (and associated products). The company initially employed seven people, including the two owners.

The wines and spirits market experienced a period of consolidation during the 1990s, as independent distributors were swallowed by big brand owners seeking economies of scale. It left a gap in the market for a distributor to work with and for mid-sized brand owners who could not get focus within the portfolios of the big brand owners.

Martin and David initially secured brands including Luxardo and Faustino, before adding Jägermeister to the portfolio, taking this very small German speciality drink from nowhere to being the second largest spirit brand in the UK On Trade, only being outsold by Jack Daniels. The pair eventually set up a standalone company for Jägermeister and handed it over to Jägermeister company control.

Other brands launched or marketed by Cellar Trends include: Grey Goose vodka; Patron tequila; Campari; and Aperol. They created the Japanese whisky market for Suntory and re-launched Morrison Bowmore’s malt whisky range.

Current brands include Angostura Bitters; Luxardo Maraschino cherries; Re’al Cream of Coconut and Thomas Henry mixers. They are working with George Clooney and his friends on building the Casamigoe Tequila and have a rum portfolio that is the envy of most distributors: Angostura from Trinidad; Pusser’s; Botran and Bumbu. They work closely with Gonzalez Byass from Spain on their spirit range – The London Number 1 Gin, Soberano brandy and Nomad whisky, born in Scotland and raised in Jerez; and with Douglas Laing on their range of exceptional regional blended malt whiskies. They are heavily investing in Licor 43 – a golden liqueur from Spain, along with the very rapidly growing Luc Belaire sparkling rose from Provence; and Armand de Brignac prestige champagne – recently voted the best Blanc de Noir champagne on the market.

By 2013 the company had a turnover of over £100 million and a staff number of 140.

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Follow Martin on Twitter @cellartrends.

“Business came to us rather than us going to it which was very exciting. We grew dramatically in those early days”

“Certainly for a significant period of time the bank had more of a share of my house than I would really want them to have”

“I think the skill is following the consumer. We are consumer marketers. The whole of our team build brands”

“We have revolutionised the Sambuca market”

“The secret of it is putting liquid on lips and in a manner and style which people can remember and recall when they go home”

“We were known in the business as the Magnificent Seven, for obvious reasons, but we built a bit of a legend around that”

“I can think of reasons, all the reasons, to do things rather than the reasons for not doing them. But I think you need a balance of realism and optimism in any business and I am probably at one end of the spectrum”

“I get a kick, a buzz, a burst from adrenaline when one of the team does something great and you know, that keeps you going”