Interview with Daniel Featherstone – Made For Drinks

I hope you’re all having a good week. Today I’m back to share another Behind the Biz interview with you. I love discovering new brands and having the opportunity to shed a little light on them throughout this series. In today’s interview we’re diving into the world of food. More specifically, food that is perfectly matched with craft beers.

I chat with Daniel Featherstone, the founder of Made for Drinks – tasty snacks to go with your favourite craft beer. They truly raise the bar.

Where did the inspiration for Made For Drink come from?

Quite simply I recognised the change that had happened in our pubs, bars and hotels across the UK. Just think about it, you walk into any decent pub and the craft beers, premium spirits and interesting wines on offer are boundless, all presented beautifully and served by somebody who really cares about their craft & profession.

But when it came to snacks, why was there still just a pack of dusty crisps served from a cut out cardboard box? Don’t get me wrong, two pints of lager and a packet of crisps is a failsafe combo, but sometimes you just want something a bit more special.

To cut a long story short, I thought if I were to look at different drinking cultures across the globe I could find a rich world of tasty inspiration to tap into. If I could then learn how to make them, package them up beautifully and serve them up behind a bar then I had the starting’s of something that made me excited about the future.

How did you decide upon the name of your brand?

That was easy as the brand name is the very essence of what makes our snacks range so special; namely aligning great snacks with populist drinks. Duck Fritons were made very specifically with IPA in mind, whilst our feisty Chorizo Thins (using only the very best Galician chorizo that’s been slow-cooked for in excess of 15hrs) were crafted with Rioja in mind.

This April sees the third member of our ‘meat feast fraternity’ launched, namely Mangalitza Salami Chips which is a ‘kindred spirit’ collaboration with Unearthed to create a fruity Pilsner partner from this full-bodied meat of the endangered Mangalitza pig (Hungary).

How did you approach your first stockist?

My favourite local The Fat Duck was always where I visualised my product sitting. It was and still is my most important customer, they believed in me and gave me a chance. I still personally deliver every single case they order to this day).

What did you do before starting Made For Drink?

Snacking and alcohol is in the blood! I was a senior marketer at Pepsico (Walkers) followed by two years in top drawer Chilean wine.

Did you always plan to be self-employed?

Yes, but the speed with which the transition from safe corporate world to ‘edge of the seat’ independence was scary!

What has been the highlight of your business journey to date?

Moving into our new Berkshire premises has been a massive buzz as our dreams become a reality. We’re especially chuffed by the fact that we’re the first EU approved manufacturing food business site in the borough of Windsor & Maidenhead. It’s early days but we’re employing local people, paying them above the living wage and bestowing upon them a craft that will hold them in good stead.

What has been one of the biggest challenges you have faced?

Sourcing best-in-class products in sufficient quantities has certainly caused a fair few headaches. It took a year to align ourselves with the UK’s leading provider of free-range ducks (Creedy Carver) and more recently track down Mangalitza pigs for our Salami Bites. We will never lower our sights for a quick win because we’re a young brand intent on fostering a proud, on-trade reputation. The upside is we’re doing our bit to reignite interest in endangered species and promote best farming practice (free-range).

What role does social media play for your business and do you have a favourite social platform?

Social media has been a limited forum for us thus far because production, sales and logistics have had to take precedence. Our website is in urgent need of an upgrade at which point we’ll be all over social media – I am a big fan of Twitter and the quality of our products lends itself to Instagram.

What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?

Hang in there when things get tough and stay true to your original vision. Of course a degree of flexibility and realism is a good thing but its clarity of vision and keeping things simple that keep you on the straight on narrow.

The food & drink fraternity is a very friendly and inter-connected community that is always on hand to give each other a helping hand. Good will breeds good will so go out of your way to do good should the opportunity arise.

Where do you hope to take your business in 2018?

Waitrose is bleeping very loudly on our radar with a London listing imminent, as is a mutually beneficial friendship with Sharp’s Brewery and a top tier London hotel chain. We’re also aligned with Snaffling Pig on a hampers project and export wise Scandinavia is sounding very positive.

Looking a little further out by 2020, we intend to be trading in 1,000 pubs, bar hotels and specialist retailers.

You can check out their website and follow them on Twitter and Facebook to show support. 

Thank you so much to Daniel for getting involved with Behind the Biz. I really enjoyed reading about his business journey and I hope you did too. Daniel identified a gap in the market and created a successful product to fill it. He also offers wise words for aspiring entrepreneurs. Find your focus, your vision and keep things simple. 

I can’t wait to give Made for Drinks a try. 

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