For the owners of Llanllyr Source, success in the fast-growing cocktail mixer category begins and ends with the quality of its water.
The brand, a longtime player in the premium water space, is pushing into that fast-growing category following the notable success of brands like Fever Tree, Q Drinks, and Owl’s Brew as RTD mixers.
Launched in 1999 Llanllyr (pronounced “clan-clear”) Source markets a line of ultra-premium bottled waters that are primarily distributed at high-end hotels and restaurants in Europe and Asia. Sourced from natural springs underneath the organically farmed fields in Llanllyr, Wales, the water is promoted as having a clean taste profile and low mineral count.
BevNET spoke with Seth Romans, one of three owners of the company, to discuss the brand and its move into premium mixers, an extension of the main brand based on their unique Wales water.
“We were looking to do something else with the water,” Romans said. “One of the things we decided as a team, even before we bought the company was that if the transaction went through, we would focus on developing this mixer brand using the water.”
Romans joined up with Llanllyr Source after founding SJR Equity in a search for acquisition opportunities. Based in Massachusetts, Romans works with founder Patrick Gee based in the UK, fellow investor John Wallington working in Colorado and the director of sales in California.
The natural mixers currently come in eight varieties, including tonic water, fiery ginger beer, bitter lemon and club soda. According to Romans, the company worked with cocktail experts in London to create the flavors. The goal was to “allow the spirits to really be released” — bringing out the flavor of the liquor, not masking it.
“Right after the deal closed we spent 18 months working with top mixologists in London, flavor houses and our water to really perfect the flavor, to make sure it was better than what was in the market and to perfect the packaging to make sure it stood out,” he said. “It was different, but showed premium and quality.”
The mixers are 90 percent Source water, which Romans said differentiates the brand from other mixers on the market. The water, he said, has a low total dissolved solid count and a low mineral count, which keeps it tasteless, with tight carbonation.
“We had been looking at the category,” Romans said. “It was a category that other players such as Fever Tree have done very well in [and] that was not as crowded as other categories we’d looked at. A lot of other companies use natural ingredients, which we do, sourced from around the world. Our ginger is from Nigeria, India, China. Our quinine is from India, Indonesia.”
The brand is currently available in 20 states, including California, Massachusetts and New York. Romans said he soon hopes to expand to include Illinois. It is sold in liquor stores, which he said provide better sales, as well as specialty and natural grocery stores, including Whole Foods. The mixers retail between $5.99 and $7.99 for a 4-pack.