Martin Birk Jensen – Skin Gin
As we gear up for the inaugural Junipalooza Hamburg we’ve been catching up with some of the most interesting, delicious and renowned German gin brands to get you up close and personal ahead of time. Here we speak to Martin Birk Jensen of Skin Gin to hear his take on the German Gin scene.
It’s been a long hot July and Agust so far here, what’s 2018 been like for you so far?
2018 has been an even greater and more exiting year than 2017. Skin Gin increased its sales team so far with further 3 people in Germany, so we are now up on 4 people in the sales team and added further 3 employees internally, taking our team to a total of 13 people now solely employed by Skin Gin.
That’s a big increase! Where’s the focus of all their attention going?
We have increased our presence in the bars, Hotels and Restaurants a lot, and even managed to be the chosen pouring Gin in a well known Hamburg 5 Star Hotel in front of brands of Pernod Richard. We have furthermore increased our presence online as well as in the high end retail market, which will for sure lead to a remarkable increase in sales even though 2017 was more than great. We look forward to the Christmas period where all our personalised bottles for companies again will kick of, as it is a all time high end gift item, which is not offered in such a high end way in the market by others.
Gin is growing at a rapid pace all across the world with record numbers being set each and every year. What’s it like in Germany and how are you seeing growth for Skin Gin across the country?
Indeed Gin is at a rapid race all over the world. Due to the fact that it seems like every guy around the corner decided to make his own gin, the market has been over flooded and this indeed puts a break on some of our export countries such as Belgium and Luxembourg as most local brands sell their 0,5 Liter craft gins below EURO 30 per bottle, which is indeed not a segment for Skin Gin. Unfortunately there are too many bad and cheaply made products on the market, not being unique, with no love for the making, which has entered in recent times. It puts a break for luxury products like Skin Gin but we have time to wait for the audience to experience the difference in quality and the unique taste of Skin Gin and in the long term, it’ll be good.
Outside of domestic sales, where are you exporting to and where are you looking towards as big areas of opportunity for you as a producer?
We export right now into: Singapore, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Macau, Switzerland, Belgium, Luxembourg, UK, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Lithuania, Austria and soon we enter the US, starting off with Miami when the production of the Skin Gin 0,75 L bottles have finished as well as a complete new transport packaging, as the normal ones will be too small. We are planning to grow slowly, and add new markets to fill up gaps arising when countries such as Belgium and Luxembourg are dropping in sales. We are not fans of heavy growth in short time without control. Skin Gin is here for the long run, and therefore we have time to do the right thing.
And as you say, just because somewhere is booming right now, it doesn’t mean it’s necessarily the right time for you just yet. What are the big trends you are seeing in the German market and how have you guys been responding to it?
In Germany we have seen the trends going a bit back in regards to retailers and Bars taking in too many sorts of gin. Many bars are “kicking” out the smaller brands which are not commercial or not really offering added value and service to the bars. This is a good tendency for Skin Gin, as we have presently 4 (more to come) sales reps driving around in Germany to visit bars, retailers and hotels every day to keep them happy, tell about new designs and products, offering new drink recipes and working on further cooperations. In the long run this is paying off, when my guys have time to talk to all our customers about our single product and don’t show up with a suitcase of 15 products just to create a sale. We are building up the long lasting relationships one by one and getting the public to know about us and our unique taste slowly and steadily. We want to prove that Skin Gin is clearly here to stay, and the trend so have a small craft brand taking its time to every single customer and keeping up the high quality and still be growing on national and international basis, is were we see our niche.
Customisation is big for you guys and obviously, that lends well to gift season – have you seen a big uptake in people looking to have their own customised bottles?
We offer any sort of company to get their own luxurious Skin Gin Edition with their own company logo branded into the leather foil and bottle and gift box matching the CI of their company. It is really a big part of our success. Other brands have tried to offer similar stuff to companies, however no other brand can offer it in such a luxurious and unique way as Skin Gin, which is proved by the track record of high end customers having ordered this all over the world already.
Recently a Gastro-Konzept in 9 countries in Asia launched their own Edition. Already since January companies have ordered their own editions and gift boxes, and kicking off as from October the season for customer gifts is increasing and the advantage of the Skin Gin Editions is the small order quantity starting as from 100 bottles. Due to the fact that the costs could technically let the company take it 100% off its taxes as customer gifts, yet still our product is not being sent into the market cheaper than in the retail. Due to the fact that you don’t see if the Skin Gin bottle is full or empty, the bottles mostly keep standing somewhere in the homes as decoration which leads again to the effect that more people see both the Skin Gin log but also the name and Logo of the customer who made the Edition. So a win-win-win situation.
It’s a neat idea and very very well executed. What’s been the most memorable moment for you in the past 18 months?
The most memorable moment I must say was to kick off in my home country Denmark from being a small country ordering a pallet a year to ordering suddenly this year so far selling 4000 bottles of Skin Gin. Especially seeing my product grow in my home country makes me proud and shows me that I did the right thing. Also having increased my sales team this year to cover most of Germany makes me proud. Recently we also made 3 Editions for the city of Hamburg and got invited to London to represent the city of Hamburg for 4 days from 29.08-02.09.2018 at various events at Boiler House in Brick Lane London. With big brands such as Charitea, Lemonaid and Viva con Aqua through their big network of artists we are proud to be there to show what the city of Hamburg has to offer. And our bottles for the Hamburg Edition are mildly said, absolutely stunning. So stay tuned on 1st September from 10-2300 hrs and 2nd of September from 10-1800 hrs in Boiler House at Brick Lane to learn more about Hamburg and the craft products made there.
Count us in! Do you feel that drinkers are more informed now than they were when you first started?
Yes and No. People seem to know that Gin is in. In the larger cities people are attending one Gin-Tasting after the other. In the villages the people think that Gin is “up and coming” and if they are well informed they heard that you drink Gin with Cucumber slices inside. Thanks Hendrick’s for letting us reply to all those questions 🙂 But to cut to the bone, the audience is indeed more informed compared to the beginning. People seems to know more about the distilling process, the various brands and tonics in the market which is good. The more focus on our brand the better it is.
Other than Junipalooza…. What’s coming up next for you?
I just opened a very luxurious event location and Skin Gin shop here in Steinkirchen outside Hamburg where our office is. This indeed took some time to design, as I am kind of a perfectionist in this respect. We do our Gin-Tastings and cocktail courses here. My projects come often pretty spontaneously but I can for sure say that our 2nd Cask Aged – Over Proof Edition is coming out around October this year in a limited Edition where Skin Gin has been stored for 14 months in white wine- and muscatel oak barrels which has created a fantastic product which is unfortunately very limited, but this is to show what is all possible with Skin Gin. Furthermore our project with exporting into the US will kick off slowly, and I really hope we can grow in the US as I see a lot of potential in those markets.
Furthermore we would like to develop our Editions to more companies around the world. Recently we made an Edition for “Gin on the River” which is Gin-Tasting cruises made by our importer Jonathan Braham Everett in London where one can taste Skin Gin and other products from his portfolio while cruising the rivers of London.
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