Raissa De Haas – Double Dutch Mixers
Meet the Double Dutch co-founder Raissa De Hass, who proves that whether it’s with flavours in a mixer, combinations in a glass or running a business, twinning is winning.
Raissa, it looks like you’ve taken over the world with events going all over the globe! Have you deliberately focussed on certain places this year or has it been organic growth that you’ve been following?
The global expansion of Double Dutch is so exciting and being an international brand, it has always been a huge focus for us. Our growth has been fairly organic as we move where there is demand and thankfully the demand for Double Dutch has been constantly growing.
You make some of your tonic in the north of the England, but have also been setting up somewhere else in Europe to keep up with demand. Has that been a big challenge, or is it something that’s been upcoming for a long time?
Our long-term plan is to have one production plant on each continent, as we are working towards becoming carbon neutral. Setting up a new production plant is always a big task but it’s a rewarding one. Once they are up and running it means that our customers can access Double Dutch with more ease and new customers can also gain easier access to our products.
This year we have put a particular focus on South Africa and we have recently started working with a new production plant there to more efficiently increase our output as well as being able to reduce our carbon emissions. With the changes in Europe and increasing demand from mainland, we are looking at increasing our production in Europe significantly in 2020.
Looking back on when it all began, what motivated you to start it all in the first place?
It all began in our family home in the Netherlands. Throughout our childhood we were exposed to regular spirit tastings, as our family home had an alcohol license where our parents would import a variety of spirits to be enjoyed by our friends and family.
This is where our initial interest in flavour began. When we attended the University of Antwerp studying finance, we regularly threw parties and always encouraged friends to bring spirits for which we would create our own mixers with ingredients we could easily source.
We started making our own tonics after becoming more and more frustrated by the fact that while the choice and quality in spirits kept growing, the mixers designed to accompany the spirits remained bland and unexciting. Joyce and I quickly learned that we wanted to follow our passion for higher-quality, and more innovative mixers so in 2014 we moved to the UK to study at UCL. We devoted our year, and our dissertation, to exploring and understanding the mixer and tonic market.
40 During this time, we went through the meticulous and technological process of flavour development to create our debut mixers Pomegranate & Basil and Cucumber & Watermelon, both of which received rave reviews when they launched in 2015.
After graduating we received an award for ‘Best Thesis of the Year’ from UCL and they decided to fund our first production process. Soon there-after we received the Foodpreneur Award from Sir Richard Branson for Britain’s Most Innovative F&B Retail Brand and really took off from there.
You founded it together and have also grown as a business and as people since, how have you and your roles adapted within this family business?
We spend a lot of our time together, both living and working together, and we love it. I think the best thing about working with your sibling is that we can 100% trust each other, there is no tiptoeing needed ever and celebrating successes are double the fun together! We have split our roles within the business so that we both focus on certain aspects, but we of course always update each other constantly and make all the large decisions together. Joyce focuses on finance and operations and I focus on sales and marketing and we have found this to be the best role split.
You’ve been adding a lot to the collection too. What have been some of the highlights for you?
It’s really hard to pick a favourite from all our products because they all have such different flavours so it can really depend on our mood or maybe which spirit we are drinking at the time. Cucumber & Watermelon and Pomegranate & Basil definitely have a special place for me as they were the first flavours we created.
Are you seeing any big shift in how people are serving G&T’s or using your mixers?
We find that most people out there now want more than the classic G&T. People want to try new flavours and that’s where Double Dutch shines. Our main focus is on flavour and innovation, so bartenders love to use Double Dutch to create a flavourful twist on a classic drink. We have also seen a rise in popularity of our Indian Tonic Water because it has less quinine than most other tonics and it tends to be the bitterness that people find harder to drink.
The market seems just crammed with tonics at the moment – have you felt the pressure, or do you think there’s room for everyone?
There has certainly been a rise in the number of tonic brands available, which I think is only improving the quality on the market and puts pressure on all manufacturers to bring out the best.
We are super confident in our flavours and know they are market leading in quality as well as innovation. If we look at the spirits market and especially the gin world, there is certainly room for more tonic waters at the top.
We’re sure it hasn’t escaped your notice that the RTD market has all but exploded into life this year. Have you thought about getting involved and releasing your very own Tonic and Gin?
We’ve definitely looked at it but would only launch if we are 100% convinced the flavour would be up to the standard of a fresh G&T. It’s definitely a super interesting market which used to be very focussed on the off-trade, however RTD’s are now becoming more and more popular in the on-trade and hospitality as well.
The big opportunity is definitely in high footfall venues such as late night venues, sporting bars. A big trend is definitely also towards lower calorie and lower abv RTD’s as well as more experimentation in flavour profiles, stepping away from the standard Gin & Tonic or Mojito in a can.
The role of a tonic has changed. It used to be a fairly one-dimensional thing, but premium tonics offer flavourings that can really shine a spotlight on certain gins. Have you designed any of your tonics around certain styles?
Certainly! All our flavours are made to mix with a range of spirits and not just gins, but we recommend all our different products with different style gins.
41 For example, our Double Lemon tastes amazing with pink gin and our Cucumber & Watermelon pairs perfectly with more citric gins. Our Pomegranate & Basil is the perfect pair for more herbaceous gins.
And were there any accidental pairings that were a match made in heaven?
Definitely! As we are still making all our recipes ourselves we come up with lots of accidental pairings, some come out amazing and some not so much. One of the best accidental pairings has to be Double Dutch Pomegranate & Basil with Tequila!
We’re Gin people through and through, but a lot of tonic brands seem to be hopping on the dark spirits train. Have you got your eye on any new territories?
We are such Gin fans ourselves and with the popularity of Gin it’s hard to stray too far away from it, but we are certainly working with other spirits as well. Our innovative flavours have been created so they can be mixed with a variety of spirits so we will never pin ourselves to just the one category. Our Cranberry & Ginger, which we launched in 2016, was specifically developed for darker spirits. We’ve definitely looked at different spirits from the
start. With trends changing we try to offer a solution to anyone who is looking for a bit more excitement and innovation in their drinks. We all know that the non-drinking trend is growing with one in five adults choosing not to drink any alcohol at all whilst looking for an alternative.
On top of that consumers are becoming more and more health conscious and the premiumisation trend is not going anywhere. Meanwhile drinkers crave new experiences and want more choice than ever, with cocktails growing massively as well.
This is all going while fridge space is limited for pubs and retailers and consumers don’t want to stock 10 different ingredients at home. Double Dutch offer that perfect middle ground that can meet all demands by being a great standalone soft drink, as well as an easy way to make cocktails very fast at value as well as pimping your regular G&T.
What is the key thing that sets Double Dutch apart from the other tonics out there?
We stand for flavour first – not tonic plus. Double Dutch is all about innovation and offering more excitement to consumers.
Our use of molecular pairing techniques really sets us apart from other brands which means we put the spirit first. Molecular pairing focuses on identifying the chemical components and aromas shared between specific spirits and certain ingredients, with the core hypothesis being that ingredients combine better when they share key flavour aromas. The process starts with determining and quantifying the aroma compounds of a particular ingredient.
The next step is to then combine this ingredient with others that share the same intrinsic properties to create unique and counterintuitive flavour combinations. Double Dutch is the only mixer brand in the market using this technique, which results in flavours that enhance rather than mask the quality of spirits.
We believe that the choice we offer to our consumers is one of the key aspects which sets us apart from other brands. It’s through this that we have challenged the original tonic and mixer industry and we believe that this is encouraging the market to become more diverse and consumer friendly.
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