15 July 2022


In High Spirits!

The &Stirred brand promises to enhance one’s home drinking experience, adding flavour and glamour to the’ same old’ spirits. Time to compete with mixologists!

With an ardour to launch his own brand, two years of research, a lot of travel, umpteen experiments and determination in getting the right assembly, the food and beverage industry saw the launch of &Stirred cocktail mix by Rakesh Sheth, the simplest way to make a cocktail, anytime, anywhere. According to him, &Stirred is pegged to change the way people drink at home.

Can you talk about the brand &Stirreds? How did you conceptualise it?

I have spent close to 15 years in the Alco-Bev business, marketing and managing lifestyle and luxury brands in India. Whilst working on various brands and categories, the one thing that always disappointed me was the limited choice a consumer had while drinking at home, especially with white spirits. All this while and even today, a majority of consumers’ choices are between Tetra juices and Carbonated sodas. But what triggered this launch, is the discomfort of buying ready-to-drinks for my wife when I would have the best spirits lying in my bar.

Every time my wife would ask me to pick some ready-to-drink concoction, I would remind her of the several bottles of vodka, white rum or tequila lying at home, but she wouldn’t drink that. I could never understand this, especially when it was creating a dent in my wallet with the ready-to-drink category being expensive, considering the value they give. One can choose better spirits than the ones you already have in your bar.

Until one day, she articulated it quite well “I don’t drink to get drunk, I like flavour in my drink” This was my ‘Eureka’ moment. This was definitely not my story alone but a reality in nearly every household in India. I could clearly see an opportunity gap and plunged into it. The single-minded proposition I worked on was – how can I make home drinking better?

What inspired you to develop this innovative range?

I have a marketer’s mind. My life revolves around building the right perceptions in a consumer’s mind. The one filter that I usually keep while designing a campaign or a product is: to keep it simple, relevant and unique. And in the same way, when I was developing & stirred, I followed the same approach, questioning myself - What need am I addressing? And the aim was to make home drinking better and more delicious.

People are reluctant to make better drinks at home. According to you, what are the current barriers?

I think people believe it is difficult to make. Moreover, they do not have any idea how to make these kinds of drinks. Usually, cocktails involve too many ingredients, and one usually doesn’t find everything handy at the same time. But I strongly believe if one has the fundamentals clear he/she just needs to articulate them in a language that everyone can understand. That’s what I have done. &Stirred will bring familiarity and eventually graduate them to exploring the world of handcrafted cocktails by the well-known Liquid Chefs of India.

What is the USP of your product?

& Stirred is a simple, convenient and well-priced product for consumers in the world of cocktails. One can get a perfect cocktail by simply adding his/her favourite spirit over lots of ice. It costs Rs 50 for a single-serve pack. The packaging of our products looks tempting, and seeds curiosity from the shelf. Moreover, it has everything printed on it that a layman needs to know about the ‘what and how’ of the product. When it comes to taste, it’s very close to a bartender’s handcrafted cocktail. The concoctions are developed using the best ingredients by one of the biggest names in the world of mixology in India.

All in all, I can say & Stirred is a proud Indian brand!

Do we see & Stirred replacing a Bartender?

Absolutely not! & Stirred is pegged to make home drinking delicious. &Stirred addresses an ever-urgent need. Whenever products have managed to fill such gaps, the acceptance is quite immediate and &Stirred is fortunate to have validations from consumers, trade and the fraternity. As for mixologists – they are loving it and continue to do so. &Stirred is ready-to-serve, while cocktails by bartenders are hand-crafted. There will always be a difference, but there is a need for both.

Describe your innovation in some detail – how is it different from others in the market, its importance and its advantage.

& Stirred believes in offering authentic bartender like cocktails, hence, it will never be in a straight-up Open and Drink consistency. This is where it differs from most brands in the market. It is concentrated enough to cut the spirit in a drink enough to bring in the right balance keeping in mind the global recipe for cocktails ie. 1 : 2 (1 part spirit and 2 parts mix). Most brands available are no different than a simple juice scribbled with the word COCKTAIL all over them.

As an entrepreneur, what do you think will help the SME ecosystem thrive further?

I feel happy with the ‘Invest India’ initiatives for start-ups. This surely helps. The one thing that will help the SME ecosystem to thrive further and build real businesses is if Founders, VCs and Angels bring in equal weightage to making Profits as much as Growth. The valuation spiral and easy money is not the healthiest thing in my view. I would sincerely hope that investors look at businesses as value builders through their innovative products versus merely a medium to double their money.

Tips on manufacturing creative/innovative products in your sector which is packed with competitors?

Cocktails are like food and there is always a possibility to develop variations and versions of an existing product. This ongoing effort to enhance one's drinking experience will be the key and qualification for any new entrant to do well and grow. While there are a few players already, the category is too small and there is a huge run ahead of us. There is enough room for passionate folks to add more flavour.

New consumer trends and patterns of behaviour are emerging; what are the trends that will dominate the food and beverage industry in the next 5 years?

While Lifestyle products will continue to play their game, Healthy, Clean and Convenient product categories will lead the F&B industry, in my view.

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