One of New Zealand's fastest growing non-alcoholic beverage brands is set to launch into the Australian market - having
secured a new export deal for its prohibition-style brand of tonics.
Bootleggers, which produces a collection of handcrafted tonics and mixers made from locally sourced and organic
ingredients designed for gin drinkers, is riding a global wave of category growth - with gin sales up 34%.
The company’s first export shipment will land in Australia in the third quarter of this year - following the appointment
of a local sales agent and the inking of a new contract to supply the country’s largest liquor retailer.
James Waugh, a Wellington bartender who founded the Bootleggers brand in his basement, says they hope to double current
production and sales volumes in the coming year as their trans-Tasman distribution grows.
Waugh says they have also had export enquiry from Europe and the US East Coast with North American distributors
recognising the local connection to the product’s brand identity.
He says the use of mixers became fashionable during the prohibition period as bartenders in speakeasies blended ounces
of it with various mixers from bitters to soda, juices and fruit garnishes, to hide the flavour of the poorly made
alcohol or ‘bathtub gin’.
Waugh’s research into this period found dry ginger ale was the most popular mixer to offset the potent taste of the
“We have had positive initial interest from distributors in the US who originally approached us based primarily on what
they know about the brand and its potential appeal to their market.
“The history of Bootleggers as a ‘grandmother’s recipe’ gin mixer with its underground origins which was ‘smuggled’ into
local bars that had licensing agreements with competing brands, resonated with the US importers and we are hopeful it
will help open a door to a lucrative export market,” he says.
Waugh says the company will launch new three low sugar options along with new flavours, a redesigned label and bottle
sizes which will be used in both the domestic and export markets.
He says premium tonic and soda is one of the fastest-growing beverage categories globally and is forecast to continue
growing at >7.5% in volume each year.
“The New Zealand market has been underdeveloped for some time but more recently there has been an explosion of gin
consumption with over 200 brands available here now. There is a lot more science and experimentation with gin now and
the growth of premium tonics is a natural extension to that.
“The priority for us at the moment is to meet the demand of the local market, we are heavily focused on growing our
distribution through hospitality and FMCG channels and as a result, our annual sales are up over 100%,” he says.
Waugh says Bootleggers is one of the largest locally owned and manufactured tonic brands, and global supply challenges
faced by their competitors during the pandemic have provided the company with an opening into a number of new retailers
including Liquorland and premium hospitality venues such as Kauri Cliffs and Cape Kidnappers.
“We have used the last year to prepare the product and increase our workforce for the coming expansion programme which
will see us move into new channels and global export markets.
“As we move into supermarkets for the first time, we have introduced a pack size of 200mls as well as a new 500ml SKU in
recycled glass bottles, completely redesigned the labelling of the product and will also be introducing new flavours
over the coming months,” he says.