Pimento Drink CEO Eric Dalsace on Creating the Famous Spicy Ginger Drink
I received an email from Pimento Drink founder and CEO Eric Dalsace letting me know that I was out of stock of the Pimento Drink on Specialty Sodas and that he could supply to me directly from France. Although I was not able to import the drink myself, I asked Eric if he could refer some distributors to me in the United States where I could buy Pimento. After taking his suggestions and doing some more research on my side, I quickly re-stocked the Pimento Drink on Specialty Sodas.
I was happy that Eric reached out to me because at the time I was in the process of creating this Podcast series and asked him if he would like to be featured so that we can learn the story behind Pimento. He agreed, and what you have here is the start of the Specialty Sodas podcast.
In the process of doing this interview I learned some really interesting facts about the Pimento Drink that you will hear in this interview.
- One exciting thing is that Pimento is currently planning on doing a re-launch in the United States and is seeking a new importer.
- You will also learn that Pimento Drink is the first ginger drink to be introduced in France as a French product.
- You will hear about how Pimento grew as a company from just an idea in the kitchen to an internationally recognized brand that is in over 20 countries.
- You will learn about the strategies that are important when launching a new product and the mindset that is required when you are starting and growing a company.
Eric Dalsace is the founder and CEO of Pimento, creator of the famous Pimento Spicy Ginger Drink, probably the best non-alcoholic spicy ginger beer in the world, coming out of Paris, France.
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Javier: Hey there craft soda lovers! My name is Javier Morquecho and I’m the founder of SpecialtySodas.com, one of the largest online specialty beverage companies in the United States as well as this Specialty Sodas Podcast, where entrepreneurs and leaders in the soda industry come to share their story of how to start and grow a successful beverage company. We’ll talk about concepts such as from beverage formulation, manufacturing, packaging, partnerships as well as marketing. Our goal is to gain valuable business insights into the beverage industry, and last but not least, we’re gonna talk about all the bubbly goodness of all the best soft drinks and soda companies.
So, my mission is to help you discover the newest and most interesting beverage companies you’ve never heard of... until now.
So, every soda has a unique story and we’re here today to find out.
So I’m joined today by Eric Dalsace, CEO and founder of Pimento, the creator of the famous Pimento Spicy Ginger Drink, probably the best non-alcoholic spicy ginger beer in the world, and it’s coming out of Paris, France.
Hi Eric, welcome. Thank you for being here today.
Eric: Yea. Hi Javier. Very happy to be there. Very glad.
Javier: And so for everyone who hasn’t heard about Pimento, can you tells us about the Pimento drink?
Eric: Yes. Just first of all. I’m not an English native and maybe my English will be a little poor. So I will do my best.
Pimento is a soda, it's a lemonade, it's a soft drink, you see. And it’s not a classic soda. It’s something made with ginger, tonic and chili pepper natural flavors. And you have also small amounts of oregano, bitter orange, lime, gentian natural flavors inside. It’s something strong, you know. It gives you, it gives you a kick when you drink it. It tastes like alcohol but it's not. So, it’s something, yeah, we can do really innovative, really unique, it’s a kind of lemonade or a soft drink for adults people, you know, considering the classic and regressive sodas that you can get everywhere in the world. So in a few words, here is, that is Pimento.
Javier: And so I’ve seen online where it’s been called a fizzy drink, or a soda, or a ginger beer or a ginger ale. How would you categorize Pimento as a soft drink?
Eric: Yea, I do, I do understand, maybe it’s confusing. It’s not about this, in fact, you see. Pimento is a ginger ale and it’s also a ginger beer. But what is a ginger beer? A ginger beer, it is a ginger ale with a bigger ginger content. And it’s called beer because in the past, and particularly in India, the ginger beer was made with fresh ginger, fermented ginger, and they did it exactly as a beer. So that is why the Indian workers used to say we brew the ginger. And after it has brought back in the UK, and this is the reason why, now we call this a ginger beer. So a ginger ale is a lemonade with low ginger content and a ginger beer with a bigger ginger content. Today, today, most of the ginger beer are made exactly as lemonade, as soda, as ginger ale. It’s what, is it, it’s natural flavors, plus sugar, plus citric acid, plus water and bubbles. So, even though it’s a ginger ale because it's made like a ginger lemonade, but the content of the ginger is very very strong. So it’s a ginger beer. And, and I can say that it’s a spicy ginger beer. I can say that it’s one of the more unique spicy ginger beers in the world because most of the ginger beers you can get don’t have any chili pepper in it. They just use the pepper of the ginger, which is already strong, you see, but I wanted something stronger than a classic ginger beer. That’s why I had chili pepper, and we can discuss about this point a little bit later. So it’s a spicy ginger beer.
Eric: And it’s fizzy.
Javier: Ok. [laughter] And so, you founded the Pimento drink company in 2009, which is roughly 7 years ago, and so it’s seen such a great response, it’s grown very rapidly. It’s in over 20 countries and it’s growing even more. So, I want to find out how you, what you did to grow the company and what challenges you faced along the way.
But, before I get to that, I actually have a bottle of Pimento here and I want to talk about the drink. So, I really like the design on the Pimento Drink, it’s really beautiful. It’s gold. It’s red, ruby red. Has a logo of a chili in the front, and it’s a nice champagne-type color.
So, in terms of the logo, how did you come up with the branding and the logo?
Eric: You know, maybe we’ll discuss about my past and my experience later, but this is true that I run something like 20 years in the advertising. So I have a view and a small experience on the logo, on the picture, on the sign, the symbols, you see. And, this is true that I knew in the past what I wanted to do in terms of flavor. It’s a chili pepper that you can see on the label. It’s not a real chili pepper but it’s a chili pepper. And I wanted to have everything encapsulated in a kind of rhombus, a lozenge as we can say, because the lozenge is something which is extremely understood, but by most of the people everywhere on the planet, you see, because of Tabasco. Everybody knows the very very famous rhombus of the Tabasco. So it means for many many people that, that they are going to face something strong. This is the reason why most of the bitters you can see on the market, always also use a kind of rhombus. So, Pimento, the chili pepper that you can see on the label, and the lozenge was the main thing that I wanted to work. After all, it is true that I worked with an art director, just to put the best art.
And also, which is very important, is the name of the brand, you see. The core value of this beverage is the chili pepper. Today you have, in your hand, and you are going to taste it, a Pimento bottle ginger. This is the only taste that I have today, the only flavor. I would say it's my classic, as you have classic Coke, and after you have diet, cherry. So Pimento ginger, and we will talk about the reason why, is my classic Pimento, you see. And it means, that if I launch later another Pimento, for example, a Pimento cinnamon or strawberry or mint, it will be Pimento. And it means that the core value of the, of this drink is the chili pepper, and that is why it is the central picture and sign that you have on the label.
Javier: Okay so, I’m looking at it. It’s 250 milliliters or 25 centiliters or 8.45 fluid ounces and the calories are only 70 calories and if you convert it over to a 12 ounce size it’s still under 100 calories even as a full 12 ounce size. And in terms of sugar, it’s only 18 grams for this, but if you convert it over to 12 ounces, it comes out to be 25. And most soft drinks in the United States are about 150 calories and have about 40 grams of sugar. So yours has a lot less than the average soda that you would get in the United States. Were you trying to make a healthier beverage?
Eric: Yeah, sure, sure. We can say that Pimento is 30% less sugar than most of the classic lemonades, the classic sodas, you see. I think it’s important. I think it’s really important because when you launch a new beverage, you mainly launch in big cities, and this is true, because this is like this, that in many cities people care about this. So they are looking on the label, and they’ll be sure that they don’t want, they don’t want to be fat, you see, they want, they want to stay healthy. So that’s why it was something I had in my thoughts, you know, just before to elaborate the recipe, and the concept of the drink also. This is true.
Javier: And so I saw on one of the marketing here in the United States that the drink is non-GMO, so no genetically modified organisms, and it’s gluten free. Is this true?
Eric: It’s correct.
Eric: Yeah, yeah, sure.
Javier: Alright, so, now let’s go into the ingredients. I has: carbonated water, sugar, citric acid as the acidifier, natural flavors, acesulfame K, or potassium, sucralose and caramel color. So the thing is, I see you have the sugar as a sweetener, but you also have the other sweeteners. These other sweeteners, they’re usually, I’ve seen them in diet drinks. Now, I’m just curious, why did you add these other sweeteners if you already have sugar as the ingredient?
Eric: That’s a good question.
Eric: It was, it’s a good question because it was a big issue also you see. The fact is that when we made the first recipe, I will explain to you how we did, later in this interview. But when we did the first recipe, we did it only with sugar because at first, to be honest, I wanted only sugar in the, in the recipe. And because the natural flavors of ginger and chili pepper are so strong, are so powerful and are so bitter it was an obligation to put a very big amount of sugar to make it yummy, to make it good as you can drink it in a few, in a few seconds. So, it was impossible to have on the label so big amount of sugar for the reason that we just discussed just before, you see. And I’ve decided to, to replace a part of the sugar with the sweeteners. Considering the sweeteners, I didn’t want to take the aspartame for example because many many people are thinking that they’re going to die with aspartame so I just wanted to buy the kind of Rolls Royce you know of sweeteners and it appears that in the world, a couple of sucralose and acesulfame k are the best. I can, I cannot say that it's the most safest,or safe, ingredients, because you know, it’s chemical. But they are the best that we can get today in the world. And you have to know that in most of the French, laws, and in the UE also, it’s an obligation to put in the beverage two sweeteners and not only one because they have a special effect when you mix them which, when in a mixture, and it creates the biggest sweetening effect for the lowest ingredient. So it means that if you put two you can put less sweeteners that that only if you use one. That is the reason why it’s mandatory. This is the reason why you have to do this considering the EU, UE laws requirements. So, after I, to do, do my best. And I wanted to reduce anyway the percentage of the sugar to be more or less 30 - 35 percent less sugar than most of the lemonade. Maybe you ask, you can ask me the question, why I don’t put any stevia, you know.
Eric: Which is the new sweeteners. And you have to know that Stevia has a taste, a taste which is quite strong. Sometimes this taste mixes well with some flavors, sometimes not. And in that case, we made the taste. The test, not the taste. Made the test, and it’s not good, you know. It's, it it it involves a kind of aniseed taste which is not really good with the ginger. So that’s why we completely concerned the stevia option.
Javier: So the stevia, you decided not to use it. Were there any other sweeteners or any other ingredients that you looked at and you decided not to do it in your, in the formulation of the, of the ingredients.
Eric: I’ve decided to take just the, the two best sweeteners that I can have in the world with the most, with the better qualities, you know, knowing that it was not the, the best solution, but it was something that I wanted to do because I didn’t want to put on the market something with, full of sugar, you see. And this is true that the natural flavors are very very, very very strong. For example, it’s very difficult to put them in a, in a plastic bottle, for example. Or in a can, and iron can because, it involves a very, a very small shelf life, because, because of the way the two flavors are so strong, so that’s why we can give you an image of a, of the way you have to put a lot of sugar on it just to make it good and gourmand.
Javier: And so putting it in the glass bottle, you just mentioned you put it in the glass bottle, it was, you chose, you decided to choose glass versus plastic or aluminum cans. What was the reason why you say?
Eric: Yeah, at first for an economic way, it's easier anyway, anyway. You have, a can is, can be a cheaper solution, but if you have a cheaper solution it means that you have to bottle millions of bottles to have a good price. And just tell you just before, if I use a can and I run a million, for example, the shelf life is very very short, you see, it's, it’s about eleven months, while in the glass bottle I have twenty four months, you know, of shelf life. In a eleven months, it is very very small when you have to bottle one millions of bottles to have a good price, knowing when that most of the distributors, most of the importers, everywhere in the world, they don’t want, they have to, when they buy Pimento, for example, or, or a beverage, they want to have two-thirds of the shelf life, you see, you know, in their routes. So it means that you have to, to, to sell a lot, you know, in very short period, and that’s why the glass was a, the best solution. Anyway, when you a lunch a product, you have to launch values or so, you know, something, something fine, something beautiful to touch, something beautiful to see, you see, and it happens very simple for me, that the glass could be something that could make, yeah, Pimento as beautiful as a fine object, you know, so, so that’s, that’s why it was core values or so.
Javier: Okay, oh and so just one other quick question I forgot to ask, so in terms of the sweeteners, like the percentage of the other sweeteners, it’s probably less than 2 percent, you would say?
Eric: Yes, yes.
Javier: Compared to the other ones, so it’s really small amounts of the other sweetener.
Eric: It’s a very very small amount, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
Javier: Alright, so I’m excited to try this out. I’m gonna.
Javier: I see it.
Eric: You see that it is a twist-off cap, that you can open and that you can also close, reclose on the bottle.
Javier: Okay, I’ll try it.
[Pops open bottle]
Eric: This is something very unique, you know because most of the ginger beer, the ginger beer for example, this is not the case. It means that bartenders and barmen can open the bottle.
Eric: Yeah, it works.
Eric: They can spice up a cocktail and they can reclose the bottle and put it back in the fridge.
Eric: And it’s saving. And for bar savings, it’s important.
Javier: Yeah, that’s interesting because I’ve never seen it where it comes off and it comes back on so easily.
Eric: Yeah, the main reason why I did this is because the beverage is strong and you drink it like alcohol, somewhere, not like a soda or a lemonade, not like a coke, you see. So it was for me very clear that you can just have a sip or a small glass for example, or half glass, you know, of Pimento, like an aperitif, just like this, and maybe you don’t want to drink more, so you can reclose the bottle and put it back to the fridge, you see.
Javier: And so, does the carbonation, will the, will it lose carbonation if you re-close it? Or, how much longer will it last?
Eric: A little bit. It’s only, it’s only a problem of carbonation when you put it back in the fridge, but you, it’s, it’s not a lot. You don’t lose a lot. If you, if you close it immediately after, after serving, you don’t lose a lot. And after in the fridge, it can stay something like, yeah, two days. No problem. There is no problem of taste, or flavor, it’s only maybe a small problem of bubbles that you can lose in the fridge.
Javier: And so the other thing I noticed when I opened it, it was lightly carbonated.
Javier: You want it lightly carbonated, right?
Eric: Yes, yes, yeah, yeah, yeah.
Javier: Because there are some drinks that have so much carbonation that it, like there's too many bubbles as you drink it.
Eric: Yeah, yeah, sure, sure. You have to drink it very chill. This is an obligation. Only the people from Africa or Middle East, they love when it's in an ambient temperature, because the hottest the beverage is, the stronger the chili pepper is.
Eric: So, when it’s fresh, you know, it’s not too hot. It’s not violent. It’s not too strong. It’s just good enough, you see. That’s why it’s important to, to serve it chilled.
Javier: Uh huh, and so, I smell, it’s sweet.
Javier: And I do smell the ginger scent. But now, waiting a little bit, smelling it a little stronger, the pepper and the spicy notes come out.
Eric: Yeah, sometimes the chili pepper can come in a small bubble, and if there is a small explosion of the bubble on the top of the liquid, “poof”, you, you get it, yeah.
Eric: And it can be very surprising.
Javier: Okay, so let me try it out. So, you say it’s not meant to be drank. You don’t drink a lot of it? It’s mostly for sipping?
Eric: Yeah, mostly, yeah, yeah. Mostly. I think many people, like Indian people, for example, they can drink it in one sip. And for them it’s not spicy enough, you see.
Javier: Ohh, okay. Okay, let’s try it out.
Javier: You know it’s really soft. The carbonation was really good.
Javier: I taste the sweetness. I taste the spicy ginger. And if you wait a little longer, a few seconds, the spiciness of the chili comes out. And there is no lingering aftertaste. So, normally when you use other sweeteners, it leaves a, some kind of flavor in your mouth. But this, I don’t taste it, so it tastes really natural. It tastes clean. It tastes fresh.
Javier: It’s good. And yeah, the spiciness hits you a few seconds later.
Javier: Now, looking into when you created this drink, you wanted to recreate the effect that an alcohol had, and the experience of drinking an alcohol. Is that what, is that true?
Eric: Yes, this is true. This was exactly the way I’ve worked, considering Pimento. But this is true that you have three time, three periods, when you drink Pimento. At first, you feel the ginger, which is very fruity, with a twist of citrus. And two seconds exactly, I mean, exactly because we controlled the time, you see, two seconds exactly, you feel this kind of kick, you know, of chili pepper, a kind of small explosion. It’s quite amazing. It’s, it’s not big, because it, everything is well balanced, but it’s something really funny amazing. And when you drink a second sip after, it will be softer and milder and you feel the ginger which is back after, because at first, when you, when you, when you consume chili pepper, the taste buds are very very excited, you see.
Eric: So after everything, exactly as the same as when you drink some alcohol, for example, taste buds are keeping calm and quiet. And after you have the, the work of the ginger which is back in your, in your throat. But this is true that I wanted to, to create exactly the same kick, you know, the, yeah, the same kick that one that you can drink, that you can feel when you drink some alcohol, you see. And I wanted it to have this kind of burn, you see, this kind of small pain that you can feel when you drink something hot like alcohol. And it was, it was, yeah, the game.
Javier: And so the, the thing that I feel now, now that it’s been, let’s say, thirty seconds since I drank it. I feel warm, warming up in my body.
Javier: So it’s, my stomach feels, it’s starting to feel warm and it feels the burning feeling. And that is kind of the feeling that you have when you drink alcohol, and.
Eric: Yeah this is true. This is true. That’s why it’s very refreshing so we can drink it during the summer, but it's also something that makes you hot, as you said. And there is a big success in the mountain, for example, during the winter season, you see. Many many many people and it’s a big success in the French Alps, for example. In Switzerland also, also in Austria when it’s very very cold, you know. When you drink Pimento it makes hot inside, so that’s why we can claim both, when it’s hot outside or when it’s cold also.
Javier: And, so yeah, you. The marketing of the company says: “Finally, a beverage without alcohol--stronger than alcohol.”
Javier: And so.
Eric: It was just to make the people understand that this is something strong. And this is true that I used the reference of alcohol because when you see advertising on TV, for example, you see many many many products that say it’s very strong, with special crazy effect. And I, at the end, you know that it’s quite nothing. Maybe it’s a kind of neat joke, you know, on the tongue. But the advertising makes something very spectacular. And I wanted to create a sentence that say something that you can really understand. When you take reference to the alcohol, it means that maybe, it’s going to be something strong, you see.
Javier: Okay, and.
Eric: We want to be credible, you see.
Javier: So I’m just curious, you said it gained popularity in the French Alps and in Switzerland. Are there any other drinks like this in France right now?
Eric: You have now some ginger beer, but it’s very discreet, you know. We’ll talk maybe about the French market in terms of beverage, which is very specific for me. On the planet there is two markets in terms of beverage: there is France, and then there is the rest of the world, you see. And it’s not an advantage for us because you don’t have in France a lot of beverage. In fact, it’s a shame, you see, and it’s a pity.
Eric: The distribution process make something that, in the bar, for example, you have quite nothing, except Coke, you have maybe two soft drinks. The coffee’s not good. The beer is, I mean the draft beer is not good. And we have really a small number of beer. In terms of wine, it’s nothing. In terms of spirit, it's a shame. So, so, that’s why it’s very difficult for new concept, new drink, new beverage, or new concept of beverage to be introduced in France. And that’s why ginger drinks are start to be a little bit famous. I say a little bit, because it is just the first introduction. In fact, Pimento was the first ginger drink to be introduced in France as a French product.
Eric: So now you have a few new actors, or brands that tried to come, but it’s very difficult, you know. You see and you discuss about the fact that for example, the off-trade, yeah, closed the doors to new beverages. So that’s why you don’t have a lot of ginger drinks in France, as opposed to many many many of many countries, as the US, but also the UK, countries of Commonwealth. Anyway, everywhere in Europe you have many ginger beer, many ginger ale, except in France. So, I opened the market. It means that it’s good for me but it means also that I have to, to teach the people what is a ginger drink, what is a ginger ale, what is a ginger beer. I never used the term ginger beer in France because the people think that it’s a beer with ginger inside. So I never use this. I don’t use ginger ale because most of the people we don’t know what it is. I take, I say again, that it’s soda, or lemonade ginger and chili pepper, you see. So, I have some competing brands now, and it’s better for me because if the market starts to, to, to grow, it’s good for everybody, Pimento included in France. This is true that I have a leadership in France, today.
Javier: And so, who did you make this drink for? Who drinks Pimento?
Eric: There is three kinds of people, three kinds of targets. First, the adults. I will explain you why I did Pimento, maybe it’s a question you will ask because there is a real storytelling and a real story, nothing is fake in the Pimento story. But, adults like Pimento, for example, when they want to drink something refreshing and they don’t want to drink alcohol, because this is true that many bars, when you want to drink something, which is full of taste, and when you don’t want to drink alcohol, you have quite nothing: you have tomato juice, you have maybe one coffee, you have maybe one regressive soft drink. So, it’s drunken, it’s appreciated as a kind of alcohol alternative, you see, in terms of alcohol. Not all of the people that never drink alcohol, but sometimes you have to take you car, sometimes you have to, you have to work, sometimes you just want to drink something, you see, and it could be a super alternative. It is for the adults, I mean a core target about between thirty five and forty five years old, so it means that from twenty eight to sixty five, something like that.
The second market is for young people, and this is true that many bars, Pimento is used as a mixer. In Pimento you have chili pepper, and the chili pepper is the flavoring also, so it makes it taste absolutely bigger, and this is true that youngs like to spice up their cocktail, you know, in bar or at home, so they can make yeah, crazy and fiery effect, you know when they mix it with vodka, or gin, tequila, cachaça, jägermeister, and many many other spirit, and it is something, yeah, funny, and they love it, like this way.
And the third group is something which is very important for me, it’s a, ethnic group, you know, of people, like the Muslim, for example, that don’t drink alcohol, or in many countries like in India, there are Hinduists, and they don’t drink alcohol and they know the ginger and the chili pepper and they need big sensation but with, with no alcohol. You don’t have a big sensation except with Pimento that can help give them a good sensation.
So you have three kinds of targets, three target groups, which are really different, and you have to work on them, with different wording, a different concept, a different ID, because the need that completely different from each to each groups.
Javier: Oh and so that’s, that’s very interesting that you brought that up. There’s three different groups that you are targeting for this Pimento drink. How do you communicate the message to one group without taking away the message to another group, so that it’s a consistent message for everybody.
Eric: Yeah, sure. It can, it can be very difficult if I give you information like that. At first I did the beverage for me. I was adult, you see, so it was a kind of alternative of alcohol because I don’t drink any alcohol, you see, and I wanted something strong. And I did the beverage for me, and I produced it in my kitchen for myself. So it was the first goal, you see. After, when I’ve launched the beverage, I discovered that the ginger drink were used by many many of the bartenders and the mixologists to spice up their cocktails and to make it really good. And it was something that I’ve discovered. And I discovered also that in young people, or people from the Middle East, or people from Africa, were crazy about chili and ginger. So, these new targets came one after the other one, you see. It was not something I put in my mind like in the computer and at the end of the computer, “poom,” there is the bottle that is called Pimento, you see. It’s life, you learn the target after target. This is true that you can have different way to communicate. But you have a B2B way to communicate and B2C way to communicate. Like exactly like a tonic, for example, a Schweppes, it’s one brand that you can use pure, you know, neat as a soft drink, or mixed in a gin tonic, for example. And this is the same for Red Bull. At the end, the main communication you have to communicate on the way that it’s something strong, because this is the core values of the, of the beverage. And after all, we have to push on specific means of communication that for, for one core target, one target, it’s something that you can mix and it makes crazy things, so we have a lot of means of communication with the bartenders, the mixologists to give them experience, knowledge, recipes, way to mix, things like that. And you have some other way to communicate with the adults, saying that it’s a fantastic and crazy, yeah, good drink that you can, that you can, that you can consume, you see, exactly as a classic soft drink. For the ethics groups, it's really specific means of communication.
So you, you, you can really work on, on all this means, it’s not, it’s not a problem. And the people that do understand that some targets don’t have the same way to consume the same product, you see, and, and like a Tabasco, for example, you can use it for a meal, and some guys are trying to mix a vodka shot, you know in a rock and roll bar. It’s a Tabasco at the end.
Javier: And so, the question is: What were you doing before Pimento and why did you create this drink for yourself? Why, what was the need?
Eric: I spent yea, something like, well, twenty five years of my life in advertising and in big agencies, mainly in Publicis, for example, or DDB Needham, which is an American agency, an American network. And in the advertising agencies, I don’t know the way it is in the US, but in France and in many countries I know, the pressure and the stress is very big, you see. So people work a lot, night and day, weekend included, and they drink also because the pressure from the client, from the business of the advertising is very very strong. And it was something like 12 years before I’ve decided to stay in advertising but adjust my life completely, and to to, to be more sane, you see, so I, so I’ve decided to stop to smoke cigarettes, and to stop to drink alcohol also. And I definitely gave up, you see. But, really soon after when I was in the bar to take an aperitif my friends they were ordering a mojito, champagne, gin tonic, beer and me, I was in front of my tomato juice with my small bottle of Tabasco that I always in my pocket, and it was really boring, so I didn’t understand why there is not something which is strong with no alcohol inside, and this is, I’ve tried to, to go look in many countries, during my trips, to see if there is something which exists, but nothing as a soft drink, nothing as a soda. You have sometimes, some very very strong ginger beer in India, but, but you have to go to India to have the ginger beer, so it’s not so easy. And there is no bubbles inside. In West Africa also, you have so very very strong ginger juice, which are more than strong, it’s dynamite you see when you drink it. But I wanted something more, yeah, yummy and round, you see, and because there was nothing, I decided to do, to do my own, and and make in my home kitchen a real laboratory, and in the birth of Pimento.
Javier: So can you talk about your kitchen and how you came up with these ingredients and the laboratory as you described?
Eric: It was not so nice for my children, you see, because, they had not the right you know to go into the kitchen, which was not so, so big, you see. But I remember this, it was yea, yeah, it was yeah, twelve years before. It was very very funny I’ve decided to buy everywhere in Paris, in Paris you have many many groceries from all over the world, you see, South American, Mexican, Asian, African, from Middle East a lot of things, so I bought many many many ingredients. Not ingredients for B2B, you see, but ingredients that you can get in the grocery like roots, like chilies, like spices, like fruits, like juice, like cordials, many many things and I’ve decided to, to start to mix everything. I had absolutely no experience, no knowledge in the way to do a drink. It was just something for me, just a hobby you see, and I didn’t know what I wanted to work on the ginger way at the beginning, you see, I’ve worked on the cinnamon, which is very interesting because there is pepper in the cinnamon, strawberry also, in the mint also, and finally, after having been some tests, you know, I focused myself on the ginger. You have many many many different tastes for the ginger. It depends where it comes from, from Africa, from China, from Asia, you see, it’s, it’s different taste and I’ve, I’ve start to work on the ginger way. But it was not only ginger because you know that in Pimento, for example, it’s not only ginger, it’s something which is well balanced with many things inside, you see. So, I’ve mixed during something like three months, every night, many many many drinks, and one time, in my bowl you know in front of me, I had something which was a real soft drink, round like a soda, you see, and strong like a, like a spirit, like alcohol, you know, it gives you this kind of kick that you maybe received in you, in your throat, and it was, it was my drink, and it was okay and I find it yeah, I did it. But it was very difficult to, to do, you know, because you can mix a lot of things and it’s not good enough, you see. And I wanted something, with a special ginger. I remember that in, in the first recipe, I did in my kitchen, I had something maybe like 12 different gingers. If you want to change something, because you want it a bit more fruity, or a little bit less bitter, for example, you have to redo and reproduce exactly the same beverage and changing, and finally, and finally, you see that it’s much not too good ingredient to change, so you have to redo everything but that’s why it took three months
Javier: Okay so.
Eric: Three months is big, but it’s only three months.
Javier: Well that, that’s a really good. That’s pretty fast. I feel that’s
Eric: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Javier: a good time frame. And I see that you included gin, so primarily ginger, tonic, hot chili peppers, and you had notes of bitter orange, lime, gentian, oregano? These were the primary ingredients?
Eric: No, it’s something that.
Eric: Not in my kitchen.
Javier: Oh ok.
Eric: Not in my kitchen. I made a taste with many many many many many many ingredients in, in the bottle, to create that taste and the flavorist that after, is worked on the final flavors, they used that notes, and that small flavors, to recreate exactly the taste that I did in my kitchen. But if you are doing a taste Javier, for example, and if you give it to two different flavorists, they will saying that you want the natural flavors that you can use in the industrial way, they will use different recipe, different flavors to recreate exactly the same tastes. That’s why you cannot say something about the property of the taste because you can recreate same taste with different flavors. It appears that my flavorist, or the flavorist I used, I worked with, they used oregano, bitter orange, lime, gentian, and also ginger, tonic, and chili pepper to recreate exactly the taste that I’ve created in my kitchen.
Eric: But there was not oregano in my kitchen. There was not oregano, there was not also gentian, you know. But with gentian, maybe a little bit, but not pure gentian, but a beverage that contains gentian inside.
Javier: So, are you able to say what ingredients you did use in the kitchen?
Eric: I don’t remember honestly there was maybe something like thirty, like thirty different tastes in the, in the bottle of preparation you know that I in my kitchen. Many many many many yeah yeah. I, I should re-found and find out the recipe, the original recipe.
Eric: But it was very, it was quite long. Too too, really.
Javier: Yeah, thirty.
Eric: It was a game for me.
Javier: Yeah, over thirty ingredients, right.
Javier: So you talked about, well, I was going to ask you, does the beverage contain quinine, or quinine,
Javier: Which is in tonic water. No?
Eric: Yeah, it no, no absolutely not. There is no chlorine, hydrate of quinine, or quinine, we say quinine in French. I don’t know the way you spell it in the US. But I think it’s not allowed by the FDA anyway, this ingredient, this specific ingredient. And this is the kind of distillate, or maybe infusion of gentian, that gives exactly the tonic taste. So it’s a tonic flavor, but it's not quinine, it’s made with gentian. It’s made with gentian and it’s made also with a plant impossible for me to give you the meaning word in English. It’s cassia. I don’t know if it exists, you know, cassia?
Javier: Cassia? Yeah, yeah, it’s similar to cinnamon.
Eric: Yeah, yeah, so it’s an infusion, a double infusion of cassia and quinine, and sorry, and gentian, that gives exactly the taste of the quinine.
Eric: So the taste of the tonic.
Javier: So yeah, going back to the flavors, you worked with a flavor company in France called Expressions Aromatques?
Javier: How, how did you come, how did you find this company, why did you pick it?
Eric: So, I did the beverage in my kitchen twelve year before. I was really happy, I used to make a lot of bottles of my own drink. There was no name, just a recipe. I used to go to have a dinner with my friends, some people come with their Champagne bottle, and I used to come with my bottles, yea. And after many many testing, I just realized that the people love it really so much you see that I said a few years after, it’s seven years before: “Is it possible to launch to create a real beverage, in the industry way, you see, in a, in a factory? Is it, is it possible to make and to produce a real beverage, when you no nothing about beverage, when you know nothing about industry, when you know nothing about beverage distribution, is it possible? And is it possible to do it without one penny? Without one cent, you know, to put? Just for the fun you know, just to see if it’s possible.” Some people are playing golf or tennis.
Javier: The, the internet connection seem, the internet connection cut off, can you, can you hear me?
Eric: Yeah now it came back.
Javier: Oh ok. Okay, you were saying that some people go and play golf and then, that’s where.
Eric: Yes, and me, I travel. I spend my, my leisure time to invent product. So the game is that you don't have to put a lot of money inside, because if it’s fail, finally, it’s not a big loss, you see. So I’ve decided to do a product, and to produce it. And that’s why I’ve been in many many tradeshow, I’ve read a lot of Facebook, of books, sorry about beverage. I’ve read a lot of things on the internet just to understand the way you can produce a real beverage with the supply the chain. Because if you change the recipe it change completely the way you’re going to produce it and it change completely the way you’re going to finance it. So I’ve, I’ve met a lot of people, yeah. And I met one time this flavorist, the people of Expression Aromatique. They were, they were doing many flavors for lemonades in Algeria, a lot of foods and so. And I explained them the pitch, you know. What is this drink? What is the aim? What is the goal? And they thought it was a good idea, and they thought there was a huge potential because alcohol is a real issue and you don’t have any alternative, no where in the world. So maybe very something big to make, you see, as a drink that can give you a real kick, you know, for those other people. And that’s why I accept to recreate exactly the beverage I did in my kitchen.
Javier: And so, you said you had no experience in the soft drink industry? Was, was your goal to create a new company? Was your, was that your goal when you were making these recipes? You had the idea that maybe you were going to create a company about it, or you were just doing it for yourself?
Eric: No, in my kitchen, it was for myself. But a few years after when I decided to see if it’s possible to make a real bottle with a real label and a real brand, yeah, I’ve opened a small company at this time, because you need it, because you need a company you know to have the first link and the way to manage this, yes. Yes, but at this time, it was not for the money because I use to work in advertising also at this time, I used to work in fashion also with small other company. It was not for food, it was just only for fun.
Javier: And is this the first business you’ve ever created?
Eric: No, no. I’ve created many things.
Eric: Many things. But maybe it’s a, it will be another interview because we are going to spend a lot of time.
Javier: Oh, okay.
Eric: But this is true that every, every time I’ve launched something, it's directly inspired from my own experience, you see. And exactly when I said, when there is something that I don't get, I do it. And after it works or not you see, and.
Javier: Oh, it cut off again, sorry, but it says, you, you experiment something and you just do it. That’s where it.
Eric: Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. And it works or it doesn’t work. And in the case of Pimento, it works.
Javier: Okay, and, so this is also a sidetrack too, but, Pimento, this is the most success that you’ve had in a company compared to the other ones that you had in the past.
Eric: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Because today, today I one hundred percent of my time, daytime and nighttime I can say you is focused completely on Pimento. So, and it was also something that you have to do, we’ll talk about maybe the financial aspect of the company, that I have shareholders with me. So when you sign a contract agreement you know between shareholders you have to, you have some rights but you have some obligation also. And many particularly the obligation to be completely focused on the development and the growth of the business. So that’s why I, today, I focus my life on Pimento.
Eric: You know from here to there, you can see on the label, there is a chili pepper, and you have some brambles around the chili pepper you see, and I have a tattoo there from my shoulder to there. Very very big one, with a very big chili pepper, and with a lot of brambles everywhere exactly like on the label.
Eric: And it’s a real tattoo, you see. You see the way that I am completely involved,
Eric: on the business. And this is the only brand I’ve put on my, on my skin, you see.
Javier: I saw on your Facebook page the UK importer had a tattoo, right on, right on his forehead.
Eric: Yeah, yeah. Most of the people are very, yeah, very involved. Most of the people I work with. Anyway, it’s a funny drink also. It’s funny to drink it you know. It, enjoy the people, you see.
Javier: And so, yeah, so going back to the flavor company, I see that it’s a really high quality favor,, flavor company. It's actually near the town of Grasse. Is that how you pronounce it? Grasse?
Eric: Yeah, Grasse. Grasse is very famous for fragrances and flavors also, food flavors. And it’s more or less the same business when you make some flavors you can make some fragrances. And this is a town very close to Nice and Cannes, dedicated to this, you know. Very, it’s very famous. Most of the big flavoring companies are located in Grasse.
Javier: Yeah, so it’s the company that you are using is in the hometown of all the flavoring companies and the perfume and flavor industry. And so, also the company is certified to meet a lot of international standards regarding the safety of the product. They are also Kosher and Halal certified. They’re also certified to produce organic flavors, so it seems like it’s a very high quality company, flavoring company that you are using.
Eric: Yeah, sure. Exactly like the bottling company, there’s the same certificate. It’s a certificate which are really really important because anywhere you have to provide them when you are, for example filling a listing file when you go in the off-trade. You have to sign a lot of files saying that there is all this certification, you know, that about the healthy, the possibility, the origin of the drink to be sure in terms of bacteria, there is absolutely no problem. So you have to produce and you have to provide all this certificate which you are, in any case, requested by the customs, like by Thailand, like by the FDA, for example, requested by the importers and the distributors, so if you want to make business, and if you want to export for example, and it’s an obligation. If you don’t want, and if you want to stay folkloric, you know, small product, it’s not necessary to work with them. You can make something more, more craft.
Javier: Yeah. And the other thing is, the actual, the water and the liquid that is in this bottle, you use the company, La Licorne?
Javier: Is that how you pronounce it? So that one, the parent company is the Karlsberg Group.
Javier: And this, it’s actually a brewery.
Javier: And it was founded in the 18th’s century. So,
Eric: Yeah, that’s true.
Javier: It’s one of the biggest breweries in France. How did you partner with this company?
Eric: It’s a funny, it’s a funny story. I remember you know, I’ve told you that I’ve been in many many trade shows, particularly dedicated to private label. So, you see, you see a lot of company there for many many services. And I remember that I stopped one time in front of a booth, it was the booth, the stand of La Licorne, you see. They have many many products, many beers and many energy drinks. And there was this small bottle, you see. It was made for a kind of Canadian pre-mix. And I loved it, it was a kind of a love, a love-story, because you know it was something that I’ve seen in the past. In fact, it’s a very old, very very old bottle that many people have seen in France. Something like twenty, thirty, forty years before, but it was known as a green bottle with green glass you see, and not transparent in a white glass as it is. But I liked because it was small and because the beverage was strong I think, I thought it was good and the shoulders are very big, you know. Also, there is something that said, that’s saying, says directly it’s something strong. And I met these people and we had the first contact there in that, in the trade show. And after that we had a lot of contact, you see. And one time I knew that the CEO of this company that I didn’t know, he had a rendezvous, you know, in Paris, and I know exactly where, and I know exactly when. And because I didn’t know him, I decided to see him, you know. And one time, because I have friends in the company, we, I had a lot of contacts, and they told me that this guy, the CEO, were going to be exactly at twelve in front of the street. So, I went exactly at twelve, in front of that street, I met this guy, and I told him: “You don’t know me, but I know you very much and I would like to have, please, please, twenty seconds of your time.” It was exactly in front of a big hotel, it’s like a palace, it’s called Le Meurice, you know, where, where Pimento is anyway. And he was very surprised and he told me: “Why not? I don’t know you. I have twenty seconds.” And I took the guy, and I bring him in the lounge of the hotel. And I had only maybe, yeah, twenty or forty seconds to make the pitch, you know. I had to explain exactly what I wanted to do. And he was like that, with the big open eyes. And it was a first premiere in his life, and at the end I said: “Okay, this is not a dream. This is something that exists.” And I had a small sample of the bottle that the flavorist did in the laboratory. And he tasted. And I was like that, to see, what was going to happen. And finally, it was very silly, you know, in his face, and he told me: “Wow! It’s something incredible. Okay, I play the game.” And saying that, he said that I could produce Pimento in a big factory. And saying that, he said that I could have good price to enter directly in the distribution. And not something which is hand made, very craft, that you can keep in a small shop here and there, you know, because it’s just funny. It was good price to be after, in the real on-trade, for example, distribution. And to be in the good market price, you see. And so it was something really, really, really great. And so after I get back to the people of La Licorne, and we start to produce the beverage, together.
Javier: And so I see, the good thing about La Licorne is, it’s seen as the symbol of purity, right? In France.
Eric: The unicorn?
Javier: Yeah, they market themselves a symbol of purity because of the water in the city of Saverne. It’s supposed to be really pure, right?
Eric: Come on, Javier. It’s the water of Alsace!
Eric: I don’t know if you know Alsace, which is a big area in France, the east of France, you know, very close to Germany. It’s covered by a very big mountain. It’s pure, it’s full of mountains. It’s very wide and it’s very beautiful. And sure, it’s fine, the water is famous and knowns as a very pure water. This is true. This is true. That’s why I scared a little bit when I imagine, for example, bottle a Pimento in another country, like in India, for example, to have a better price for the Indian market. Indian or African, or South American, or Middle East, you know, for the Grand Export, because, I ask myself, what will be the taste of Pimento if I do it in Africa for example, it will be completely different because it’s ninety nine percent of the water, of the, of the beverage.
Eric: Of the liquid, you see. But, but for the moment, it’s true that the water is very pure, sure.
Javier: Yeah. So the water is pure, the natural flavors are pure. You are using the best sugars. So it seems like all the best ingredients possible in this drink.
Eric: And the taste.
Javier: And the taste.
Javier: So I, so I want to go back. Oh, just one other, I’m curious about the production. Is the drink pasteurized during the production? Or, do they do any kind of.
Eric: No, there is. There is a pasteurization. A pasteurization. This is a hot pasteurization and this is a good thing. At first for the healthy process. You know there is no problem with bacteria, so this is a good thing. The second thing is that it gives you a good, a good shelf life. And when you make business, for example, when the bottles take a ferry to go to Australia, for example, with one month and a half of ferry to go, to join Melbourne, you see. I have a big shelf life, something which is more comfortable. This is a good thing. And at the end it’s true that many importers they request, you know, a pasteurization of the drink to be sure that there’s absolutely no problem in terms of bacteria contamination.
Eric: So it’s
Javier: That’s the only kind of safety procedure that you are doing. Pasteurization. Is there something else that you guys do to.
Eric: Generally, when a drink is with carbonitation, you have no problem with bacteria, because it kills everything anyway. But it’s a plus, you know, it's something, it's a benefit, when you have the pasteurization, because you are more than one hundred percent sure that there will be absolutely no problem. And when I give this information to importers or distributors or, why not, off-trade network, it’s, it, they are secure with this, so. And they love this information.
Javier: And so I want to go back to the business side and how you grew the company. So, prior to this, you were also a CEO of a company called Caravan, and
Javier: CEO of Je Veux le Même, which also
Javier: which means “I want the Same.”
Javier: And you also mentioned you were in the advertising industry, so what
Javier: experiences did you learn in business from being the CEO of these companies and in advertising that helped you with Pimento?
Eric: In advertising generally the people they work with many different fields of activities, but they have the feeling that they know nothing. And, and it’s a mistake. This is not true. You know, in fact, a lot of things, a lot of process, and lot of who are the people working together. So, this is something that I used in my past. You know a lot of things, and you can have conversation, negotiation, with many different people in many different sectors of activities. So this is something, yeah, yeah, I’ve learned, I’ve learned in advertising. The fact is that after all it’s a question of, yeah, you want it, you do it.
Eric: And it’s on the way. Are you entrepreneurial? Do you want to open, to open yourself in a fantastic venture. Or do you want securization in your company, which you are just a piece, you see. So, it’s your life. My life, I like this kind of adventure. But this is true that with advertising, because I’ve worked in many many different brands, like Vittel, for example, which is a water from Nestle Group, or Badoit, which is a sparkling water from Danone company. Yes, yes, I, I’ve worked with people of the beverage, and I, but I’ve worked with people of the distribution also, and of the paper, on the PR, and, and so, you can use, finally you use all this knowledge, you use all this experiences, you see, and you know how to do it.
Javier: And, you grew up in France, or you were born in France?
Eric: Yeah, in France, and most, most of my life in Paris, yeah.
Javier: And so, yeah, Paris, it’s known as the capital of fashion and cuisine, and the whole food industry, it’s known for fine foods, and so you, I feel that, you've took the best of what Paris has to offer, and you put it into this drink. Now, now that it’s expanded out to other countries, what kind of reception have you had in the other countries.
Eric: You have to know that this is true that in Paris, that in France, it says, it says things about food, yeah, yeah, it says things about, about, about wines and Champagne, about fashion. But finally, finally, not so much, when you consider the energy you can get in many many many countries, for example. I’ve just spent a few days in Germany, not the last week, but the week just before, at ProWein, which is a very big trade show dedicated to wines and spirits. And there is wine from all over the world, you see, and producers from all over the world, so you have the French producers of wines and champagnes, and it was very traditional, very traditional, authentic and traditional. And I’ve seen incredible proposal, incredible production, from all over the world, from Chile, from New Zealand, from Italy, Spain, Portugal, South America, and it was very modern, very creative, very innovative. So, I’m not sure that in food and beverage, and it’s a pity for me to say that, and that’s why France is something really open to innovative in terms of food and beverage. And this is the reason why it’s very difficult to introduce a new product, a new food and beverage product in France, and this is the reason why also many people start in other countries. And, if I could remake the story, I know that it would be a better ideas for me to launch in UK, for example, or in Holland. This is true that the people from...
Javier: It cut off again. I think it cuts off when you, when you go closer to the screen, but it says that you wanted, you wanted to launch it in Holland or the UK.
Eric: Yeah, if I could remake the story. It could be, it could be better, you know, and faster to develop and to launch at first in the UK, or in Scandinavia, for example, or in Holland or in other countries than in France. In France, as I told you, you have, you have not a lot of products. You have a lot of bread, you have a lot of clothes stores, you see. So it takes time. It’s true that France seems open to gastronomy and food and beverage, but finally, not, not really open to innovation. It’s very traditional. That’s why, today, I’m very happy what happened in France. But today I see, I see some markets like UK, like Scandinavia, Denmark and Sweden, like Holland, like Austria also, Czech Republic, Italy, which are very very reactive and show that they know that it’s a French product, so it helps a little bit in terms of status, but not so much.
Javier: Oh, okay. So, you, the the company, you launched it in 2009, and it’s Pimento SAS, which is Société par actions simplifiée, or how do you pronounce it?
Eric: SRS? Société à Responsibilité. You mean SAS?
Javier: Yes, SAS, Pimento, it’s a "simplified joint-stock company."
Eric: Yeah, because at the Société par simplifiée, but at the very beginning, it was not a SAS, it was a SRL, we say SARL. It is something which is not far from your limited liability company, you know, which is kind of same status. At the very beginning, I wanted to bring something very simple, very easy. And it became SAS in end of 2012, when I made the first fundraising, and then some shareholders came in the capital of Pimento.
Javier: Yeah, so I was just going to ask you, so why did you choose the business structure you did. So in the beginning, it was just to launch the company, and then you changed the, the..
Javier: structure later.
Eric: Yeah because at first when you launch a product, you don’t know if it will be a success or you don’t know if you’re gonna cancel the project, or give up you see. You don’t know. So it’s not necessary to spend a lot of time and money, you see, in the structure of the company with lawyers and staff like that. But after when you have some shareholders that come, you have to build a legal organization of the company that is dedicated to shareholding and fundraising. And the SAS, Société actions simplifiée is something that gives you the possibility to manage shareholders, yeah. At the very beginning, you know, it was as if my, I did not want to put some money inside. And this is true that I got some money from the Serviat. This is one, one of the first project I had. How am I going to produce Pimento if I don’t put a cent in the, in the business, you see. And I’ve discovered that there was a, a king of, governmental agency, it’s called the Serviat. They are like Christmas Daddy, this guy, you see. And I met them in the trade show, and they told me that they were supposed to give subsidies, you know, to the company when they want to launch something, and innovative product in the food and beverage sector in Paris. And bigger area around Paris. There is not a lot of food and beverage in Paris. And they gave me money to do this. And it was very very quick, you know, in terms of process. That means that in the beginning I told myself that with no money, when you want to drink, when you want to make a product, and because I was working in the advertising, in fashion, in another business. I told myself that I will put something like two years to make a bottle of Pimento. And finally, in six months, I got the first pallets. And it's true that the Serviat, this agency, gave me the subsidies to make the ten first pallets. And it takes, yeah, not more than six months. At first, it was the first money I used. And after some people of my family, some friends, it's always the case in many many companies, in many startups, they make a small money, it’s a kind of love money, you see. Just to create something that you can produce, make some tours in terms of POS, you know. Something that you have to with some insurance, some responsibility insurance, something like that. And after, when I have to finance my growth, I met some shareholders in 2012, 2013, and we made the first fundraising, because, because it was a growth crisis, as many people face in business. Maybe you’ve faced this kind of issue also from your own site.
Javier: Yes, so, going back, so yeah, the type of business you’re describing it’s like bootstrapping the company, where you don’t put that much money in, and you’re pretty much reinvesting all the profits that you make back into the business.
Eric: Yeah, sure, sure, sure. But the, but with the crisis, it’s money, the funds that I’ve raised, with small holding. They’re interested on the project, so they gave money, you see. And they became holders, shareholders with me. I’m the main shareholder of the company today because I have the biggest part of the capital, you know, but this is true I have some shareholders with me that I have to respect, and that I have to make, like to give the information. And you know they have helped, they are very active. They help me exactly as partners.
Javier: And so, I just want to go back to the small, the first loan. Was it a loan? Or, that one grant?
Eric: No. It was a fundraising.
Javier: The first company prior to that.
Javier: You said there was an agency, a government agency that provided.
Eric: The very first. No, it was not a loan. It was a gift.
Javier: Oh. How much, how much was it?
Eric: It was not a lot. It was something like twenty or, between fifteen and twenty thousand Euros. That makes something like twenty three thousand dollars.
Javier: So, I’m just. So in total when you first started it, maybe twenty three or twenty five thousand dollars was the initial investment?
Eric: Yeah, at the beginning, yeah, at the beginning. After all, a little bit after, one year after, I’ve put something like thirty, thirty five thousand Euros from my side, you see. It’s something like thirty eight thousand dollars. And one year after, some of my friends and some of my families saw that it was something that could be, become something. And they put, it’s the total amount of something like sixty thousand Euros, so it means about sixty eight or sixty five thousand dollars, something like that, around. And, but but after, I’ve got the first big crisis, you know because, and it’s a war of liquidity. And I need more liquidity because it's a market which is driven by the volume and not by the value. Because the margin is very very very very very low per bottle. It means that you have to sell a lot, a lot, a lot of bottles to make money and to profitable. So, if you make a small margin per bottle, it can be a problem in terms of liquidity, soon, yes, because you have to buy a lot of things. You have to, you have to buy costs, you have to buy insurance, you have to buy transport, you have to buy POS, you have to buy postering, you have to buy things that you are going to put in the bar, like that, like that, like metal plate.
[knocking on table]
Also, many many many things, you see, and it has a cost. And at the beginning when your volume are quite small, sure and if you want to sustain your business you have to get money.
Javier: So, what, when you’re putting that much money into the business, what fears do you have, like, do you fear, did you ever fear that you are going to lose all the money, all the investments you put in?
Eric: No, because you have to be a little bit crazy.
Eric: And maybe you know this.
Eric: But this is true that take, you have to take care with the advices with people, you know that. I don't know how the way it is in California, you know, but in France, for example, it is a kind of national sport, when you say: “I’m going to create this.” And when this is new, you have thousands of people that say: “Don’t do this! It will be a, it will fail. It’s sure. And there are many many reasons.” So you have to take care with the advices that can come everywhere. And you have to be crazy. You have to say: “It will be okay.” And it will be okay.
Javier: Yeah, ‘cause. It does seem like a big, you are taking a big risk, starting
Javier: the company, putting.
Eric: It was not too big, anyway. And when I put my own money and thirty five thousand Euros, it’s not a big amount, you see. And I did this when I was sure that Pimento start to face it’s success. And when I was sure that I have a, I had, I start to have good sales. And when I was sure that the markets start to open your, to open their doors, you see. It was not a risk. It was not my money I put in in the beginning of the story.
Javier: And so, in the first six months, you created those ten pallets, now you had the problem, how did you sell those ten pallets, where did, what were your first customers.
Eric: It was very funny, I remember I was on my bike, or my motorcycle, and I just wanted to, to do everything at the beginning. I wanted to, to understand all the steps, you know, all the levels of the, of the beverage business. So that’s why I have went to see many big palace just to show the bottle, and the people, they say “Aww, it’s a ginger beer.” I didn’t know what was a ginger beer at this time, you see, at the very beginning, and they bought it. And after I have to see, I went to see some bars for youngs people, and they bought it, as a mixer at the beginning, you see. And after I went to see, a kind of very modern, small, retail network, which called Monop in Paris, and I had a listing very immediately, you see, because it was good, the beverage. And I wanted to deliver by myself to understand exactly, you know, what is the best price politic, you know, because you have a lot of step, a lot of scale, you see, in terms of pricing you have to best politic pricing. So I did everything by my own in the beginning, that’s why, you know, in Europe, for example, I, it’s not that I’m famous, but I, I visited, I don’t know, thousands of bars, in every countries, you know, and I’m, I’m famous like and I’m called as Mr. Pimento. And in many many many many bars, thousands of bars, they saw: “Ah, Mr. Pimento,” you see. There is a kind of incarnation. I embody the brand completely. And this is true that I did everything at the beginning because I wanted to know exactly what are the different step. It is better after, when you have to negotiate with wholesales, distributors, network in the off-trade and on-trade business.
Javier: So what, what was the hardest thing for you back then when you were doing everything by yourself?
Eric: It was the question of time, at first, and because it was not for the, it was not for the money, it was still for the fun. It’s all the money that I could get for the sales, I re-put into the production, you know, the production of the bottle and the bottling, also in the POS printing. So doing all this job for quite nothing was not so easy and I have less time to work on advertising, you see. So at this time, it was a, a difficult, yeah, a difficult period to manage, to manage the day. It was really difficult. But this is true that it was my baby. So, when you have a baby, you want to save, to save your baby and you work for it because every day. And it was, for me magical. And it still is the case. Today, honestly, every morning I wake up and I say “Wow, this thing, this stuff, that I’ve created in my kitchen, now it goes, and the trucks, it goes in the, in the containers, you know, in many many, in many countries.” And it’s still something very funny. I don’t have the feeling that I work. Maybe it’s the same for you, for example. I don’t work. I enjoy doing, doing something that I like to do. Because it’s our babies, and you take care, you see.
Javier: And so.
Eric: It was difficult, but it could be more difficult, if I used to do, if I should do this for someone else. That’s sure.
Javier: And so, when you first started out, what success did you have that made you feel, okay, this is going to be a real company? What turning point did you feel, okay, I’m starting to see it pick up?
Eric: You mean.
Javier: So what were some of the early successes that you had that made you feel that you are on the right track?
Eric: Ahh. It was sales, sure. But it was also the case that I seen the eyes of the people when they drink Pimento that it was something that they’ve never felt before, you see. So at the very beginning, sure that you are very, you have to look at the numbers. And you have to be sure that it’s something that can exist in terms of money, in terms of business, also. But in terms of or if it’s important. And, I, I’ve seen that, yeah, something was really positive in the way the people used to appreciate and the position of the people about the drink. It was something really really genuine with many many different people. So I told myself that it was, yeah, yeah, something happened. Something happened. Maybe it’s the time for this kind of drink, you see. And maybe it’s the time for the chili peppers. And maybe it’s time to give a kick with no alcohol inside to the people.
Javier: Yeah. Was, was there ever a time you wanted to quit? Or you felt like it’s going to fail, and maybe?
Eric: Not yet.
Javier: Not yet.
Eric: No, no. Not yet. And after all, when you put, when you put a tattoo on your skin. After, it’s an obligation, yeah, come on. You cannot, you cannot give up after that. It’s impossible. No, honestly, I’ve seen that there is a progression in terms of sold pallet, for example, year after year. Today I send fifty percent more of numbers of pallets every year. So, I did something like two hundred pallets last year, it's something like four hundred thousand bottles. I’m going to make, if everything is okay, something like three hundred pallets this year. And you know, it’s mechanical, you see. So, today, I’m really, yeah, I trust, and I have a lot of trust, considering the progression of the company and the way we are on the, on growth, yeah.
Javier: And so, how big is the company right now? How many employees, and?
Eric: In terms of employees, you have all the employees of Pimento in front of you. Because, I don’t know, it’s a, maybe it’s a question of organization. But I’ve made it a really, I simplified as much as possible the supply chain. So, for example, to make the flavors and to bottle the flavors, it’s something like two or three mens maximum, you see. It goes very, I, I see on the mapping of the order, and the forecast of the different importers, you know. I want them to give me a lot of information about their own forecasts, so I see that, for example, in three months, I will need something like one hundred or fifty or one hundred fifty pallets, for example. So I just send an email to have the flavors, and the flavorists send the flavors directly to the bottling company, and they are doing the beverage. Sometimes I go there, because the chili pepper is not very, very easy to work with, you know. Because sometimes it goes into the air, sometimes it stays closed in the, in the tank. It depends and you have sometimes to do a kind of fine tuning on the chili pepper. And the chili pepper is a flavoring also. So it has an effect on all the other flavors. For example, if you bring down the chili pepper in the Pimento, in the Pimento beverage, you lose all the flavors, because the chili pepper boost the ginger, but boosts also the bitter orange, the lime, the gentian, the oregano, every flavors. So, it is very important to have a good fine tuning. And that is very easy to explain maybe one or two hours in the factory, and this, this is finished. After, I have my logistician, they are doing everything about the way to deliver the importer. And all the importers and distributors I work with, they have their own sales rep. I have a French national distributor, it takes one hundred percent of my production for France. He delivers himself the cash and carry, the wholesales, or he delivers directly the bars, or the networks, or the off-trade network, for example, and he has sales rep everywhere in France. So sometimes I spend a few days with them, or I go up when you make a kind of a commando task action in the Alps, because you have to visit something like one hundred stations in a few days, yeah sure that I spend a few days, a few days with them. But the rest of the time, I push and I help the different importers. And the importers I work with, they have also their own sales rep, you see, I work with something like twenty countries. So, I was in Sweden the other day. On Monday I go in Italy, just to help the Italian importer because we have to negotiate with big accounts thera. And I am going to stay two days, two days enough with him. And yeah, this is my job, and twenty importers is not, is not so big. This is something I can manage. In a few years, I mean in two or three years, this will be difficult, but farther along, I can’t do it.
Javier: So, pretty much, just to say, you are the company. Your, it’s the, only you're the main, the main?
Eric: Yeah. I am, I am the company but many people are working on Pimento in terms of sales because all the people, all the company I work with have sales rep, yeah sure.
Javier: Okay, and so, you talked about growing Pimento. Each, like, you said, you chose to grow Pimento in a national way.
Javier: And the main wholesales in each area deliver the beverage, they have their own sales rep.
Javier: This is the business model that you’re applying to every country that you go into?
Eric: Yeah, in most of, in most of the countries, I say most of the countries we start on-trade, sure, we start on-trade. Because this is a natural nest, you know, for a new drink, for a new beverage. And this is the place you are producing the buzz and the honors. And after you can try something which is more difficult for the beverage, I mean, facing competitors in the, in the off-trade. But at first you work on-trade, and the best way to have a success is to have some agreement and some partnership with the best wholesales. Because if you sell, it’s a good thing. But, it must be easy for the bars to get easily the beverage, and this is the responsibility of the wholesalers. And yeah, I work with wholesalers everywhere in France, but my distributor, he can, he can, he has also the possibility to directly deliver to a bar, for example. It depends on the minimum of quantity that you can,
Eric: that you have to order, yeah.
Javier: And so the strategy that you are using, where the distributor and the wholesaler, they’re also selling on their own, is that typical? Or, is that typical in the beverage industry, for sodas, where, or, are you expected to go do the sales and negotiate for the distributors? Or do you want them to do it themselves?
Eric: This is, there is all the figures.
Eric: Sometimes I have to do it by myself, sometimes they go directly to me. But anyway, I have only one company that I deliver in France. This is my national distributor. After all, he has a lot of product in his portfolio, so he has a natural relation with many wholesalers, and you profit about this, you see. But this is true that at the beginning, it’s not very easy to launch Pimento as a, as a soda, as a soft drink, because you need very very huge budget, and you know, and amounts, in terms of communication to be, to to to be, competitor of Orangina, or Schweppes, or Coca Cola, or Fanta, which are really really big leaders, you see. So, at the very beginning, this is true that we launched Pimento as a mixer, and we launched it as the best mixer there is. And the barmen will love Pimento because they can play with it very easily. They mix it with one hundred percent of the spirits they have behind their bar, you see. And this is true that Pimento is maybe the most versatile mixer you can have in the world. Really. You can mix it with one hundred percent. I have, I have today, and we have made some tests, with one hundred percent of the spirits, including the most difficult one, the difficult one, as some liqueurs that you can get in many countries. So, this is true that most of the importers and distributors I work with at the beginning, they are good in the spirit business. And they sell spirit and they sell also Pimento to mix that. And the barment, they enjoy, they have fun, because it's funny to spice up a cocktail, for example. And at one time, you can be sure that you will have a customer at the bar that will say: “Hey! Come on, what do you put in the glass, you know, with my gin or my vodka?” And the guy says: “Well, it’s Pimento. You want to try. You want to try it neat on the small shot or a glass. Yeah, come on, give me that.” Sounds funny you see, and they taste. And, well, it happens something, so, the barmen are brand ambassador and they help, they help Pimento, you know, to, to be in the fridge at first. And after from the fridge, they go to the bar, and directly to the customer’s throat, you see. And so that’s why, when the importers of spirit, they, sometimes it’s not so easy to have a good partnership with wholesalers. And sometimes they have the obligation at the beginning to directly deliver the beverage. And they deliver Pimento also, you see, because Pimento is not expensive, considering a spirit for, example.
Javier: Yeah, so, we, you mentioned on-trade as well as off-trade. Can you just talk a little bit about the difference between the two?
Eric: Yeah, on-trade means mainly the bar, the bar, the HORECA, hotels, restaurants, cafe business, while off-trade means the supermarkets, as we can say, and the retail, and the retail. And we start generally on-trade because this is, as I said, the natural nest for a new beverage. To, to, to, to to launch, to make visibility, to make awareness, to make the people understand what is the rule of the beverage, when we have, we have the possibility to drink it and why, also. So everything about the knowledge, everything about the behavior, and the, and the fact to understand what is the beverage, it’s rules and it’s value, and the values of the beverage. And after, when you have this buzz, this awareness, this visibility. It’s time. It’s time to go on the off-trade. It’s time to go the off-trade. First, small retail shelf, modern, urban, like liquor store, you see, things like that, or very trendy small supermarkets in the cities, in the corset, in the cities, in the percent of the situees. Then, later, later in the bigger supermarkets.
Javier: And so, yeah, you started with on-trade, and you said, I saw that you’re working with over six hundred HORECA, which is hotel-restaurant-cafe. That’s over six hundred just in Paris, France? Or, in all of
Eric: Just in France.
Javier: Just in France.
Javier: And, you’ve also partnered with the French Association of Barmen, right, and that’s helped?
Eric: This is something that helped, but, and it helped, particularly at the beginning, you know. It gives you a small credibility and small legitimacy, you see. So it means that, when you see a bartender, because it became a real, a real business, a real job, you know. It was something fun in the past, and now it’s a real job. Like the barista for the coffee, for example, like the chef, you know, for the gastronomy. So when you have the help to, of the French Association of Barmen, it gives you, it allows you, and it provides you, this legitimacy, you know, to have real discussion with the bartender and to talk about the benefits of your drink. And it helps. Sure it helps. And this is true that we have many many many relations with bartenders from all over the world. On the website you have something like more or less one hundred of recipes, the website of Pimento, for example. And the recipes are made by European bartenders. And they love Pimento and they’ve made a lot of recipes, yeah, with many many many of the spirits you can get on the markets, so, this is a beautiful relation, and this is a, yeah, a work that I try to do with many many of the bartenders community everywhere in Europe. And I choose the importer, also it’s a criterion, in terms of choice, when they have beautiful relation with this community, because it’s something really important at the beginning to launch the beverage, you see. So, and this is true that the importers, when they are dedicated to liquor and to spirits, they knows, they know how to speak about a beverage. They know how to give it intelligence to a beverage. They know how to make it smart, you see. It’s not the way, it’s not the same in the soda industry, for example, you see. Or, it’s not the same in the water industry. But in the spirit industry, yeah, there is something with a big sensibility, yeah, sure.
Javier: So, how do you define your success in the on-trade business? And how do you know when it’s time to go off-trade?
Eric: It’s time to go off trade when you have too much mail in your computer of people, or phone calls saying: “I want to buy Pimento.”
Eric: “I don’t want to spend a lot of money in the bar.” You know, because it’s expensive in the bar when you want to buy a bottle, it’s always the case. But now, tell me, excuse me, where it’s the computer jumping, tell me where I want to buy Pimento, when you have a big pressure. It is the thing. It’s a joke. It is true that I have presented in many trade shows, and I see a lot of buyers, you see. And central buying companies for networks. And when they begin to be more and more interested about the beverage, it’s some signs you see. When the media, also, you know, speak about the beverage, in B2B, but also in B2C, but in B2B, it means that there is something that happened in the profession, you see, and in the business of the beverage. It can takes time. In France, for example, we are going to launch massively in off-trade, first of June, massively, really. And it takes time. Today, I’m focused one hundred percent of my time, since the end of 2012, 2013, so it’s more or less a little bit more than three years that I’ve focused completely on Pimento. So, and the beverage was launched at first very modestly, you know, in 2009, 2010, so it’s more or less between three and six years, you know, to be, to have the possibility to appear and to be introduced in the off-trade. It’s long. In many of the countries, in Holland, for example, in the UK, Australia, Czech Republic, Italy, it takes something like three years, three years of on-trade before to reach the off-trade. In countries like, Australia, for example, where I’ve been very recently launched, or in Thailand, it’s the case also, people don’t need many time between the on-trade and the off-trade. Why? They know in Australia, they know the ginger beer. This is the mecca of ginger beer, Australia. They have one big very famous trend, I mean, brand, which is Bundaberg, you see. And they sell more ginger beer than Coke, you see. So, if you say that it’s a spicy ginger beer, the people will exactly understand what it is: the values of the product, in the outlet, you see, in the shelf, you see. So, you can launch both at the same time, off-trade on-trade. In Thailand, they know the ginger, they know the chili pepper also, so that they really understand when you see a chili pepper on the beverage, and there is ginger, which is written in really big letters, and you say “very hot drink,” and to understand exactly what is the game. So you can launch also both at the same time, on-trade, off-trade. In Europe, except in the UK, we have the ginger beer that are very very famous, you see. Yeah, you need something like three years. Two, yeah, three years.
Javier: And so why did you launch to new countries? Why not just keep it in France?
Eric: Because at the French market was, was very small, at the beginning. And when I’ve made my first fundraising, my shareholders, they didn’t, they haven’t given me the money, the total amount in one time. They have scheduled, you know, they way to give the liquidity, and every step of the schedule was linked to objectives, to goals, in terms of sales, you see, in terms of volume. And it was very ambitious. And when I see the goals, and the volume that I have to achieve, I told myself: “Wow. In France it will be very really difficult, you see, because, because of all the reasons that I talked before about France.” And this is a reason why I told myself, if I want to achieve these goals, this volume, step by step, I need the exports. And I took my schtick and I took my bottle, and I took my Pimento car, and I went directly to see the other markets, but the social networks helps also, like LinkedIn, for example, it helps a lot, you know, to reach the different importers.
Javier: And so, what was the first country that you went into?
Eric: I think it was Germany at first, because I won a big awards there, in Germany, and it helps. It gave me a kind of window of awareness, and I remember that. Sometimes, sometimes it’s very funny fortunately, because in Germany I know that it was a young lady, she had a bar in Berlin, you know, and she went to Paris, and she have discovered the beverage in a bar, a cocktail bar one night, and she came back to Berlin and she has called the wholesalers which used to deliver the beverage everyday and she said: “Hey, there is a bottle. I want this bottle.” So the wholesaler, he was not an importer, so he has contacted an importer, and it was just for one bar, you know, in Berlin, and finally, she didn’t order.
Eric: That importer, the wholesaler has contacted an importer, the importer has contacted me, and I say, okay there is a minimum of quantity to order, it’s one pallet. Wow, for one bar, it’s a little big.
Eric: But they say okay. We tried. I sent some samples. In terms of price, it was okay, it’s in the market in terms of cost. So he took one pallet, and I told him: “Okay, come on. I know it’s big, if you only have one bar to deliver at the very beginning, but if you are okay, I come to Berlin, I spend two or three days there. Give me the name of the details of the bar you daily deliver, and I’m going to visit them, all of them, to make a tasting of Pimento. And if they are okay, you can deliver.” And the guy said “Okay. Do it.” So this is the way it has started in Germany. But Germany is not biggest country in terms of sales, but it’s something important.
Javier: So, what is the biggest country in sales?
Eric: Today it’s still France. And it will be important because I have a big, big, big listing in the, with Monop. It’s very fresh. It’s very new. It’s not haut prix. But it was the case, it was something, one relation, but it’s Monoprix, which is one of the biggest retail chain with very modern supermarket, they have three hundred supermarkets in the core centers of every big town of France. It’s an absolutely superb opportunity, and it’s going to really boost the sales. And I have a second liquor store chain, with this ideas to take Pimento in a few days. So it’s going to be a lot of volume, but I can say Pimento is today something like 30% of the sales, France, sorry, excuse me, is thirty percent of the total sales, and seventy percent are the exports. But France is the oldest market I’ve tried to reach. And all the markets export, I mean, small export, European export, I’ve start in 2013, so it’s two years, three years, you see, so that’s why this start, that I see from the beginning, they start really really fastly, you see, and this is the reason why I think that in one year, in one hear and half, in Holland, in the UK, in Scandinavian, I make, we will make bigger sales than we actually do in France, because it goes very very very, very quickly.
Javier: So, you're saying, which one is the biggest of the exports?
Eric: After France?
Eric: Today, Holland.
Javier: And it’s because they go very fast, you’re saying, in the sales.
Eric: Yeah, there is a big culture of the spirit in Holland. You know. They love, they love, this beverage. And they love the spirits. They love the liquor. They love innovation. I think, between you and I, I think that Amsterdam is one of the most modern cities in the world, you know, in terms of fashion, in terms of concept, in terms of beauty, in terms of art, in terms of exhibition, in terms of food, in terms of places, design, they go, yeah, very, in the world, let’s say Europe.
Javier: And so you said Amsterdam, right?
Eric: Yeah, yeah, yeah, precisely. And we, and it helps. So they are very sensible and very close to innovation, that’s why, and they like to, they like the beauty in their glasses also, you see. So, so, this is a very reactive, but I know that we are working very actively in the UK, because in the UK, they love ginger beer and they love chili pepper, much more in Holland, you see. In the UK, did a, we have a different strategy, we go make a lot of markets, for example, because you have a lot of festivals everywhere in the UK. You have a lot of chili festival, beverage festival, taste festival, market festival, food and beverage festival, everywhere. And the importers thought that it was not necessary to spend a lot of time to be in the bar because you have many many ginger beer and the fight is too big. But, as Pimento is the only one, only ginger beer with chilis, full of chili pepper, and knowing the special, intimate relation the British with the chili pepper. They said that we can go directly to the consumer, not through the bar, I mean, not through the on-trade. And the festival, and the wholesalers directly, to, and the liquor stores are maybe the best network. And it’s, it’s true, and it works. So we have adapted a really specific strategy for the, for the UK because it is a specific country with a very old relation with ginger beers.
Javier: And so, when a new importer wants to import your beverage, or, and when you are going into a new country, are you actively finding these importers, or do they find you? How do you, how do you guys find each other?
Eric: Both. I say both because today most of the importers, they know Pimento. So, most of the liquor stores, the importers of spirits, they try to have a ginger beer, they try to have a mixer, or two, or three, or four. So now Pimento is on the table of many of the negotiation of the importers. Am I going to take a ginger beer from Pimento, am I going to take the one from Fever Tree, or from Bruce Cost, from the US, Breed, or a Fentimans, of Thomas and Reed’s, so, or Bundaberg, why not. So I know you know you have some proposals. They have their own some skills, their own specificities, so they know. And this is true that sometimes I go to reach directly an importer. But the beverage has a beautiful awareness in terms of B2B today, and the visibility, the export visibility is good. And this is true that 100% of the importers I work with, they present Pimento in their own trade show. You know, you have a trade show, for example. I work with Spain, now, it’s very fren, it’s a very fresh news. And you have at the end of a very big trade show, one of the biggest in the Southern Europe, it’s called Alimentaria, at barcelona, for example. So we are going to present Pimento and to design their booth, you know, with the Pimento colors. So, the presence of Pimento in many many trade show, yeah, boosts the awareness of the brand. So, it’s, it’s both, you know.
Javier: So, as you mentioned that the importers they have their portfolio of other ginger drinks. Now, if they are going to pick ginger, if they are going to pick Pimento, why would they pick Pimento over one of the other ones?
Eric: They try to have one. Honestly, they try to have only one ginger beer. But sometimes, you have some importers, and I did, I said, okay, when it’s a good one, only when it’s a very good one. And, I mean, very active, very nimble when you want him to go fast, when he has a good legitimacy, a good credibility, and sometimes they prefer to have two options. One classic ginger beer and one specific ginger beer like Pimento, that is, that can be drunk mixed, but also as a soft drink, because, many many of the ginger beers are not good soft drinks, they are only good to mix, because they are very thin, they are very bitter and it’s not good to drink neat, you know, on the rocks. As Pimento is something which is not only ginger, this is a real soft drink, very, with fruit, with lime, gentian, bitter orange and food like that. So sometimes an importer want to have the, the two options. For example, I work with an importer that I love very much, it’s Jamier Magnussen, in Sweden, for example, they have Fentiman’s, which is a classic ginger beer, you can make a classic Moscow Mule with vodka, or a classic Dark and Stormy option, but they have an other option, it’s Pimento, when you want to make an explosion in your Moscow Mule or when you want to boost your Dark and Stormy, or when you want something really strong with no alcohol inside but that makes a big fiery effect, you have Pimento. So we have proposed the both, the both, and I can accept this, only if the importer is good, I mean, and active.
Javier: So tell me more again, what is your ideal importer, the profile of the ideal importer?
Eric: Wow, it’s a human. It’s human.
Eric: I mean, it’s a question of matp, you see. It’s important because it’s something that is, the guy you’re going to deal with is going to take your baby.
Eric: So it’s kind of babysitter, you see, and you have to trust your babysitter because it’s very important. So at first it’s a meeting between people, you see, and if you feel trust, the trust, and if you feel comfortable with them it’s a good thing. The nest in which your beverage will be, I mean the portfolio, is absolutely very important because it’s better to be in trendy beverage, you see, universe, than in beverage that you don’t feel, you see. So, it’s very important. The way the importer and their skills in on-and off-trade both are very very very important, you see. So, I don’t just want a message saying that we are very good in both on/off trade. Okay, yes, yes, but tell me the list of the wholesalers you are working with, really, and tell me which brand of your portfolio have a listing in that wholesalers just to have some proof to be sure you know because sometimes you have the importers, they are very very very active and at the end finally, there is nothing, finally, in the business. So, you have to be sure that their skills, the networks is okay, and after you have to be sure also you have real sales reps, and not fake ones, because it exists, and you have to, it’s a big responsibility, an importer. Because he has the responsibility of the bottle from my warehouse to the shelf counter, you know, the outlet. And I want to be sure that everything will be managed by sales guy, town by town, city by city, state by state, wholesaler by wholesaler, bar by bar, with people involved, active and intelligent, you see. And that they can do business being smart, yeah, and clever. And if they have that, they can understand the beverage and they can understand the numbers of the faces of the beverage, you see, because there is a different way to appreciate and to drink the beverage, it was one of your first questions, you see. The young, the adults, the ethnics, but you have other people that like, the restaurant, for example, they like, they like to propose Pimento because it is something which is a natural good accompaniment with many of the world’s food’s cuisine, for example, you know, from South American, Middle East, Scandinavian, Asian. So, the people, they have to understand what are the faces of Pimento and the networks they are going to use, the different networks they are going to use to achieve this. So, I give you a lot of food, you know, I give a lot of knowledge, I give a lot of experiences that I have in my life with many many many countries, you see, in terms of politicking prices, in terms of cross-brandings, in terms of partnership, in terms of wait, where ship is goal. But I need to be, yeah, understood, and I need them to understand the bottle, you see.
Javier: And so, you do a lot of hands-on work with the importer, you’re giving them a lot of support and training and resources?
Eric: Yeah. Yeah. He has to know it is not only a bottle, it’s a guy, it’s a company, it’s people. So I give a lot, yeah, I give support, you know, in terms of POS, for example, for the bars and things like that, but I’m, I give a lot of time and I give, I’m very involved. And I want, and I want the guy, I want him to feel that I’m very involved because if he feels that I don’t care, finally the pallet will be, will stay in the warehouse, and it happens, nothing. Because it’s very easy to not sell Pimento.
Eric: Really. Really. Everybody can do this.
Javier: Well, what’s the biggest challenge that the importers face, or, what’s one of the first challenges that they face when they are a new importer and they are trying to sell Pimento?
Eric: The biggest challenge is to organize the sampling of Pimento. Pimento is, as I said at the beginning, is very unique you know, you don’t have another beverage that produces this kind of kick, this kind of feeling, you see. So, you have to make, to organize, a big scale tasting and sampling operation. This is something which is complicated in terms of business also, because you give bottles. And if you give bottles, it is not only one bottle or one pack, if you want for example to sample the whole business population of country, it’s, it’s one pallet or many pallets, you see, that you have to give. But this is something I take at my charge, and this is the reason why the business is so difficult, you know, in terms of margins. But he has to organize the importer the sampling, so he has, you need people you see, you need people and at the beginning if it is not a real, a real importer with real teams with real sales, he won’t be, he won’t do this business because it means you have to visit many many bars, many clubs, many restaurants, many wholesalers, you have to organize a sampling, you have to, to explain the beverage, you have to, to, to teach the people the way to sell, you know, Pimento, you have to explain them the way they are going, they are going to make money, you know, and they are going to be rich with Pimento. So, it’s something sometime which is very very wide, you see, this, this kind of thing. And this is true that you have to do not only once, but not only twice, you have to do it many times. Because it happens a lot of time that I go to a bar for example and they say: “Oh! Mr. Pimento. How are you? How are you?” I say: “Everything is okay,” so we discuss, and I say: “Okay, come on, do you have Pimento?” “I know we don’t have any Pimento in the fridge.” “Ah yes, why?” “Because we sold everything.” “Ah, you sold everything, you sold the whole stock?” “Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah we sold it.” “Ah okay, and the client was okay?” “Ohh yes, yes, we made a lot of cocktails, it was very funny. The customers they love Pimento.” “Ah yes, and you made money with Pimento?” “Ah yes, of course, because when you spice up a Moscow Mule or a Dark and Stormy or a spiced Mojito, for example, you charge one Euro or two Euros more.” “So you make money on this? Okay, and you don’t have any Pimento in the fridge?” And they say “No.” “Ah, okay so, you buy, you bought a stock of Pimento, the client was very happy, you sold everything and you made money. And you don’t have any Pimento? It means that you don’t place a new order?” “Uh, yes, this is true.” And I say: “But why?” And the guy say: “But you didn’t came?” And I say: “Come on! Come on! I cannot be there every time.” “Yes, but it’s not only this, we have problem with the police, the administration, with the people with too, too, too, who take too much booze, you know, on the street and we have the lot of problems and things like that, okay.” “Okay, okay. You want a new order?” “Yes, you are there, so we take, we take it.” So it means that it’s a day to day to day to day and every day work, you see. And this is the responsibility of the importers, and this is the responsibility of the importers, and the responsibility of the wholesaler is going to work with. That’s why you have to have a beautiful relation and beautiful contact with the wholesalers who are, which are going to, to deliver and to re-deliver and to push the bar and to push the bar. And at the end, there are honors, try comes, and the buzz comes, you know, step by step, you see. This is the big challenge. So it means people and it means energy.
Javier: And so the importers themselves and the wholesalers, they’re the brand ambassadors for Pimento?
Eric: Yeah, yeah, sure. They are, they are the owners of the brand. So, somewhere, you see. So sometimes, I get, I get, I get, I get them many element of language, you see, so they, as they could be a producer, you see, and I, and I push them like to take a kind of intimate appropriation, you see. And I want them to consider Pimento as their baby, as their own baby you see. But this is true that I mainly work with people that deeply love the drink, really deeply, not only “Yeah, it’s good. Okay I can sell it.” No. No. I take people that very completely involved. It’s a crazy beverage, you know. It’s a crazy beverage, it’s something radically new. It’s good and it makes something. And we can also sell our spirits with Pimento and sell more of our spirit. Because we make perfect sale, you see. You can make a deal between, I don’t know, Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum or Pimento, you know. My distributor in France is a distributor of Beluga Vodka, for example. So we have created some specific Moscow Mule that the people, yeah, love very much. My importer in Italy, he makes Remy Martin Gin, which is very famous in Italy, he has invented something like an Italian Mule, you know, with his gin and Pimento. So you can create perfect sale, but it means that you have to be really involved, and it means that you have to, to love beverage, liquid, I mean, the liquid.
Javier: And so are the importers and the wholesalers, they're financing all the expos and all the tradeshows and all the free giveaways, they finance that, they're giving away free product? Or, are you giving them the free product and possibly financial resources for them to go promote it? Or are they using their own money to promote Pimento?
Eric: I give the free bottle. It’s a, it’s not so easy, but it’s my, it’s my responsibility. So, I have a, on the, on the, on the pricing politick, I have a chapter, a clause that says: “Here is a free bottle validation that you will have for the first, the second, and the third year.” Of course, it decreases, you see. But it’s a big amount at the end, and you know that the margin is not very big in the bottle, you see. But when you give, when you give many free bottle education you know for, for all the sampling the tasting operation and for the promotion of the brand you see, it brings down the margin. So at first it’s not profitable, the first year, for example, in export. It start to be at the second year or the third year. So I give the free bottle. In terms of trade, trade show marketing we did for the trade show, honestly I work with, yes, medium or big companies and big spirits and famous spirits, you see, and honestly they don't ask me for money for trade show. They take Pimento as a mixer, they use it, they show it. But this is true that most of the booth for example and the stand are paid by the, by the big spirits company. And it’s something, it’s a kind of exchange you know, that we have together. But the free bottles is something that I give at 100%, not only for the sampling, but also for the promotion, because they have to promote their first order. For example, when you open a new bar, you buy 10 boxes of Pimento and you give 3 extra boxes for free, for example, because you have to boost you know the launching. And this is something that I pay. I offer this.
Javier: So, I understand it’s not profitable for you the first few years, but for the importer, do they see profits right away?
Eric: Yes. Yes. He won’t lose any money, but he’s not going to make a lot of money because he knows that it will be difficult at the beginning because you have to, because you don’t, you make a very, yeah, a small margin. But he knows that if there is a success with a very competitive product which is very unique with a, with a unique benefits, it can be something really important. And he knows that in two or three years after, he can go off-trade, and off-trade it can be absolutely good for the volume and the money.
Javier: And so, are these importers exclusive importers? Or can you have more than one importer in a country?
Eric: No, I don’t, I, I, in 100% of the countries I have one importer. I have one importer, and after this importer is sell to many different distributors or wholesalers, it depends. But if you, if you have different importers it can be a mess
after. You know, you have a lot of problems in many countries when you, when you start to have many importers because they can buy and sell and this is something you cannot manage. And you don’t understand why you have, I don’t know, for example, a bottle with a German back-label, which is sold in Italy, you see, and you don’t understand why because, after it’s a real mess in terms of pricing. So just to be sure to manage and to know exactly and to make easily the sourcing of each bottle you have to control, you know, the way it’s, the importation. That’s why it is important to have one importer. If you have two importers, after you have two different prices, and it’s going to be a real mess, you know, particularly when the wholesalers are under a national organization, I mean a network of wholesalers. So if you have different importers, you have different price, selling price, and after it’s a mess you cannot control, and you have only problems after.
Eric: So, it’s a very, you know, wholesalers are very male organization. So you have to be really sane in terms of cost and sourcing.
Javier: And so have you ever had any turnover of an importer where they were your importer and then they decided not to be it and you needed to change to a new importer?
Eric: Fortunately, it’s very, it’s, it’s extremely rare, you see, rare, sorry. And it’s a, and it’s a good thing because it’s a problem. It’s very difficult to have a second chance in the market, you see, because it’s difficult, you know. People know that it comes from a bad, bad first experience which has failed, you see, so it’s not a good image. And it happens in my life two times. And two times it was because I’ve made a mistake myself. I’ve chosen a, a distributor which was alone, but the guy was so excited, so full of energy, so seduced by Pimento, that I thought that the guy could make something as I did myself, and finally, he didn’t. Wow, so, so I had to chance. I had to change it.
Javier: What happened in the other example? You said there were two examples.
Eric: The same. It was in UK, the UK and in Hungary. And it was just a one guy. It was not a big, it was not a real company, a real company, a real importer. And I thought that in these two cases, the guy could do everything, you see, but finally, was not the case. And I had an example, but it was a decision we take both, the importer and myself, which was not so good. It was a kind of mist, mistake. It was in the US. But maybe.
Javier: Oh, okay.
Eric: Maybe we will talk later about this, but yes, in the US, I have to find a new importer. I have to find a new partner.
Javier: Yeah, so, let’s talk about that. So in the United States, Pimento is here, and there’s still, there’s still Pimento’s here, possibly 250 cases in the entire country, so let’s say 5,000.
Eric: It’s too big. It’s to take care. It’s too big.
Javier: Oh, okay. So there’s still Pimento in the country and it’s getting harder and harder to get, but let’s go back. So, Pimento’s in the United States. It was approved by the FDA. It came in 2014, right? In the United States? So, it’s been almost two years. Can you talk about Pimento in the United States.
Eric: Yeah, I’ve got a contact with a, with an importer there. And, the name of the holding of this importer, it’s a, I can give the name, I have absolutely no problem. It was Epicurean French Beverages, and they import many sodas, ciders, waters from France. And but he, and it’s a guy which is, who is very nice, you know. He lives in Atlanta, the mecca and the city of the soda, you see. And he, he loves Pimento very much. It was really fully involved and, and made a lot of trade show and he faced a lot of success with Pimento, but he was completely and 100% focused on off-trade business, and at the end, at the end, you understand that you have to follow the traditional way to launch a product. It means that you have at first, at first, to have the trust of the people of the on-trade business to be sure and to face the success in off-trade. It’s always the case. I thought, and we thought, both of us, that it could be not the case in the US. We thought that the knowledge of the ginger drinks that have many of the people of America could make a success directly in off-trade, but it wasn’t the case. So we have to restart in on-trade with distributor that have a, a good skills on this kind of network. And re-work with distributors and wholesalers in on-trade. So that’s why we have decided to stop the partnership together, you know. It’s better to stop as soon as possible before to be in the many many supermarkets and when it doesn’t work, really really really really great, because it's very difficult to come back in a supermarket. So when we have seen that it was not the good network and it’s very more efficient to go on the on-trade, we decided to stop the collaboration. So that’s why now you have, yeah, a few pallets here and there: in Atlanta, you have some in Massachusetts I think and California you have some also, but it’s quite nothing. And I don’t, I do that I’m I’ve actively, actively looking for a new partner and new importer in the US, this time with good skills in on-trade, but it means that after, in the second half, in the second step, we will go, and will go back to off-trade.
Javier: And so, when you made the first introduction into the United States were you in restaurants? I mean not restaurants, were you in supermarkets, and?
Eric: Yeah, they start, they start. But after, you see, you, you makes, you make for example, sampling in the trade show in New York, for example. In New York where you have many people professional from the beverage, you see. And you have the buyers, or the manager, for example, of this retail chain, for example. And they taste. And they say: “Wow, it’s super good. It’s super new, super good.” So, after, everything is managed by the different supermarket, you see, in terms of quantities, in terms of orders. And when you have absolutely, absolutely, no awareness, no buzz, no visibility of the brand, it’s impossible that the manager of the responsible of the drink or the beverage shelf in the supermarket order a beverage that he doesn't know, you see, that he has absolutely no image, never tasted the beverage, he don’t know exactly what is this. He just see Pimento. It means nothing, you see. So, so that’s why you have to come back to the on-trade, yeah?
Javier: Is it going to be hard, to come back to the United States, to make a second first-impression?
Eric: It’s so big, the United States. I think nobody knows what happened, you know. It’s not a small market in a small country. It’s very big, you see. So when you see the scale of the, really, of the country, I have no problem. I think that, nobody saying in the US, “Oh, there was an experience of Pimento and it has been really unsuccessful.” And, no, I think it doesn't exist there. Maybe just a small cloud of buzz, that can help, on which we can build something, yeah sure. More somthing like this than a negative points, you see.
Javier: Okay, so, if someone is looking to be an importer, how can they get in contact with you?
Eric: This is something more than easy. He can, for example, maybe he has internet, and maybe he can write, you know, the URL of the website of Pimento, which is www. Pimento Drink, in one word, .com. And maybe he will click on the window where it’s written “Contact,” and my email address will appear. And if he click on the email address, wow, something magic will happen. He will send me an email saying: “I’m interested on Pimento. Give me back, thanks to get back to me with more information and details of the, of the, on the drink. I am importer or distributor of the, in beverage.” And so this very something, very easy. Or, and maybe he can get back directly to you, and you will have the pleasure to forward my details.
Javier: And, alright so, we’re coming to the close of the interview, and so if you’re an importer and you want to try bringing Pimento to the US market, I would recommend doing it. It’s a very good drink. It goes well with mixers, and you heard the story, you know how the business started, you met Eric. But, so I want to, as I mentioned, there’s only a few Pimento’s left in the country, and I want to do a special promotion for people who want to buy the remaining Pimento’s. So, if you go, if you’re in the United States, you can get it from SpecialtySodas.com, and as a surprise gift for watching this interview, I’m going to give you a discount. So, the discount code will be Dalsace, so.
Javier: D, it will be your last name. So,
Eric: I’m very honored, you see.
Javier: If someone goes to the website, Specialty Sodas, and purchases Pimento Drink, at the checkout, if they put Dalsace -- D A L S A C E -- they’ll receive a special discount on their order so that we can try tasting the beverage again before it gets reintroduced back into the county, so if you want to try it, you can get it from Specialty Sodas.
Now, the next thing, I just want to ask you a few general business questions. What is the best piece of advice you’ve received, while you were, any point, but, at any point in your life, but that has helped you grow the business?
Eric: Wow. I think I haven’t. I only got bad. You mean the advices that I’ve got from other people?
Eric: I think I only received bad advices.
Eric: Saying: “Don’t do this. Don’t do that. Don’t do this. Don’t do that. You will lose money. You will lose time. You will lose friends. You will lose family. You will lose love.” So, I think you don't have to take care too much about advices. One time you have an idea, and yeah, one time, you want it to be real, and concrete. And it’s a question of, it’s a bloody question, you see. And it’s something vital. And you have to do it. And you will learn from your mistakes, a lot, a lot, a lot. So, I could tell to the people that it’s not a good thing, really, to take too much advices, you see. But anytime you have to do the things, it’s, it’s not, it’s not difficult at the end. It’s really funny. But we have to do the things. We have to things become real, and we have to dare, because it’s, because it’s really funny. And because we have only one life. So, so, do the thing, and dare, because it change, it change, it change your life. So this is, every advice is about this kind of, you know, idea, this is something that I take for my fool, you see.
Javier: And so, would there be any advice that you would give to another person starting their beverage company? Or, giving it to yourself, now that you know what you know, if you go back 5 years or 7 years from now, what would you have wanted to know, starting your company?
Eric: It's something, I think that it’s not only for beverage, it’s for product, you know. I think that you have, you have to be sure that there is a rule for a product. What is the rule of my product? It means also the question, which is: “What is, what could be the lack of, in the market if my brand wouldn't exist?” You see. Just to be sure that there is a rule, that to be sure that people can use your product as something to help them. And if you don’t ask your question: “How can I help the people with my product, and which way my product is going to help?” And to feel a lack somewhere. If you don’t ask you this question, or if you ask this question and you don’t have any reply, it’s not good for your product, it’s not good for your brand because you need to have a rule in the life, and you need to help the people. After, it’s a question of product, a kind of identity of product, identity of the targets, and if you can max, mix, and match and marry this two people because you see that the product is a reply to the needs of a specific targets, it means that something can, yeah, be on Earth. And it can be your product, you see. So, and after all, everything is good sense, honestly. The good sense is, yeah, I have a product, these people need them, I’m going to try to get the way to make the relation between the two, you see. It’s good sense that, and it’s good sense, and you have to push. One thing which is, yeah, difficult to do at the beginning is to push and push and re-push and push. And, I don’t know the way it is in the US, but for example, there is a national sport in France, for example, that the people that don’t take the telephone, you know. You’d call but they don’t reply. You leave one message, two message, three, ten, twenty, one hundred, two hundred, and they don’t reply. As, for example, they have the feeling that if they reply, they are weak, you see. You have them.
Eric: So, so, it’s, yeah, you have to push, and you have to do this kind of thing, but at the end, yeah, it pays. So, so, be sure that you help the people, be sure that your product can help, and be sure that you are strong enough to push and push the doors just to make this link, this relation you see.
Javier: Okay and so our final question. What is your favorite Pimento mix, either a cocktail or a mocktail?
Eric: Come on, Javier! You know, you know I don’t drink any booze
Javier: No, mocktail.
Eric: and you ask it.
Javier: Mocktails too!
Javier: You can mix it as a mocktail, right?
Eric: Yeah, I do it in a mocktail. No, I like it when it’s, when it’s neat, you know, pure. But I always put some lime. This is crazy. If you put some lime in Pimento, the chili pepper is going to push, to boost the flavors of the lime, so it’s completely change and modify the taste of the beverage with a strong effect of lime, and the chili pepper has a, something which is quite strong, you know, the kick appeals less violent, and less big, when you put some lime in the glass. And it’s absolutely superb. With booze, you know some, it’s very difficult because, you know, I’ve drank a lot, you see, and I've spent a lot, big time of time my life to go in bars, you see, selling a mixer, you know. So many, many, sometimes, many bartenders, many mixologists, they want me to taste their creation, because they are very proud sometime. Sometimes they tell me: “Oh, come on Eric. I’ve got a rum which is very, extremely rare. I got it from a truck, you know, it’s not something very clean, and it’s very kind of contraband, you see. You have to taste this.” But I cannot. So I put it on my, only on my palate, you see, on my tongue, and after [spit it out]. I’m not very proud of this, but he knows. And they, I say: “Come on, you know, I don’t drink booze.” “Ah, yes, I forgot. But just put one drop, please, one drop on the palate, so, on the tongue, you know.” So I do it. Anyway, my favorite, I mean, I talk about one drop on my tongue: is a good Dark and Stormy. I mean, this is a very old cocktail. Some people say that it’s born in the UK, some of the people some say it’s born in the Caribbean cocktail, some people say that it’s born in Australia. Anyway, it’s very easy to do. You take a very good one-third of spiced rum, the best as possible, two-thirds of Pimento, a lot of ice, and squeeze the lime inside, and I know that the people, the bartenders from Australia, they just put a dash of angostura around this, to make a, a kind of bitter note, a bitter notes, you see. It’s very easy to do. It’s very refreshing. It’s very aromatic. It’s very flavored. It’s light. It’s for male, for female, for young, for old people. It’s a, it’s an easy cocktail and it’s absolutely full of taste, and it’s, and it’s sexy. So, yeah, this is something, like, I could drink. Sometimes I put one half drop on my tongue.
Eric: Once a year, when it’s Christmas.
Javier: Oh, Christmas, okay.
Javier: Alright, so, once again, this is Eric Dalsace from Paris, France, founder and CEO of Pimento and creator of the spicy Pimento Drink. It’s a, it’s the French alcohol-free spicy ginger drink made with ginger, tonic and hot pepper flavors, perfect both neat or mixed. And, you’ll love the kick that it gives you.
Javier: So, thank you Eric for being here. And thank you everyone for being a part of the Specialty Sodas Podcast. Bye for now.
Eric: Thank you. Thank you Javier. See you soon. Buh-bye.
Javier: Alright, thank you.
- I saw that you may be working with Franprix, which is a grocery store chain in France and headquartered in Paris. How did you begin the working relationship with Franprix? Also, why do you believe that now is the time to launch an off-trade channel in France?
- What are some of the challenges you are facing now as you prepare to launch an off-trade strategy?
- In addition to your beverage being sold through on and off-trade channels, what else do you do to actively promote the brand?
- Are you doing any kind of social media marketing? I see that there are at least three official Pimento Drink Facebook pages, one for France, the UK and the Netherlands. Is each one managed separately? How has this strategy been working out?
- What other kinds of marketing are you doing to help promote the product?
- I see that Pimento has received numerous accolades such as: a Beverage Innovation Awards Finalist for best new adult or gourmet drink (Drinktec Fair in Munich, Germany) in 2009, a Great Taste Awards Gold Star Recipient (Guild of Fine Food in London, England) in 2010, a finalist in the Innovation Contest Food Cervia (Regional Centre of recovery and agriculture and food innovation, Paris, France) in 2010, a Silver Medal at BevStar Awards in New York City in 2015. Pimento has aslo had very positive responses in trade shows such as the Parisian SIAL (Salon International de l’alimentation, or the The Global Food Marketplace) tradeshow, the world's largest food innovation exhibition. Pimento has also won 1st place in ginger beer blind taste testing competitions such as Drinks & Style in Switzerland, Three of Strong in Spain. It has also been mentioned in the press (TV, radio, print magazines and newspapers) as well as online blogs. What are you doing to garner this kind of attention to the brand? Have you hired a public relations agency or a marketing firm or is all this this growth coming organically? Also, have you seen any measurable results from this kind of attention?
- What plans do you have for the company in the next few years?
- What is the process for introducing a beverage into a new country? Were there any unexpected challenges you faced? What is the hardest thing that you encountered when going into a new market?
- What do you expect out of a new importer? (Do they need to organize their own cross-branding operations or perform their own on or off-sales marketing strategies?)
- Is there minimum order quantity and is there a re-order requirement for importers?
- Are there any business books that you would recommend?