Meet the innovators making eating your drink a reality
The Innovation team at Instinctif harness the best of the future to deliver market-leading ideas in the present. The team’s specialism spans digital strategy and marketing, data & analytics, and strategic brand. This fortnightly update shares top tips to help you foster creative and challenge the status quo and summarises the news that matters.
|Innovators we love: Smith & Sinclair
As half of alcoholic sweet alchemist duo Smith & Sinclair, Emile Bernard has made eating your drink a reality.
From Long Island Iced Teas to Whisky Sours, the brand’s edible cocktail sweets (like oversized, grown-up Fruit Pastilles) have proved popular, and what started as a small, edible icebreaker for the pair’s casual board game dating nights with friends-of-friends across London has grown into a scene-changer in the world of food and drink.
This week we catch up with Emile to find out about life as a cocktail confectioner and serial sweet innovator.
Hi, Emile! First things first – how did you become the Willy Wonka for grown-ups?
Originally myself and co-founder Melanie hosted a board game dating night in central London, which was centred around getting people together to play games, have fun and interact with those around them as a way to meet a potential partner, pre Tinder times!
We noticed that the bar was creating a bottleneck as people wanted to grab a drink first and that a glass in the hand also meant the games were harder to play, so we decided to make edible alcoholic cocktail gummies, that you grabbed in a bag as you walked around the room, like a grown up pick ‘n’ mix. The gummies soon became more popular than the dating night and, spurred on by multiple private orders for the gummies, we set up a stall at Berwick market, where we were spotted by the marketing team at Imbibe Live who put in a large order to use us as part of a mail out campaign they were running and the brand grew from there. We decided to set up Smith & Sinclair and keep the focus on incredible cocktail product innovation and experiential activations, and we’re still doing it six years later!
Your brand is built on invention and thinking differently – where do you get your inspiration?
I am a chef by trade so I have the basics nailed. The rest has been learnt by having an inquisitive mind and doing a huge amount of reading. I’m inspired by chefs who push boundaries, Charles Michel in particular.
I research future trends, with a real focus on flavour as well as consumer behaviour, follow cultural food & drink innovations as they land, as well as science. This allows me to formulate ideas and also ensure I can deliver against briefs set by clients, as half our business is brand partnerships, so it’s not always our own personal product innovation we are working on.
Experiential events and products have been popular for a while – what do you think the ‘next big thing’ is, in a post-COVID world?
I think we’ll see a rise in ‘at home’ experiences with people entertaining and hosting more elaborately at home. With businesses now potentially not going back to a traditional 9-5 office culture, team-building and even the traditional ‘Friday drink after work’ may be replaced by online cocktail masterclasses and Zoom pub quizzes.
We have launched several virtual cocktail masterclasses via our website and Design My Night; they’re proving to be really popular both with consumers and also businesses who are looking at new ways to keep their work force engaged and do something fun with a team that aren’t with each other.
We’ve also seen a huge sales spike in our own product ranges as people look to create more elaborate cocktail moments at home and send gifts to loved ones they are missing, especially our ‘birthday at home’ kits. I think experiential brands that evolve to offer smaller classes or create full ‘at home’ packages that lean on digital as well as doing something at home could do really well whilst we get adjusted to what a ‘new normal’ is and its encouraging how many briefs we are seeing come through as brands become more agile. We love experiential, it’s in our heart and we want to support its continued growth.
Have you come up with any innovations that haven’t worked?
We’ve been very fortunate that everything we’ve made has worked to date. We don’t make a huge amount of new products each year which allows us the time needed to get it right (famous last words..!).
What’s in the pipeline for you?
Continuing to work on new ways to innovate at home through kits for consumers and businesses, and by delivering a huge amount of cocktail masterclasses for media and consumers. As well as launching our brand new Alcoholic Cocktail Gummies and finalising the wider product innovation that launches this year. We’ve just released 19 new gummies to choose from on the website, including a Whiskey box and some fun summer selections including a spicy Margarita and Pina Colada which are seriously fun!
You can find out more about Smith & Sinclair on their website.
Tool of the week
From the obvious (jigsaws, self-raising flour) to the more humble (egg cups?) we’ve seen previously pedestrian products growing in popularity over the recent months.
Think With Google’s Rising Retail Categories tool helps marketers track trending categories as they’re searched for.
The insights are updated each day and reveal the category being searched, what consumers are asking about the category, and where searchers are located.
It’s another step on the path towards helping marketers become yet more targeted and timely with their planning and outreach – especially useful in these fast-moving times.
This week’s tip comes from Associate Parter, Becky Cary.
As we enter week eight of working from home, we are all adjusting to the trials and tribulations of this new status quo. Working from home has both benefits – personally I am very much enjoying the commute from coffee pot to desk in under one minute – and gaps that are hard to fill via your preferred online form of communications. One of these is the quick office chats with colleagues to provide a fresh perspective or mentorship.
For me, a way to tap into the wisdom of others has been filled with the Harvard Business Review podcast series. There are three to chose from and cover a range of topics – offering something for everyone. So, between virtual coffee with the team (on Teams, naturally) and the HBR podcast on my evening walk, the remote working gap is being filled.
HBR has also released a number of free articles for readers too – an added bonus.