Former Waverley TBS boss Steve Benger has unveiled plans to launch a drinks brand development business.
Benger, who was CEO of the on-trade drinks wholesaler prior to its collapse last October, said his new business would focus on craft beers and premium spirits, and would launch in the next six months.
The as-yet unnamed business would be a brand development operation rather than a brand agency, he stressed. “It’s about developing niche and premium brands rather than volume brands,” he said. “We’re looking to work with brand owners who clearly understand what their brand proposition is so we can help them get better sell through and present their brands in the right place and way.”
He also revealed that before Waverley went under, it had been poised to launch a potentially consumer-facing online service. “We were close to launching a user-friendly, online proposition that would have been launched to our on-trade customers but we saw evolving into a B-to-C proposition.”
It had also been looking to “lead consolidation” in the sector, he claimed. However, the triple whammy of two of its larger suppliers changing creditors, a weather-related slump in sales and a decline in margins as a result of market overcapacity forced it to turn seller. Its lenders had supported its plans to sell, but wanted a deal done quickly, he said. “It turned out we had three weeks.”
When Waverley collapsed, it owed £64.5m to unsecured creditors and more than 800 people lost their jobs, although Benger estimated half had been redeployed by January. He also predicted further sector consolidation. “There will be a handful of regionals that drop out and by the end of this year, one possibly two consolidation plays in the national space” he said.