Just the tonic

20th January 2020

In today’s blog, we asked Gary Morren and Don Lawson a few questions about the launch of their new product and how, supported by Interface, collaborating with multiple universities has helped their product development process.

Describe your business/organisation in under 10 words:

Love Tonic is a brand new quinine-free, sparkling mixer.

Where do you want to take the business – regional, Scotland-wide or global?

We are very ambitious! The team behind Love Tonic is Highlands based and we have spent a few months using that region as our test bed, finding out what consumers think and establishing a presence. Scotland’s Speciality Food Show is our launch pad for Scotland, raising awareness and getting Love Tonic on the radar of key players in the industry. We view this event as our springboard for the rest of the UK and ultimately international markets. Love Tonic is the perfect mixer for any spirit, many of which are produced by global businesses, so we absolutely see international market potential for Love Tonic.

Which university did you work with and what was the issue you wanted to overcome by working with academics/students/researchers?

Our journey has very much been a story of collaboration with so many of Scotland’s leading universities.

Initially, we worked with Edinburgh Napier University who helped us to conduct market analysis of the mixer/soft drink category, as well as initial considerations for marketing.

We then worked with Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC), specifically with the food and drink department, to get creative with recipes and really looking at what could be used from Scotland’s larder to create a new product.

Finally, we worked with the University of Glasgow and gave students a real-time project on launching Love Tonic.

By working with universities, we were really looking to build the business case for the brand. Part of that was understanding the market and the gap in that market for a quinine-free tonic both in domestic and international markets. The other part of that was tapping into expertise and specialist knowledge to create recipes that would inform our product development.

What benefits did the collaboration bring to your business?

The collaboration with universities really brought multiple benefits to our business. Overall, it provided us with the reassurance that we were on the right path and as entrepreneurs starting a new venture, that is really valuable. We also benefited from lots of practical advice from label design ideas through to events we should attend and ideas for launch.

How did Interface support help your business?

Interface really connected the dots to introduce us to a network of support that we simply would not have been able to access otherwise. From matching our requirements to academic institutions, to identifying potential sources of funding or practical support such as Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE).

What impact has the initial collaboration had in terms of growth/jobs/new products/financial savings?

This initial collaboration has got us to the launch of Love Tonic, helping us to turn a germ of an idea into a product on a shelf. By the end of this year, we hope to have created a large fanbase for Love Tonic and to have a strong national distribution.

What would you say to other businesses thinking of partnering with academics, but are unsure about it?

Go for it! By working with universities, you suddenly have access to a wealth of knowledge and expertise that you would never find otherwise. Once you start working with one team of academics, you soon find that you are introduced to other experts and your initial brief has grown arms and legs and you end up with advice on lots of different elements of your business.

When you were younger, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Gary wanted to be a vet and Don wanted to be a sailor!