When an email from Soho House Global popped into Alistair Frost’s inbox that led to his Pentire non-alcoholic spirit becoming the group’s preferred No & Low partner, he could have sat on his laurels. Since then, however, Cornish-based Pentire Drinks has been on a roll with every week news dropping of major new listings combined with ‘We’re Hiring!’ ads. Peter Dean tested the two variants and talks with Frost about how a brainwave on a Cornish headland has led to the emergence of an exciting new British brand.
“Pentire is the first clear ‘spirit’ that I actually think works because it’s not trying to pretend to be something it isn’t – and stands on its own two feet,” writes Dean
Pentire describes itself as ‘Botanical non-alcoholic spirits made from unique plants native to the Cornish coastline’. There are two drinks, Adrift, which launched the brand and a one-off called Seaward that has stayed the course. Both are meant to be served with tonic (a P&T) or soda and various garnishes. Since launch the company has got listings in Soho House, The Pig and Lime Wood Hotels, JKS Restaurants, Gleneagles, Adam Handling Restaurants, Nathan Outlaw Restaurants, Petersham Nurseries, Planet Organic, Selfridges, Harrods and Fortnums amongst many others.
Peter Dean: Beach bum or boffin? Who’s been the driving force and where did the inspiration for Pentire come from?
Alistair Frost: Haha. I’m possibly a wannabe at both of those things! I started Pentire on my own dreaming up the idea here at home in North Cornwall and bringing it to life with our first product Pentire Adrift. Six months into trading, my friend Ed Grieg-Gran from up the coast in Devon joined Pentire and I’m lucky enough to run the business with him. So I would say we are both the driving force.
The idea came from working in bars and the drinks industry for years and loving it all. However, I wanted to create a drink that suited active, outdoor loving folk like me, whether they drank alcohol or not. I felt like that customer could be served better.
Tell us how the brand has developed from there
It’s been so much fun. Pentire is three years old now and has been an incredible growth journey. The brand has established itself across our dream customer base in the trade such as Selfridges, Soho House, Planet Organic, plus working with the nation’s leading chefs and has also begun a very promising international growth phase.
We’ve grown the commercials whilst also developing what’s important to us around sustainability and our active outdoor community.
Where does the name come from?
So Pentire is the name of our local headland here in North Cornwall. It’s the home of our key ingredients too which are mostly coastal botanicals like Rock Samphire which are in season from May to September. On top of that it’s home to a great healthy lifestyle of trail running and surfing which we all love and provides inspiration for us to live healthily.
Cornwall feels like the right British coastal region for a product like Pentire – what are the county’s USPs in this respect?
Definitely. It’s also great for active outdoor activities which connects us with our global customer base as being in nature and being able to challenge ourselves in the mountains or the by the sea is something we all have in common, whether it’s on the beach here or California, we are aligned in a love for the same thing.
How key is the sense of place/ provenance in creating a new British brand?
Ah it’s huge. We are building a local-global brand that’s built on a community here that can connect with customers all around the world.
Who drinks Pentire? And why?
Well interestingly most of our customer base also drink alcohol. Generally, our core customers are aligned with our brand world but also Pentire is for everyone who is looking for a refreshing drink in a moment where maybe they aren’t drinking for whatever reason, or maybe as an aperitif or at a healthy lunch or afternoon hang out.
Who do you think would like to drink Pentire but doesn’t know it yet?
Amazing question. Anyone that’s into health and loves great flavours.
What are your global ambitions as a brand?
Right now, we are expanding from our base foundation in California. Pentire’s surf culture roots here, fits perfectly there and we have some wonderful and amazing customers there so if you are stateside do look out for it.
Is there still room to grow and for which areas of No & Low how to you see it diversifying?
For sure. We are seeing lots of headroom to grow in No & Low. There’s a lot of different products within the sector that people are experimenting with and it’s also really key to be accessing a new moment.
You have a strong relationship with Soho House – how did that come about?
Ah. The best email to arrive in my inbox in my life.
What have you done to strengthen that relationship
They are the best group to work with. Full of incredible people who are at the top of their game at what they do, so it’s just an absolute pleasure and we are so grateful. I’ve been a fan of the group for so long so it’s a pinch yourself moment ordering a Pentire over the bar in there.
We love to get involved wherever we can and support. Most of what we do is trying to drive trial of Pentire as we are lucky enough to have a product that 9 out of 10 people love when they try it so that’s really our main goal. Plus making sure everyone has a great time interacting with Pentire. It’s always got to be fun whatever good or bad stuff is happening across the business.
You launched proper in 2019 just before a global pandemic – how were you forced to adjust your gameplan?
Yes, we had a year of pre-Covid trading. It definitely got very direct-to-consumer focused and still is. That’s swung back a bit though, but I guess it fast forwarded D2C to being a key channel. We’ve been on the lucky end of it and have doubled down on that opportunity too.
It was also a great time for non-alc as so many people tried it and became aware. So now Pentire can sit alongside everyone’s range of drinks from all categories at home.
Peter Dean adds: Why Pentire is a turning point for No & Low
Finally one of the new non-alcoholic ‘spirits’ that I genuinely like, would recommend and would buy for myself. Adrift is the drink Pentire launched with which uses rock samphire, sage, citrus and Cornish sea salt amongst others. Seaward is the second drink that was launched as a one-off for customers but has stayed the course – it uses sea rosemary, woodruff, sea buckthorn, wild seaweed and pink grapefruit.
Seaward was the easiest to like at first with the pink grapefruit notes a familiar point of reference. I didn’t like Adrift as much at first, it was a little ‘Marmite’, but I have come to like it very much, drink with ice and a slice, and now prefer it to the Seaward. Both drinks are very complex, have a salty, savoury quality with Adrift being genuinely original – the ocean botanicals and sage give the ‘spirit’ a wildness that fits with its provenance and brand image.
I got to hear about Pentire through national sales manager, Will Edwards, contacting me through LinkedIn. He sent me samples and, with trying to cut down my units in the week, I can honestly say it fills that awkward gap between finishing work and dinner where an alcoholic aperitif feels like the only solution.
I have liked some of the non-alcoholic Italian orange bitters drinks like Lyre’s but this is the first clear ‘spirit’ that I actually think works because it’s not trying to pretend to be something it isn’t – and stands on its own two feet.