At one end of the retail spectrum we’re told the major supermarkets are not interested in any new product development as they are too busy making sure they get the day job right. Fair enough. Then at the other end of the drinks spectrum you have David Rowledge and Alchemy Wines who won’t take no for any sort of answer. He has not stopped thinking, innovating and creating in the lockdown to such an extent he has created a new charity drinks brand – Community.co – to stretch from waters, beers, wines and spirits. He’s also only managed to sign up cricket legend, Phil Tufnell, to be the brand ambassador.
Richard Siddle caught up with cricketer turned commentator, Phil Tufnell, before he headed off for Test Match Special duties to talk about his role with the new charity drinks brand Community.co from Alchemy Wines.
There have been so many innovations during Covid-19 across the drinks industry it has been hard to keep up. Some were introduced just to get drinks companies through the crisis – with, for example, many on-trade suppliers switching to direct to consumer and producers switching production to help make hand sanitisers – but there are others that will have hopefully make a long term difference to the companies involved and their customers.
None more so than the Community.co drinks brand that David Rowledge, owner of Alchemy Drinks, has created that can sit across all categories – from water, to beer, spirits, cider and wine. A brand that has been born out of the crisis we are all in, and an opportunity, says Rowledge, to “give something back” and help make quality drinks that the public can support and raise money for the NHS and trade charities, the Drinks Trust and Grocery Aid.
From a concept that came to him right at the start of the lockdown, Rowledge has been able to develop it at a pace far quicker than imaginable during normal trading times.
He is now in advanced talks with different retailers and operators about which drinks he can bring to the market first, using either new producer contacts, or, particularly so in the case of wine, wineries Rowledge is already working with through his various Alchemy Wine projects.
Tufnell on board
In fact, the Community.co idea has grown so fast that he has got a bona fide personality, and former England cricket legend – turned media personality and long standing captain on BBC’s A Question of Sport – Phil Tufnell to come on board as the brand’s ambassador.
The Buyer was able to catch up with Tufnell on the day before he travelled to Southampton and enter the bio-secure zone that is necessary in order for Test Match cricket to return this summer.
He probably wishes the Community.co initiative had moved even faster over the last few weeks so that he could have a selection of drinks to keep him company over the coming days, and weeks, that he will be in what he calls “the bio bubble” for his duties as commentator for BBC Test Match Special.
Tufnell said when Rowledge came to him with the idea, thanks to a shared connection with his manager, it did not take him long to want to get involved.
He explains how the partnership came about: “When David approached me Community.co I thought ‘what a fantastic idea’. So when you are out buying your bottle of water, or can of beer, or your bottle of wine, you are giving something back to the community. I just thought that was fabulous and I am delighted to be part of it. I mean why wouldn’t you? My job is to help raise awareness of it all and act as an ambassador.”
He is particularly pleased to see some of the proceeds – from sales of specially designed water bottles and, potentially, no alcohol beers – go directly to the NHS. “The people in the NHS have been absolute stars over the last four months.”
Helping retail and on-trade
Tufnell says he was also happy to be supporting a brand that stretches right across all drinks styles and could also potentially helps all the bars, pubs and restaurants that have had to be closed throughout the lockdown.
“It’s good to see we are starting to get back to normal as well with pubs and restaurants and I shall certainly be supporting them,” he adds.
In his role as ambassador Tufnell will be doing what he can “to raise awareness” and “get the message about the brand out there” be it through media interviews such as this and other promotional opportunities in the coming weeks and months.
“I’ll be keen to let people know that there is a great cause out there and if you are going to buy yourself a can of beer or bottle of wine, then why not be doing something for your local community as well. Or if you are going to buy a bottle of water, why not buy one that is going to support the NHS – simple as that really.”
Although he may not be directly involved in the drinks, hospitality and retail sectors he is also keen to see the support going to “all the front line workers who have been working in the supermarkets and keeping the country fed and watered – so to speak – over these months” with donations to Grocery Aid.
“Then there is the Drinks Trust and the hospitality industry that has been hit really badly with all the pubs and restaurants being shut and they are going to need support to get things moving again.”
Chance to create his own wine brand
Tufnell is also, separately, looking to work with Rowledge and Alchemy Wines and potentially create his own wine range too – under the working title of Tuffer’s Tipple – which he says he would love to do “if it takes flight”.
“I do enjoy a glass of wine, and having toured Australia, South Africa and New Zealand as a cricketer it kind of goes hand in hand with the playing. To have the opportunity to do that with David would be very exciting.”
He also would be following in the footsteps of quite a few of his peers and former colleagues and opponents, be it Sir Ian Botham, the late Bob Willis or Justin Langer and Matthew Hayden in Australia. “A few of the boys have gone into and they always say what a wonderful time you have with the people who are involved in the business,” he adds.
He says it’s hard to pin him down on the exact style of wine he likes as “he likes a bit of everything” but if pushed would tend to go for a Rioja or an Australian Riesling or a “little sparkler” to watch the cricket with – which through Alchemy’s network of long standing winemaking partners can be created with Tufnell’s influence.
Tufnell was also clearly happy to see the return of Test Match cricket and take “the baby steps” needed in order to follow golf, football and other major sports and get playing again.
“It’s not a proper British summer without a bit of cricket and the sound of bat upon willow. So it’s going to be great fun,” he says. “We have missed it so much.”
- If you would like to support and get behind the Community.co brand and look for a listing then contact David Rowledge at firstname.lastname@example.org.