- Lightning 50 Overall Winner, plus Regional Winner in Wales and Winner in the Luxury Sector
- 10,000% YoY growth
- £5 million expected revenue in 2021
“We’re thrilled to have won not one but three titles in the Lightning 50” – Jordan Major, Head of e-Commerce, Au Vodka
Endorsed by some of the world’s biggest celebs, multi-million pound growth, hundreds of thousands of loyal fans on social media…
They’re the kind of milestones most retail brands can only dream of.
But for luxury drinks brand, Au Vodka, they’re just a handful of high points in an incredible commerce journey that’s recently culminated in the brand being crowned Overall Winner at Brightpearl’s inaugural Lightning 50, the league table that showcases the UK’s fastest growing retail brands.
The Welsh premium vodka company, founded in 2016 by two schoolmates from Swansea, South Wales, stood out from the crowd because of it’s incredible on-paper achievements – including turnover growing from £800,000 to £38.5million! Plus a 10,000% online revenue growth, jumping from £24K in 2019 to more than £2.5 million in 2020 – but also for the astonishing story behind its rapid rise to success.
As well as taking the title of Overall Winner, Au Vodka was also awarded Winner in the Luxury Sector and Regional Winner for Wales.
“I entered the Lightning 50 on a bit of a whim, not expecting to win,” said Jordan Major, Head of e-Commerce at Au Vodka.
“Then I got on with other stuff and kind of forgot about it. So when the call came in to say we’d won not one but three titles, I was absolutely buzzing.
“I ran in to tell the rest of the team and they all started cheering – it was a real moment for us.
“We’re always working hard towards our next launch or next goal, so we’ve barely come up for air in two years.
“Winning the Lightning 50 has given us the chance to step back for a brief moment and see that we’ve achieved something that’s pretty awesome.”
Raising the bar
Au Vodka was created by Jackson Quinn and Charlie Morgan who spotted a gap in the market when their friends kept getting the same ‘boring’ brands of vodka for their 18th birthdays.
At first, the duo made just 2,000 bottles and sold them to local bars and pubs. Then they started to gain traction on social media.
With its trademark shiny gold bottle and vodka that’s colored to match a range of flavors including watermelon and black grape, Au Vodka quickly became the must-have drink for top Instagrammers and Tiktok creators.
The brand then caught the attention of DJ, producer and TV presenter, Charlie Sloth – who loved it so much he offered to invest and become a business partner.
“Things really blew up for us in 2019 when Charlie came on board,” said Jordan.
“Charlie helped us get endorsements from UK rappers and celebrities, including the likes of Headie One, Chip and Nines.
“We then launched our Black Grape flavor, and we colored the vodka itself to match – which was something that hadn’t really been done with vodka before. It was a huge success.
“Then, earlier this year, we had our biggest endorsement yet – from boxing legend Floyd Mayweather. Floyd is a hero of ours, so it was a really surreal moment to see him holding bottles of Au Vodka.”
No single measures
A combination of the endorsements from Floyd and other A-listers, including Stormzy and Ronaldinho, plus increased consumer demand during the pandemic has taken the brand’s growth from impressive to incredible.
With its revenue set to hit more than £5 million online this year and £95 million overall Au Vodka is now the biggest vodka brand in the UK, excluding Smirnoff, and expects to sell in excess of five million bottles in 2021.
Retailing at £36.99 for 70cl, the ‘ultra premium’ vodka is filtered through gold, for a unique smooth taste. It’s primarily sold wholesale to big-name stockists, including Tescos, Morrisons, Costco and Booker, but it also has a strong e-commerce base, selling direct to consumers across the world via its Shopify-powered website.
When asked about the secret behind the brand’s success, Jordan credits the extraordinary commitment of its talented, young team. Incredibly, almost every member of its 55-strong staff is under 30.
Jordan said: “Our team has got youth on its side – Jackon is 28, Charlie is 25, I’m 20 and all the other heads of department are in their twenties.
“I think our collective youth has definitely helped us tap into what our target demographic wants – and to then have the energy and vision to make it happen.
“When orders have spiked, as they did during the pandemic, it’s been all hands on deck with lots of us doing our day jobs until 6pm and then packing orders until the early hours of the morning.
“It’s been really hard work – but, as well as being young, we’re a solid team of like-minded, ambitious people and we always pull together.
“I really think that’s played a big part in driving such rapid growth.”
Shot to success
Co-founder Charlie was already well known in Swansea before Au Vodka. He hit the headlines in 2013 when he was a ball boy at a Swansea v Chelsea match, and ended up getting kicked by Chelsea hero Eden Hazard, who then got a red card.
But it’s his and Jackson’s five-times distilled vodka creation that has catapulted them from everyday 20-somethings to global business leaders.
The business currently uses Shopify’s own back office features and in house solutions for its primary tech stack.
However, like many fast-growing businesses, Au Vodka has experienced issues with lack of manpower and stock-outs during peak demand periods – so a flexible, robust retail operations platform like Brightpearl could help boost the brand’s success even further in the future.
“My advice to any business that wants to follow in our footsteps is to go for it – and just keep pushing,” Jordan added.
“And I’d absolutely recommend entering next year’s Lightning 50 – I’m certainly glad we did! Even if your turnover isn’t massive, you can still be achieving amazing things – and that’s still worth recognition.”
“The dedication of our team has definitely been a huge part of our success” – Jordan Major, Head of e-Commerce, Au Vodka
With a rapidly growing team, Au Vodka has recently expanded its Swansea base and, although the vodka is currently produced at a distillery in Surrey, the business aims to have its own Au Vodka distillery in South Wales in the future.
“Although we’ve hit some insane milestones, we’re not ready to sit back just yet. We want to keep pushing and to take what we’ve achieved in the UK to Europe and other countries, including Dubai, China and the US.
“We’ve just launched in Spain and we’ve got two new flavours planned in the coming months, so there’s lots to do.
“However, the team definitely deserves a party – and winning the Lightning 50 is the perfect excuse – so we might all take a night off for that.”
Want a taste of Au Vodka’s success? Applications are now open for next year’s Lightning 50 – enter now!