FEVERTREE DRINKS (FEVR)
From selling its first bottles of tonic water in Selfridges in 2005 to forecast sales this year of £225m, the Fevertree brand has been one of great marketing success stories of the last decade.
Having spotted the demand for quality mixers to go with premium spirits, the company behind the brand has toppled Schweppes to become the world’s leading producer of premium carbonated mixers by retail sales value.
Today it sells its products in 70 countries through both the ‘on trade’ to hotels, restaurants and bars, and through the ‘off trade’ to retail customers via supermarkets and other stores.
In terms of products, as well as half a dozen varieties of tonic water, lemonades and soda water for the white spirits mixer market, the firm has launched ginger ales, ginger beer and cola to tap into the dark spirits mixer category.
Greater availability of premium mixers is good news for spirits producers like Diageo (DGE) which are trying to drive their customers towards highermargin premium products, creating a ‘virtuous circle’ between Fevertree and leading brands.
In terms of geographic spread, roughly half of the firm’s sales were in the UK last year and half were overseas with the major markets being the US, Spain and Belgium.
This summer the firm signed a new deal with Southern Glazers Wine & Spirits, the largest wine and spirits distributor in North America with $17bn in annual turnover, to distribute its products in the ‘on trade’ across 29 US states.
The US is the next area of excitement for its investment case. The Fevertree brand is best associated with tonic water and according to figures from the Distilled Spirits Council the US premium gin market alone was bigger than the entire UK gin market so the sales potential is large.
However gin only accounts for 4% of US spirits consumption while whisky accounts for 28% and vodka accounts for 32%, so the move into premium ginger ales and cola opens up an even larger market.
With markets around the world slumping this quarter and growth stocks out of favour, Fevertree shares have almost halved from their September peak.
There have been some market concerns that Fevertree’s growth has slowed in the UK, yet the absence of any comment from the company would suggest there isn’t anything serious going on – although we can’t say for certain.
Assuming the company meets analysts’ estimates the shares are trading on 45 times current year earnings which sounds high but if sales in the US do take off that ratio could fall sharply during 2019 should earnings forecasts be upgraded.
ALL EYES ON THE US AS FEVERTREE FOCUSES ON NEXT EXPANSION LEG