Bach 95: A Year On...

We have followed up with Sale Sharks' scrum half Will Cliff about Bach95, a year after we spoke to him. He talks about his new alcohol-free range plus an exciting new partnership with The Botanist..

How has the first year of business been for Back95 since you last caught up with the RPA?

It has been really good actually. It was a weird time to launch a business because it was in the middle of lockdown, so we saw lots of online sales and then places started opening again, so we saw a decrease in online sales. But we saw an increase in non-trade business, so bars, restaurants – that kind of business. It switched our focus a little bit. Then events got going, and now we are getting a lot of new listings, and our weekends are getting booked up by various events, fixtures and whatever else.

So, it has been a really good year, to a point where it needed someone on it full time, so Tom Holmes went on it full time as of 1st December. He is doing the day to day running of the business, and we have got a lady called Davina, who is our Head of Business Relations/Head of Sales – all that falls under her. It has gathered a bit of momentum and it has got serious.

We have developed the product as we have gone on and it has got better, more consistent. We had a lot of interest in alcohol free, so we thought ‘well, why not do it?’ so we cracked on and did that, spoke to the brewery about the tweaks we would need to make to deliver a really good alcohol-free product. Basically, I want to steer the brand in the direction of it’s a beer with the focus of it being a great tasting beer, but it's your healthier option of beer, so you know you're not losing anything on taste, you don't lose anything on texture, quality and ingredients, you’re getting a great beer but it’s just that bit better for you.

It’s been a crazy year, it's been hectic to a point where free time is a thing of the past, but it's also been very enjoyable, and we’ve learnt a lot.

What made you create the alcohol-free brand?

It was dead easy for me to talk about Bach95 as it suited my lifestyle. I still wanted a beer with the rest of the lads but did not want the effects and wanted to feel a bit better about doing it. Less calories are better for me in general, so that was straightforward for me to talk about. Alcohol free on the other hand, is not something I knew much about. But we did a number of events and got a few enquiries via social media asking when we were going to do an alcohol-free range. There just seemed to more people saying, ‘can you do alcohol free, there’s few good ones, we’d love you to do one.’

That was what sparked the initial idea and I just thought if we can do a similar thing that we did with Bach 95, focus on making it a great taste, be able to offer it within our product range, it was a no brainer really. It is only going to strengthen the brand, and I have to say it tastes really good.

We know you have pop up shops at Sale Sharks home games, and around bars but what is the next step for Bach95?

The immediate future is focusing on increasing our listings with bars and restaurants, so you can drink when you are out and about and having a meal. We have just done a deal with the Bottomless Group, so all the Botanist Restaurants, there are thirty-three across the country, so Bach95 is going to be stocked in bottles at those restaurants. Hopefully, it sells well - that is a deal we are really excited about, it is great exposure for us.

And from there, the only place you can buy the product is via online or a few bottle shops in the North-West. So, our focus will then switch to where can we place this with the retail sector and various outlets, potentially supermarkets. That is the dream, and this next year will be interesting to see how far along we can take that.

How supportive have Sale and the RPA been in the growth of the business?

Yes, they have been great. Sale have been incredibly supportive and helped where they can. We obviously do the sale games which is great for awareness and generates a bit of revenue as well, but not only that, but the business advice from Sid the CEO and Simon Orange the owner. It is a great support network to have. Simon put me in contact with his finance guys, and we did a bit of forecasting and bits with them, and it was stuff that if I was left to my own devices, I probably couldn’t have done it, and 100% couldn’t have got it to the sort of quality they did for us, so the club have been great on that front. The RPA are always there to lean on too, and there are some great contacts there too.

If you had to give one bit of advice to any rugby player young and old, wanting to start their own business, what would it be?

I would say pick something you have an interest in because it is a lot of demanding work, it is harder work then you imagine before you start. It is more time consuming, it is more demanding, but it is your thing, so you will always put that time in there. But you know, if it is something you enjoy and it is something quite fun like beer was something I like, it helps a lot.

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