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Dec 26, 2023

Tony Burt has seen the light. But he’s rarely swayed by it.

Burt is the founder and CEO of East Imperial, a New Zealand-based brand of upscale mixers inspired by a 1903 recipe for tonic water and made using natural and sustainably sourced ingredients. The brand markets several varieties of tonic water along with a grapefruit soda, ginger beer, ginger ale, soda water, lemonade and kola.

A globally distributed brand, East Imperial is specifically focused on the on-premise channel. Its products are featured at world renowned cocktail bars, restaurants and hotels that align with its premium positioning. The company is in the midst of major expansion in the U.S., and despite vast retail opportunities available in the market, Tony is adamant that East Imperial maintains its focus on high-end hospitality.

While the allure, spotlight and potential windfall revenue associated with distribution at major retail and restaurant chains are compelling, Burt notes that at the heart of East Imperial’s business strategy is a consistent and disciplined emphasis on the brand’s core values.

In this episode, Burt spoke about the origins of East Imperial and his journey from advertising executive to  beverage entrepreneur. He also explained how the company holds the line on pricing and positioning, identifies ideal placement for its products and why it is agnostic about strategic partnerships.

Show notes:

0:43: Interview: Tony Burt, Founder & CEO, East Imperial – In Sweden for the holiday season, Burt spoke with Taste Radio editor Ray Latif about his roots in the advertising business and how his experience informed him about trends, innovation and entrepreneurship, how he identified an opportunity in the super-premium tier of the mixer category and why East Imperial is primarily focus on the hospitality channel. He also explained why maintaining focus and discipline is a constant challenge, why rejecting some big distribution opportunities has helped the brand stay on track and how maintaining a consistent pricing strategy has helped the brand maintain its cachet.

Brands in this episode: East Imperial