Insights & Trends

How much does it cost to create your own spirits brand?

In this guide, we will detail the various costs associated with starting a spirits brand and outline how Distill Ventures can support you throughout this financial journey.

That’s a broad question with a lot of “it depends” woven into the answer. Launching a spirits brand involves a lot of moving parts and variable costs. They are influenced by a range of elements, including your level of industry experience, the varying market rates for goods and services, the location you’re looking to set up and what that means for realty and logistics. The availability of information, as well as access to important resources and networking opportunities, will also have an impact on your overall expenditures. 


Wherever you are in your entrepreneurial endeavours, whether at the initial ideation stage or already operating and looking to scale your business, Distill Ventures offers a wealth of knowledge and resources tailored to your needs. In this guide, we will detail the various costs associated with starting a spirits brand and outline how Distill Ventures can support you throughout this financial journey.

A Checklist of Costs to Consider

From market research to obtaining necessary licences, sourcing raw materials to planning and monitoring logistics, each phase of the business comes with its own set of expenses. The complexity of the industry means you'll likely encounter both fixed and variable costs, some of which may be contingent on your location, scale, and chosen market. 


A well-structured financial plan not only ensures your business stays afloat but also enables it to grow and adapt to market demands. Here's a quick checklist of costs and questions you should consider as you navigate the costs of starting and operating your own spirits brand.

Business Plan and Market Research. 

Will you need to hire a consultant or are you aware enough of the market to run your own market analysis? The cost can vary widely depending on the scope and depth required. If you're handling these tasks yourself, your costs may only include software and information subscriptions, which could range from £50 to £500. On the other hand, hiring professionals can significantly increase the expense. Consultants often charge anywhere from £1,000 to £10,000 for a comprehensive business plan and market research.

Licensing and Permits 

What are the fees associated with distillery permits, business licences, and other legal requirements? In the UK, the process of setting up a spirits business involves multiple licences and permits, each with its own set of requirements. For instance, if you plan on producing alcohol from scratch, you'll need separate licences for distilling, compounding, and rectifying, all obtainable from HM Revenue & Customs. If your production involves using water from a spring or borehole on your premises, additional environmental health certification is required from your local authority. 


Beyond this, your business model will dictate the need for further local authority licences, whether you're selling alcohol business-to-business, on-premises like a bar, or off-premises in a shop setting. For comprehensive guidance, the UK government provides resources at www.gov.uk/guidance/alcohol-licensing.

Taxes and Other Financial Obligations

These are unavoidable costs that require careful planning. Excise tax is levied on alcoholic beverages and can be quite significant, varying by volume and alcohol content. Value Added Tax (VAT) is another consideration, applicable on sales and services. You can find more specific details on the UK Gov’s collection of Alcohol Duty articles.  


Then there are additional financial obligations like business rates, income tax, and potentially corporation tax if you're operating as a limited company. These can substantially impact your overall budget and need to be accounted for in both short-term and long-term financial planning.

Premises

Costs associated with premises can be some of the most substantial investments when starting a spirits brand. Rent is often the biggest monthly expenditure and can vary widely based on location, size, and the type of building. Utilities such as electricity, water, and gas add to ongoing operating expenses. If the space is not purpose-built for distilling, renovation costs can quickly escalate, especially if specialised installations like ventilation systems, fire safety measures, or distilling equipment are needed. Additional costs may include security measures, insurance, and potentially a warehouse for storing raw materials and finished products.

Equipment

Another major cost category, equipment budgeting, requires careful planning. Essential items like fermenters, stills, and bottling lines come with high upfront costs. The price can vary considerably depending on the scale of your operation and the level of automation you require. For example, a small pot still may cost a few thousand pounds, while an industrial column still could set you back tens of thousands. Fermenters, too, can range from simple plastic containers to large, temperature-controlled stainless steel vessels. Beyond this, you'll also need to account for storage tanks, pumps, filtration systems, and quality control labs, among other essentials.

Raw Materials

The backbone of any spirits brand, raw materials can fluctuate in cost based on several factors. Grains, fruits, yeast, and other essential ingredients all come at a price, which can vary based on quality, seasonality, and market demand. Bulk purchasing might offer some cost advantages but requires sufficient storage space. In addition to basic ingredients, you'll also need to budget for consumables like cleaning supplies, enzymes, and any special additives or flavourings your product may require.


Packaging 

An often-underestimated part of launching a spirits brand, packaging costs can add up quickly. Bottles, caps, labels, and secondary packaging like cartons or gift boxes all come with their own price tags. The costs can vary widely based on the quality, material, and customisation level of the packaging. Premium glass bottles with intricate designs are more expensive than standard options. Custom labels, too, can add to the expense, particularly if you opt for high-quality printing techniques or materials. Then there are costs for closures, seals, and potentially tamper-evident features. Bulk orders can offer some cost savings, but you'll need to manage inventory effectively to avoid wastage or storage issues.

Costs for bottles, labels, and packaging materials.

Marketing and Sales

Crucial for visibility and growth, marketing and sales are some of the more ambiguous price points to pin down as it depends on your target audience and the strategies you deploy to meet them - or how good your marketing manager is at growing an organic and loyal audience.


Budget allocation might cover a range of activities from digital marketing campaigns, SEO, and social media advertising to more traditional forms like print ads or event sponsorships. Online presence isn’t just about ad spend; it also includes the cost of website development, maintenance, and possibly e-commerce capabilities. Promotions might entail discounts, giveaways, or samples, which, while driving sales, also represent a cost. Don't forget point-of-sale materials and potential commissions for sales representatives or distributors.


Distribution & Logistics

These fees encompass logistics such as shipping and transportation, no matter where you’re distributing. Then there's the cost of storage, which might include warehousing fees, inventory management systems, and potentially climate-controlled facilities for sensitive products. Channel partnerships with distributors or retailers often involve commissions or listing fees, adding another layer to the cost structure. Depending on the scale of your operation, you might also need to consider costs for export documentation, tariffs, and other cross-border fees.


Quality Control and Compliance


Critical aspects to consider, quality control and compliance come with their own set of fees. Third-party inspections for quality checks can vary in cost based on the scope and frequency of the audits. These are usually essential for ensuring product consistency and meeting regulatory standards. You may also need to pay for lab testing of your spirits for quality assurance. Certifications, like organic or fair trade labels, not only have an application cost but often require an ongoing fee to maintain the certification status. Compliance with regulations might necessitate legal consultation, which adds another layer to your cost structure.


Simplifying the Cost Landscape

Navigating the intricate landscape of expenses involved in launching a spirits brand can be overwhelming. From market research to quality control, each phase of your business requires careful financial planning. At Distill Ventures, we offer bespoke services designed to simplify this complex process for you. Whether you're just starting out or are already established and looking to scale, we provide the tools, expertise, and financial acumen necessary to make informed decisions that ensure your brand's long-term viability. 


Our dedicated DV partners work closely with you, guiding you through each stage, to develop robust financial plans that include every aspect of cost consideration. Our support isn't just about helping you keep your books balanced; it's about positioning you for sustainable growth in a competitive market.


If you think you’re in a position where Distill Ventures could help your business grow, then apply for funding today.