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Twins shake up drinks market with innovative premium mixers

What began as a hobby has become a thriving business for UCL students Joyce and Raissa de Haas.

11 January 2016

Doubling up flavours brings reward 

The Netherlands-born twins launched a range of premium soft drinks mixers early in 2015 under the brand name Double Dutch Drinks. This was possible due to support from a £9,000 UCL Bright Ideas Award (now the ‘Launch £10,000 programme’), designed to help fledgling companies obtain the key funding needed to grow their business.

Customers soon developed a taste for the unusual flavour combinations, including pomegranate and basil, and cucumber and watermelon. The business expanded rapidly in the UK and internationally. The mixers are now available in seven countries – a figure expected to rise to 20 by the end of 2016.

In the UK, customers include department stores Fortnum & Mason and Harvey Nichols, along with 200 bars/restaurants and online retailers. The company is also set to conquer the United States, after winning a deal with retail giant Target in December 2015.

Taking mixers from home to the marketplace

Joyce and Raissa first developed an interest in soft drinks mixers at home, where their parents ran a wine and spirits store. “We would spend time in the kitchen experimenting with different combinations of flavours,” explained Joyce. 

While studying for an MSc in Technology Entrepreneurship at UCL in 2014 they spotted an opportunity to turn this casual interest into a business venture. Researching the drinks market, they noted that there were plenty of spirits available, but only a limited number of mixers. 

At UCL they were also introduced by a fellow student to the concept of ‘food pairing’, whereby different flavour combinations are tested together, based upon analyses of their chemical composition rather than simple intuition. This led to the discovery of some unusual, but successful, combinations.

The twins worked with UCL business advisors to transform their experiments into a commercially viable product. They also became tenants at the UCL Hatchery, a free office space that provides a thriving supportive environment for student startups, with advice and support on hand whenever it might be required. This is critical at the early stages when companies are in the early growth stage.

Winning awards and industry support

Since launching, Double Dutch Drinks has been a winner at the Virgin StartUp 2015 Foodpreneur Festival, which celebrates the most creative, inspiring and disruptive food and drink startups in Britain. It's also received investment from five business angels in the UK.

Reflecting on the company’s achievements to date, Joyce said: “I don’t think any of this would have happened if we hadn’t studied at UCL. It is such a supportive environment for business startups.”

Lillian Shapiro, their UCL Business Advisor, commented: “Joyce and Raissa are a delight to work with - they listen, learn, adapt and apply relevant advice in a cheerful and effective way. The Double Dutch twins are natural entrepreneurs - they had a problem, found that others did too, and set about profitably solving it. The simplest ideas often lead to the most successful products.”

The twins have maintained contact with the university, sharing knowledge gained from their experience with students interested in entrepreneurship and starting their own business.

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