Meet Jenny McDonald (left) and Sue Stockwell - founders of Dunedin Craft Distillers who make gin and vodka using leftover bread and bakery products. Jenny and Sue are currently working through Soda's LIFT programme to grow their business. We asked Jenny and Sue a few questions about how they got started and where they hope to be in five years time.
How did the idea for Dunedin Craft Distillers come about and when did you first working on the business concept?
The business concept began in late 2019 with a rant over coffee between friends about the tonnes of bakery products ending up in Dunedin landfill. The question arose, ‘Could we make spirits from bread?’ The first lockdown in 2020 provided an opportunity to develop the concept and by July 2020 we were installed at Artisan Producers Factory, a local commercial kitchen facility, to test the concept. We were licensed to sell by March 2021 and took the plunge and moved into our current premises in Roberts Street in May 2021.
What is your most popular product?
Our most popular product is our Dunedin Dry Gin. The 250ml bottles with wax tops are gorgeous and very popular gifts. Our cacao Vodka is slowly building a following and is a personal favourite – we both like it neat on ice, as a treat after dinner.
How much gin and vodka do you produce?
Right now, not much! Around 12-18L/week is all we can do given the constraints of our modest facilities and the process is hugely labour intensive. We can make nowhere near enough to meet demand and we’re currently planning to scale up the operation. The grant from Soda has been instrumental here and an amazing learning curve. We’re believers in collaboration and community and we’ve been very fortunate in the help and support we’ve received from other businesses, customers, friends and whānau.
What has been your biggest challenge so far in terms of starting and growing a new business?
Meeting growing demand while operating on a shoestring – large orders clean us out, are labour intensive and stressful!
How did you overcome this challenge?
We haven’t yet! But our mentor, Richard Emerson, has been superb. We have a path forward and it is fantastic building collaborations with other businesses that can assist with aspects of our process. We are learning lots!
How has the pandemic affected your business?
To be honest, Covid has been our friend to some extent. It has allowed us to catch up with orders – it would have been very high pressure indeed without Covid induced breaks. More problematic are the residual Covid effects - increasing prices and interest rates, supply chain disruption etc. These are a concern for us as for any small business in terms of financing and maintaining cash flow in the face of delays.
What is your goal for Dunedin Craft Distillers?
In 12 months we hope to have scaled up production to more than 2000L/year and to have at least doubled that in five years. In addition, we will be offering a solid range of workshop/educational activities through the distillery. At this stage, we expect to have 3-4 FTE positions and will seek to use our distillery as a model to promote bread and bakery waste upcycling throughout Aotearoa/NZ.