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Looking ahead: Becky Davies, Ten Locks

Published:  26 August, 2022

With the first half of 2022 already history, Harpers asked key trade figures to highlight the current challenges, ongoing trends and opportunities.

We continue our series with insights from Becky Davies, head of commercial at Ten Locks.

How ‘back to normal’ are you as a business?

I’m unsure if we’ve ever been normal! I started on the journey of building Ten Locks two weeks before the first lockdown (March 2020) and publicly launched what we now know as Ten Locks in October 2020. Apart from the brief two weeks of ‘normality’, the world has been a very different place ever since. 

That said, the dust is beginning to settle on what has been an incredibly challenging two and a half years, and we’re starting to reap the benefits of the hard work put in by an amazing team.  

We’ve found solutions to most of the challenges presented by the pandemic, Brexit and the war in Ukraine, such as freight delays, material shortages, staff shortages and cost increases. Of course, this doesn’t mean we’re plain sailing. But we’re agile, flexible and creative, which ultimately keeps us on track towards our goals. 

How, if at all, have drinking habits changed post-lockdown?

For the first time, there are fewer parallels between the on and off-trade. Of course, some things underpin them both but what we’re seeing are key themes prevail for each channel.  

In the on-trade, low abv drinks are gathering pace and growing; the non-alcoholic sector is booming, albeit becoming saturated in the process, and the aperitivo moment seems to be gaining some traction finally after five years of false starts.  

We’ve enjoyed seeing the food and drink occasion take on new skin and new energy this last year or so. Themes like Mexican ‘tequila & taco’ experiences have shone a light on brands and spirits that deserve the attention and packaged them for consumers who can enjoy them in a more immersive and experiential way. Likely helped by a lack of travel initially, and possibly the inability to recreate different cuisines and cultures at home, this has positively impacted categories like tequila, sake, baijiu and shochu and firmly placed them on consumers’ radar in a positive way.  

In a similar vein, brands like Sollasa – made with authentic flavours to complement Indian cuisine – are playing with great success in this area and working to drive new areas of the category. This primarily applies to the on-trade, but the sentiment is true of at home drinking, too.    

Overall, we’re seeing a ‘less is more’ attitude among consumers. They’re drinking less and going out less. But when they do either, they’re doing it better. This is especially the case when it comes to spirits. Yes, they want excellent drinks, but they want an experience, too.  

That’s possibly why we’re seeing savoury drinks make a comeback, especially in iterations like the Spicy Margarita, the Gibson Martini, the Pickleback or more obscure cocktails like the ‘Curry Colada’ from Two Schmucks in Barcelona. Trust me, it is delicious. Strange, but delicious!  

This trend feeds into a wider, ‘foodie’ narrative working to draw consumers in. For example, placing supper clubs, premium pairings such as Banhez Mezcal and oysters, or newer wave trends at the forefront of drinks and experiences, like pickling or umami and vegetable flavours.   

The exciting bit is that partnering food with spirits is happening more now than ever. Spirits have a big seat at the table.  

How has the first half of 2022 been when compared to the same period in pre-pandemic 2019?

We hadn’t launched then, but the first half of 2022 is going from strength to strength.  

What were the highs and lows for your business in the first six months of 2022?

I am sure that the industry will share the lows with me. We’ve seen incredible, smaller, perhaps more entry level players really struggle because of the conditions we’ve all had to endure. That was hard to watch, so I can only imagine how it felt.  

Another was that we ran out – despite our best efforts – of El Tequileno when demand was strong. It was symptomatic of what was happening at the time: high demand, material delays, delayed freight forwarders, lack of trucks and delays at customs all made forecasting incredibly tricky. This year it isn’t an issue, so we’re excited to see El Tequileno out in market and in full force, following what’s been a brilliant year for the brand in the UK.  

The highs are easy. Seeing our favourite customers bounce back after the pandemic, alongside new openings and businesses expanding. This now feels extra special and should be celebrated.  

There are a few highlights that have felt incredibly personal to me, too. Our team is now made up of nine incredibly talented people and we’ll be recruiting again this year. We’ve come a long way in a short time. For a while it was just me! We’re also on the brink of launching our very own spirit, nearly three years in the making. We’ve also been recognised by the industry (shortlisted for Spirit Distributor of the Year by IWSC). As a very new player, that is no small thing.   

What, currently, are the biggest challenges for the trade in general?

It’s more important now than ever to offer a real point of difference. Consumers are being selective on their nights out and where they spend their money. They are looking for experiences and a unique offering.  

As purse strings tighten, value will be critical. For the on trade, this means great service, consistency of serve and ensuring that what they get in venue can’t be replicated at home. Otherwise, why pay?  

In retail, it’s ensuring that alongside bigger players, there’s a smaller, innovative craft offering that delivers value through quality, heritage, authenticity and purpose. We’ve established that people will drink less but better in the coming months. So it’s critical to use precious shelf space to grow the category in the right places.  

What are your priorities and predictions business-wise for the second half of 2022?

All eyes are currently on Christmas. People haven’t had a full on, let-loose Christmas for two years, and they’re ready to enjoy it. This year, despite the tough times coming down the road, we expect a ‘keep calm and carry on’ approach to celebrations. We expect people to throw caution to the wind, splash out, and embrace the first Christmas for years where parties won’t get cancelled, and they can gather with their mates without worry. With this comes possibly the biggest trading opportunity for some time and the opportunity to prepare for the incoming economic storm.  

For Ten Locks, our eyes are on pockets of the category that are lively, buoyant and excite – vermouth, liqueurs, agave spirits, low abv and cognacs – while ensuring our spirits that sit at the backbone driving the category, such as West Cork Irish Whiskey, Langley’s Gin and Diablesse Rum, thrive to their potential across the market.  

What will your focus be on with regard to your portfolio, and why?

We’re proud to have a portfolio of brands all striving for positive change and playing successfully in parts of the category that offer an immediate win and the longer-term growth opportunity.  

Lastly, if you could make one change in legislation/red tape/tax tomorrow, what would you choose?

In the year ahead, we’ll continue to grow our portfolio and build our brands in the UK so they continue to deliver for our customers and continue to lead industry trends.  

I think we can all agree that there is no single part of the on-trade that has not endured hard times these last couple of years. I’d like to see the industry recognised more by our government, prioritised and, critically, rewarded for a) being a significant lifeblood in our economy and b) a place whereby people across the country can be reunited and brought together. Hospitality in particular, is at the absolute heart of British culture, so it would be great to see it treated with the reverence it has so rightfully earned.   

Quick-fire questions:

France, Spain or Italy?


USA, OZ or South Africa?

South Africa.

Cocktails or slow sipping spirit?

Slow sipping spirits for sure!

English fizz or Champagne?


Go-to drink to watch with the tennis / football / rugby?

It’s hard to choose one, but make no mistake, I’d be watching the rugby!