Full names: Vincent Efferoth, Lukas Passia
Roles: Co-Founders & Managing Directors
DOBs: Vincent: 12.01.1991, Lukas: 07.03.1990
Birthplaces: Vincent in Leverkusen (Germany) and Lukas in Ratibor (Poland), but German nationality
Twitter Handle: @NOVELTEAdrinks
Fun Fact: “We are ‘Geordies-by-Choice’”
So, two Germans in Newcastle making alcoholic interpretations of old English tea recipes – who’d have thought! Please tell us a little about your backstory – where you grew up, how you ended up here, how you met, and how the journey has been up to now? You were quite taken by the tradition of afternoon tea, right? Did you always want to start a business?
Vincent: We are both German and moved to Newcastle to do our Master degrees in September 2015. Even though we lived fairly close together in Germany, we only met the first time at a Newcastle football game against Chelsea at St James’ Park. We bonded straight away and had very similar circle of friends, so we ended up spending quite a bit of our spare time together!
Lukas: Newcastle is famous for its social scene and we quickly noticed a growing trend in the selling of ‘craft spirits’ and ‘craft beers’ in pubs and bars across the city.
Similarly, we were fascinated by the British tradition of drinking tea and, in particular, the enjoyment of afternoon tea – something which is now commonly served with prosecco or cocktails. It was this mix of tradition and alcohol that made us curious about the combination of spirits and tea.
Vincent: With the support of Newcastle University we pursued the idea of ‘Alcoholic Tea’ after completing our master studies in September 2016. After a long development and production process, NOVELTEA was finally launched in Fenwick Newcastle at the beginning of April. Initial sales and feedback has been very promising so we are now looking forward to growing and scaling up the business over the next few months!
Leading from above, did either of you guys have a background in drink of any form, or was this all entirely new to you?
Lukas: The alcoholic beverage industry was a new market for us, but we had done extensive market research into trends, consumer demands and flavour combinations.
Vincent: We also both have experience in project management, export and manufacture within international companies – all skills which have proved vital throughout the development and sales process.
Is there much of a tea tradition where you guys come from? What would you say are the main differences in how the British and Germans approach food and drink?
Lukas: Even though Germans do drink tea, we are primarily a ‘coffee nation’. However, we have noticed that both countries do love their local produce, guest beers and craft spirits.
In terms of food and drink, what are you guys partial to? Have you acquired a taste for any British foods? Any German foods you’d like to see more of the in the UK?
Vincent: I do love a traditional Sunday roast, but I also am quite partial to ‘Cheesy Chips’ – especially after a few drinks! Something, I do really miss however is a traditional German ‘Currywurst’.
Lukas: I too enjoy a good, old fashioned Sunday Roast; however, I generally prefer German food – particularly the meat dishes such as Schnitzel.
What’s a ‘day in your life’ like? Could you give us an insight into what you guys are getting up to?
Vincent: This is fairly easy to answer. Since we work for our own company and are very much starting out in the industry, we are putting all our efforts into the business. We work long hours most days – speaking to potential retailers, liaising with our factory, developing videos and content for marketing purposes etc.
Lukas: Whilst we are self-confessed workaholics, we do try to find time for sport or a relaxing dinner on the weekend to let of some steam.
What’s your greatest/most memorable professional moment been, so far?
Lukas: Watching people buying our product when we launched in Fenwick at the beginning of April.
Vincent: Realising at the IFE 2017 what we have achieved in such a short time, despite our very limited resources.
Where do you get your ideas?
Lukas: Brainstorming and challenging each other’s experience and perspectives.
Vincent: In order to stay creative we try to get new ideas through talking to different business people, collaborating with various organisations, attending workshops and observing venues, shops and consumer behaviour.
What’s your philosophy, summed up in a sentence?
Vincent: “Shy bairns get nowt”
Lukas: “Fortune favours the brave”
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve had, how did you overcome it, and what did you learn from it?
Vincent: This question comes quite often, but there have been so many different challenges that we have overcome that it is hard to say which one was the biggest.
Lukas: I agree but I think one major challenge for us was to get the flavour profile right. It took us months to perfect and hundreds and hundreds of different versions were tested through focus groups and samplings at events. We quickly learnt that a good product takes time and a lot of patience!
Who’s the person who’s most inspired you in your work – food industry or otherwise? Is there anyone that you draw inspiration or strength from? Do you have any specific culinary influences?
Lukas: My parents and grandparents are my biggest source of strength as they started with nothing. I like food from all over the world, in particular, street food from different countries excites me.
Vincent: My parents are my inspiration and my friends are a great source of knowledge and strength. In terms of culinary influences, I enjoy and appreciate quality food, especially from independent, local businesses.
What do you enjoy most and least about what you do?
Lukas: I enjoy increasing our profitability and thinking ahead; What did we miss? Which market do we want to enter next? How do we ensure we have a sustainable business model? Like any businessman, what I don’t like is spending money on things without achieving a positive return.
Vincent: I thrive on further developing our business in terms of expansion, marketing, sales and new collaborations. I am not a fan of admin!
What advice would you give to aspiring food producers & who’d want the kind of results that you’ve had?
Vincent: Test every assumption you have when it comes to your business. Going out and talking to people is inspiring and gives you the means to think differently and achieve more. It is your business at the end of the day, so dedicate the time to make it work!
Lukas: Completely agree!
If you weren’t doing what you do now, what would you be doing instead?
Lukas: Probably working for a large food company or in a start-up business.
Vincent: Most-likely working as a management consultant or working in a successful, German ‘Hidden Champion’ company.
If you could get anyone to try your drinks (fictional or real, living or dead) who would you pick and which of the drinks would you like them to try? Assume that they go on to be your brand ambassador…
Lukas: The Queen!
Vincent: Pierce Brosnan
What’s your ultimate aim and goal for the business? If you could achieve anything with it, what would you pick? Money and reality are no obstacle, so shoot for the moon…
Lukas: Independent of the budget, our vision is to create a new, successful alcoholic product category called NOVELTEA.
Vincent: …and making NOVELTEA a world wide brand.
Where next for you and NOVELTEA?
Vincent: Building and extending our sales channels throughout the UK, as well as preparing our international growth strategy.
Lukas: We will also concentrate on securing funds in order to achieve our ambitious objectives for NOVELTEA. We will also need to optimise our production and distribution channels in order to meet demand.
And we always ask three customary ridiculous questions…
You have acquired a pet dragon and are morally obliged to look after it. It is 25 ft tall at the hips, spits fire, eats half a ton of raw meat a day, and likes long walks. What would you call it and what would you do to keep it entertained and housed?
Lukas: I think Baba Yaga (polish for witch) is would suit the dragon. Going on long flights around the world would keep him occupied. And if I am hungry, letting him grill a proper steak for the two of us.
Vincent: I would call my dragon ‘Nero’ like the Roman Emperor and would entertain him by hunting and traveling around the countryside together.
If you had to be transformed into any kind of household appliance, but retained your memories, ability to speak and personality, what would you pick?
Lukas: A TV; I would always get full attention while entertaining others.
Vincent: A knife. Knifes can be very useful, but also dangerous 😉
If you were given an infinite budget but had to spend it all on entirely frivolous stuff, what are the first 3 things you’d buy, and why?
Vincent: I like the idea of living in a castle, so I would buy one either in Germany or in the North of England. A private jet would be pretty cool so that I could fly anywhere in the world in style. The third thing, I would buy my favourite football club, Bayer 04 Leverkusen, in order to make them win the Bundesliga for the first time of the club’s history!
Lukas: I would buy an entire island in the British Virgin Islands, plenty of moving boxes, and finally flight tickets so that my family and friends can live in paradise with me.