For a brand that’s so synonymous with top - notch mixers, it’s incredible that CAPI only celebrated its 10th anniversary at the end of 2020. What started out as the brainchild of Austrian - born Pitzy Folk has now exploded into one of the most diverse offerings of drinks that you could imagine. So how did Pitzy and his crew reach this point? As Thurman Wise, Director of Brand and Innovation at CAPI, puts it: “Pitzy found it amazing that cafés and restaurants and bars were importing so many products to Australia, even though we had such great resources here.”
The most natural thing in the world
A hospitality veteran and coffee mogul well before he shifted his gaze to water and soft drinks, Pitzy recognised a major gap in the market. He simply couldn’t understand why a local restaurant would source a bottle of water from Italy, one that was created by a huge conglomerate on the other side of the planet, when we already have amazing water sources right here in Australia. The lack of natural drinks on the market – most of them laden with preservatives and other nasties – also irked the CAPI founder. “Everyone today is all - natural and preservative - free, and there is so much amazing competition in the mixer space,” Thurman says. “But you have to remember that 10 years ago this type of thing was really out there.” What began as an attempt to plug a gap for Australian - made drinks soon grew into a one - stop shop for food and drink businesses. And with the extensive range on offer today – from their Grapefruit Soda that pairs perfectly with tequila for a mouth - watering Paloma, to the recently released Melbourne Tonic that captures the city’s dramatic sunsets with flavours of mandarin, blood orange, grapefruit and pink sea salt – it’s no wonder the brand has exceeded the decade mark. But an unforeseeable pandemic almost brought this titan of beverages to its knees.
A crushing COVID blow
Almost every business on the planet has been affected by coronavirus in some way. But hospitality was hit particularly hard, and CAPI felt the full brunt of it. “Before COVID, we were a team of 25 people, but 75% of our business was all food, beverage and hospitality,” Thurman says. “So the day that all of hospitality closed, it was an earth - shattering moment. We didn't know what was going to happen. Overnight, 75% of our business was gone. After that, our team shrunk from 25 to just five people. And it was just the five of us for almost seven months, trying to figure out how we were going survive as a brand.” The saving grace for CAPI was online. “Luckily, we had invested a lot into our online business and our digital footprint right before COVID hit. So we really pushed ahead on how our brand could evolve so that if something like this were to happen again, we weren’t going to experience the same chaos that almost crushed us. “Next month, we'll be up to 12 people at CAPI again. We'll hit a record year in terms of revenue, which is crazy. COVID shook us up and made us look into the deepest parts of our business.” Thurman says they had to ask themselves some tough questions. What made them so successful in the first place? What things had they done that weren’t so great? The result was a decision to aggressively pursue a big retail rollout, which means you’ll be seeing CAPI products outside of just Dan Murphy's or their online store in the very near future. “It’s been a wild ride, but it’s given us the time to see what was going wrong. One of the best examples is our bottles. While we bottle all our water at the source and all of our products are made in Australia, the one piece of the puzzle that wasn't Australian - made was our glass bottle. During COVID, there were so many challenges with supply, from trying to get things shipped from Indonesia over here, and then there was a strike at the port. In January, we even ran out of bottles so we couldn't make any products – we were completely sold out. “So now we've switched to an Australian - made bottle, 100% made in South Australia. That closes the loop on us being a truly Australian - made product. And that came out of COVID. There were so many stresses around what we were doing, and we realised that working together with other local businesses is far superior in terms of the quality we could get.
Collaboration feeds innovation
It might have been a necessary change – a pandemic - induced transition to look beyond the most cost - effective option and instead build relationships with other Australian businesses – but Thurman says it’s given CAPI a new outlook on how both businesses and the wider community can benefit from local collaboration. “If you're not investing in other local businesses, there won’t be innovation and advancements. What's really cool is that when you support local businesses, you're giving them the funds to improve, to find new ways of working that benefits everybody.“By working together and growing the local economy, we’re going to see some great things come out of Australia in the next couple of years. There's already so much amazing talent and amazing resources, and we just need the money to be invested into that talent and those resources. “We’re already seeing how Australian spirits are taking over the world. All of a sudden it's not just about London gin being the best; Four Pillars from Victoria is top of the list. Then there are whiskies from Gospel and Starward and Archie Rose and Lark– soon it's going to be the standard that Australian whiskey is up there with some of the best in the world, and it's because everyone is supporting each other.” Here’s a little bit about Thurman’s favourite Capi picks. Best of all? They mix perfectly with your favourite Aussie gin.
CAPI Yuzu “If you were to take the best qualities of lime, lemon and mandarin, and then combine them all into one fruit, it would end up as the Japanese citrus Yuzu. Our drink has a really unique flavour profile that works well with a floral gin and a touch of mint.
CAPI Garden Tonic “One of two newly released tonics (alongside Melbourne Tonic), CAPI Garden Tonic is inspired by Victorian gardens, with notes of forest mint, native lime and rosemary.”
CAPI Grapefruit Soda “Usually reserved for tequila, our Grapefruit Soda also plays really well with gin. Using a gin with a really nice juniper background will make the citrus flavours pop, which works well with either our Grapefruit or Blood Orange sodas.”
Hearts Afire Running Man Cocktail Recipe
In a tall glass add 30mL of Brogan's Way Hearts Afire gin, 15mL of Maidenii Sweet Vermouth and 20mL of Aperol. Add ice and top with Capi spicy ginger beer. Stir. Garnish with an orange wedge and sprig of mint.
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