Support proves key to getting ‘cheeky’ business off the ground – Cheeky Tea Company
Jan 26

Support proves key to getting ‘cheeky’ business off the ground – Cheeky Tea Company

For University of Otago classmates and budding booze barons Brendan Yielder and Olivier Despatis, business started with a crude concoction of tea bags, lemon juice, and vodka, whipped together in a scarfie flat in Dunedin. But it was the support from FoodSouth – Otago and the Product Development Research Centre at the University of Otago that got the ‘cheeky’ business off the ground.

Third-year commerce students Brendan and Olivier took out the prizes for best business case and best pitch at entrepreneurship programme Audacious with their Cheeky Hard Iced Tea business concept.

Their hard iced tea was born from recognising the growth in popularity of regular iced tea alongside growth in more health conscious RTD beverage. But the pair needed to engage with someone who could help them take the next step in their commercial journey.

Their search brought them to the door of FoodSouth – Otago, based at the University of Otago where they started working with Tobias Richter and Pat Silcock. “We don’t have a food science background so it was about understanding why you might want a little bit of sugar if it’s going to give body to the beverage, how different ingredients can interact and how to create a recipe that could be scaled up – so taking a much more scientific approach than what we were working from in my kitchen,” Brendan laughs.

“Tobias explained how the recipe would translate into a large-scale environment and what types of ingredients might work better when you’re moving from producing five litres to producing 20,000,” Brendan says.
The first batch of 400 litres was produced at FoodSouth – Otago and a local beer festival became an unofficial test bed, giving the boys confidence to move into a contract manufacturing context. By July 2021 they were producing batches of 20,000 litres per month (that’s 60,000 cans) and sales are strong from the 60 plus retail stores stocking their product.

“One of the things we’ve learned is it’s great to have the idea, but sometimes you just need to be able to pull in the experts and that’s what we got,” Brendan says.