‘Dodgy’ experiment sparks $70m booze idea
After drinking a few too many Bloody Marys during coronavirus lockdown, Perth mum Renae Bunster realised there had to be an easier way to enjoy her cocktail of choice.
With two young kids to wrangle during iso, Ms Bunster didn't have time for fiddly ingredients, and she set herself a goal - to be able to mix the drink with nothing but vodka and tomato juice.
So Ms Bunster, the founder of the $1 million-a-year Bunsters Hot Sauce empire - known for its cheeky trademark "Sh*t The Bed" sauce - initially started experimenting with her own products.
"Pretty much as soon as the WA Government said to keep kids home from school, that's when I started to research heavily - it was pretty dodgy to begin with, with me pouring hot sauce into a bottle of vodka and thinking, 'I'm a genius'," she told news.com.au.
She eventually realised she was onto something, as there was nothing like her concept on the Australian market.
Now, Bunsters has created a premium small batch vodka infused with all of the natural, fresh ingredients that has made Sh*t the Bed such a global hit.
"I've walked a fine line between heat and flavour and I've nailed it. It's got all the flavour of Sh*t The Bed but we haven't just poured in the sauce - that's the incredible thing," she said.
"We've used the same fresh ingredients (as the sauce) and put that into the vodka, and the flavours just came out. I had no idea it would happen and it is amazing.
"I have achieved my crucial goal, to be able to make a two-ingredient Bloody Mary - just vodka and tomato juice and boom, you're back off chasing the kids."
The former TV journalist started making hot sauce for friends a few years ago, but it became a full-time job after a crowd-funding campaign to kickstart the business in 2015 raised $250,000 off a target of $65,000.
She previously told news.com.au her signature product's name was "too naughty" for supermarket giants like Coles and Woolies as it would leave customers "fainting in the aisles".
Now, she predicts the booze arm of the business will take the company into the "big league".
"Alcohol companies are normally valued at 10 times the revenue of food businesses," she said. "In the last 12 months we've sold 100,000 bottles of hot sauce, and if we sold the same amount of vodka, then Bunsters would be worth $70 million.
"It might take a few years to get there, but you get the idea of the value to vodka will bring to the brand."
Vodka is already the most popular spirit globally, and Ms Bunster said she was hoping to capitalise on the trend of celebrity alcohol labels and craft vodkas infused with natural ingredients that are all the rage at the moment.
"George Clooney sold his tequila brand for $1 billion, Ryan Reynolds is spruiking the cr*p out of Aviation Gin, P Diddy made a motza from Cîroc Vodka and Dan Aykroyd is rolling in it from Crystal Head vodka's annual turnover of 100 million bucks," she said.
"Our Hot Sauce is already killing it on the global stage and we can leverage that popularity with a flavoured vodka with the same name."
An equity raise is now underway, with almost $1 million raised in just one week. But the unexpected vodka announcement is expected to spark a rush of new investment.
"It appears I've seriously undervalued my company - there's only a week of the raise left to go, and there will be more zeros on the end next time there's a raise," she said.
"We haven't had to make any capital outlay to be able to make this foray into the vodka space, and we can do licensing deals with brands and other areas - I can see a Sh*t The Bed beer and definitely a tequila.
"We can also do licensing deals in the food space to like potato chips and jerky, but alcohol has absolutely been the priority during COVID."
Ms Bunster said it had been tough keeping the plan a secret while the development was underway, and that she was thrilled for the drink to hit the market in September.
Bunsters Sh*t The Bed Infused Vodka is available to pre-order here.
Originally published as 'Dodgy' experiment sparks $70m booze idea