CRAFT distiller Eden Mill has grown turnover in spite of the huge challenges posed by the coronavirus for drinks firms after harnessing the potential of virtual gin tasting as a sales and marketing tool.

The St Andrews-based business grew revenues to £2 million in the three months to June, up nine per cent on the same period last year, although key sectors of the market were effectively closed amid the resulting lockdown.

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Eden Mill has made a name for itself in the on-trade after winning a big following for its gin, beer and whisky in bars and hotels around the world and has developed a big presence in the Duty Free market.

With outlets closed around the world the company faced the prospect of a big drop in sales.

However, the firm has won enough online business to more than make up for the loss of the revenue it would normally expect to record through other sales channels.

Eden Mill said its E-commerce and online revenue increased by 600% annually in the latest quarter, to around £940,000.

The company noted it despatched over 1,000 parcels daily from its Glasgow distribution centre at the peak of the coronavirus-affected period.

With Eden Mill achieving £0.8m net profit in the quarter it does not appear to have chased sales at the expense of profitability.

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A range of Scottish firms have recorded increased online business in recent weeks as consumers have looked for different ways of getting products they have been unable to buy in bars and the like.

Eden Mill has used the internet to help consumers find ways to continue to enjoy the social aspects of drinking while at home.

The company said it ran a series of virtual gin tastings and cocktail masterclasses with over 4,000 gin lovers in the UK paying for the Eden Mill “at home” experience.

The tasting sessions involve brand ambassadors hosting online sessions on Zoom, during which people can sample gins from tasting packs sent to their homes.

Newly appointed Eden Mill chief executive Tony Kelly said: “While e-commerce has always been a fundamental pillar of our multi-channel distribution model, the unprecedented crisis we have found ourselves operating in has forced us to accelerate our strategic plans and adapt to the new environment.”

He added: “Changing consumer behaviour … has been a catalyst for us to fast track our plans while the flexibility and marketing nous of our team has delivered increased sales, market share and brand awareness.”

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Eden Mill noted that it had also been bolstered by strong partnerships with key retailers and an early return to export markets such as Russia, Germany and Australia.

Mr Kelly said the success achieved in the last quarter would enable the company to retain more team members post furlough. It will also help the firm push on, unhindered by the Covid 19 coronavirus, with its plan to develop what it reckons will be Scotland’s first carbon neutral single malt whisky distillery.

Eden Mill has 60 employees. Some 27 of these are on furlough.

Mr Kelly founded the business with drinks industry veteran Paul Miller. Mr Kelly has succeeded Mr Miller as chief executive, with a focus on sales, operations and marketing.

Mr Miller will concentrate on the development of the malt distillery at Guardbridge by St Andrews. The site will include a visitor experience.

Eden Mill said the new facility is on track to be distilling by the end of 2021.