A social enterprise which employs ex-service men and women has won a contract to supply its vodka to every Asda in the country
A former soldier forced to turn to charity to help him adapt to civilian life after injury has won a major contract to sell his social enterprise vodka in 350 Asda stores.
Chris Gillan's Heroes Vodka has won the biggest contract of its kind with a mainstream supermaket, which will see it ensure jobs for ex-service people and raise funds for veterans charities.
It comes after Chris, who was injured while training with the SAS in Afghanistan in 2008, worked with the supermarket and Social Investment Scotland (SIS) to upscale the Heroes drinks brand.
Chris said: “The opportunity afforded to Heroes Drinks by Asda is simply incredible and I am grateful for their overwhelming support.
“The scale of opportunity has enabled Heroes Drinks to launch a super-premium vodka at an incredible price and the significant increase in sales will not only fast-track our ambitions of employing disadvantaged veterans nationwide but also greatly increase our financial support to our partnering charities.”
In 2015, Heroes Drinks Company became the first non-profit organisation in the alcohol sector and is founded on the mission of supporting the UK armed forces family and providing work placement programmes for former servicemen and women who have struggled with the transition to civilian life. It also donates at least 20% of its profits to veterans charities.
After leaving the military in 2008, Chris was unable to take a fitness test to join the police and his injuries led to a period of unemployment. His home was then flooded and he was left homeless.
“My financial position led me to turn to the armed forces’ charities for support,” he explains. “The support they gave helped to provide a foundation from which to rebuild my life outside the military.”
Determined to help other veterans facing a similar plight, Chris started working on Heroes Drinks Company in 2011.
Heroes Drinks is a fantastic example of the benefits in working together with innovative social enterprises to make ethical and high-quality products more readily available to consumers - Heather Turnbull, Asda
The product is distilled a minimum of seven times to ensure its purity before being diluted with demineralised Scottish water, resulting in a crystal clear and exceptionally smooth vodka, which has a subtle sweetness.
73% of vodka drinkers would choose to purchase Heroes Vodka over other vodka products according to research conducted by The University of Abertay in 2015. The vodka also scored 7.65 out of 10 at the World Vodka Awards in 2014.
Having established a relationship with SIS, Chris and his team participated in the first Asda Social Enterprise Supplier Development Academy. The academy was launched in 2016 with proceeds from the 5p plastic bag charge.
It aims to offer guidance to entrepreneurs on working with large retailers, as well as increasing the availability of social enterprise products for ethically-minded consumers, all during a series of workshops across a four day period.
Heroes Drinks has become the first academy participant to win a contract to sell its product in all Asda stores across the UK. It also received access to a £100,000 loan from the Asda Community Capital scheme as well as a further £150,000 of finance from SIS.
“As one of the largest national listings of its kind, Heroes Drinks is a fantastic example of the benefits in working together with innovative social enterprises to make ethical and high-quality products more readily available to consumers,” added Heather Turnbull, buying manager for Asda.
“Our partnership with SIS is providing tangible results and continues to ensure that money generated by customers through the carrier bag charge is responsibly re-invested in charities such as those committed to supporting the UK armed forces’ community.”
Alastair Davis, chief executive at Social Investment Scotland, commented: “By promoting social enterprise products as viable alternatives to their commercial counterparts, we have a fantastic opportunity to significantly increase the revenues raised by the sector and, in turn, create much more sustainable and long term income for good causes.
“Asda’s partnership with SIS to deliver the UK’s first Social Enterprise Supplier Development Academy is helping provide access to organisations like Heroes Drinks Company to the support, advice and investment they need to grow and supply a large retailer. We are looking forward to the second Academy this summer, which will open for applications soon.”
Heroes Drinks Company is the second social enterprise to be listed with the supermarket, following the introduction of Brewgooder in November 2016.