James Bruce and Stafford Fox moved to Byron in 2009 after becoming fed up with their corporate jobs. But what started out as a gap year, turned into the beginning of a thriving business together.
“We were 26 and both in jobs we didn’t like,” recalls James. “So we moved to work in hospitality for a year and figure out what we wanted to do.”
Shortly after moving, the pair became obsessed with the foodie culture in Byron. “At that point, organic food was really just emerging, and Byron was at the forefront of that,” he says.
James had a background in marketing, and the more he explored the range of natural products in Byron, the more he saw that their branding was missing the mark. And the seed for his own brand was planted.
At the time, Stafford was working at the local farmers market, and it was there where the duo stumbled on the idea of a soft drink, but one specifically made for adults.
“We tasted a few locally made ginger beers there, but none that hit the mark,” explains James. “We wanted to make a ginger beer with a real kick and spice — one for grownups!”
Experimenting with various combinations, the pair settled on creating their own premium, organic ginger beer, using the natural South American energy plant, Yerba Mate.
After selling the creation at the local markets, in 2013 the drinks duo got their big break following a chance encounter with chef, Kylie Kwong, who loved the product so much she wanted it in her restaurant. By the end of 2014, many of Sydney and Melbourne’s top-tier restaurants and bars had followed the celebrity chef’s lead and stocked StrangeLove.
StrangeLove continued to evolve. They rebranded with cleaner packaging and one year later, in 2015, doubled down on their “adult soda” approach by switching to a low-calorie recipe, and launching an eclectic “Willy Wonka” range of flavours, including blood orange and chilli.
When COVID hit it initially posed a real threat, given that 70% of StrangeLove’s sales were through hospitality. However, selling on Amazon Australia had allowed the business to tap into an entirely new audience and the company has since seen increased sales.
Another benefit of working with Amazon Australia has been access to its advanced fulfilment network and great delivery options through Fulfilment by Amazon. This service has allowed the company to overcome the challenges of transporting a heavy, breakable product.
James says when he was approached by Amazon Australia for their Launchpad program, he could see that they genuinely wanted to help and nurture small businesses.
“They had genuine infrastructure, mountains of support and fulfillment solutions for helping small businesses and actually want to help us grow,” he says.
StrangeLove is now available in Singapore, Hong Kong, the Netherlands, Belgium and New Zealand and will soon debut in British Colombia and Finland. And with the global reach of Amazon, it is planning to tap into the huge international audience of the US and UK.