Funkin began in 1999, when entrepreneur Alex Carlton saw a gap in the market and filled it with fresh, quality juices and purées. We caught up with him for a chat to discover exactly how the company developed and what Alex did next…
What inspired you to start Funkin, when and why?
I lived in LA in the 90s when smoothies were THE new thing. A flat mate and I started selling our smoothies out of a VW Camper Van on Melrose Avenue! They were so popular that when I moved home to London soon after, I bought a Smart car (the first ever), branded it with my chosen name – FUNKIN – and sold smoothies in Soho. It took off straight away via word of mouth.
As Innocent and PJs smoothies entered the market too, I quickly switched to quality, fresh juices, sold on bulk. Then to juices and purées for bars to produce great-tasting cocktails. At that time competitors were offering frozen cocktail purées only, so Funkin’s fresh products quickly became very popular – and went global!
In about 2002 Funkin entered stores and the consumer market and in about 2005/6 we started making pre-batched cocktail mixers too. It’s all been uphill from day one, thankfully.
What was your background pre-Funkin?
Running free and wild ;) …always thinking of new business ideas but never making it big.
What do you feel is key to Funkin's success?
The quality of the product. Quality was always premium and still is. Funkin gave bars convenience, consistency and confidence when making cocktails. Plus, took away the problem of certain fruits only being available certain times of the year. With us, their whole range of cocktails could be offered (and taste fantastic) all year round.
Also the love and support from key industry folk, mixologists and brand ambassadors. They were the key influencers that spread the word and supported Funkin – and me – from the go.
What's been Funkin's proudest moment?
Mmm. I think the moment I realised we’d become recognised and respected was when Diageo ran a huge nationwide sampling campaign – A Question of Taste – and chose Funkin as the mixer partner. It was only a few years after starting out so was a big deal and made me very proud.
Has Funkin always been based in London?
Yep. Our first office was Queens Park – then we moved to Camden. London’s a great city to launch a business.
Where do you see the company going in the next five years?
I see Funkin becoming a household name. The explosion in the popularity of cocktails is continuing and consumers want better and better quality, so I think Funkin will become a firm favourite.
What's your favourite Funkin product?
Morello Cherry Purée, Margarita mixer and the Vanilla Syrup. They’re simply incredible. The entire range is smashing so it’s impossible to choose one!
What's your favourite cocktail?
Tricky one, but I think a Margarita.
Do you have a top tip for cocktail making - or drinking!?
Lots of ice. Lots and lots of ice! Pile it in to keep the cocktail chilled and to actually prevent ice melting and diluting the drink.
And a top tip for an extra special party?
Music and fun guests. A great DJ makes a party.
Do you have a party trick?
I end up doing headstands quite often...
What do you do with your down time – if you have any!?
I love yoga, running, tennis and squash. I bring up my two lovely children. And I travel when I can – this year I toured parts of Asia with the family and we all loved it.
And finally, back to your roots. What are your favourite London cocktail bars?
Ok – there are so many but my top four are:
Hix – Soho
The Den – Wardour Street
The London Edition Hotel bar – Berners Street
Trailer Happiness – Portobello Road