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Rosemary Water: how to launch a new brand from scratch

By Crowdcube. 12th Jul 2019

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David Spencer-Percival developed No. 1 Rosemary Water after trying to discover why 1 in 10 residents live to be over 100 in the Italian village of Acciaroli. A team of scientists identified rosemary as the key ingredient, and after finding no pure rosemary extract drinks on the market, he setup an extraction house, hired a team of scientists, and developed No. 1 Rosemary Water.

The range now includes pure extract shots, as well as Basil, Juniper, Lemon Verbena, Thyme, Olive Leaf, Meadowsweet, Sage, Mint and Fennel still and sparkling waters. Hemp Water and a range of soda mixers coming soon.

A lot of people have great business ideas, but only those who take action are able to make them a reality. To do so, you’ll actually need to start a company. This involves a lot of tedious processes, which tends to put off many would-be entrepreneurs.

Many startups stall due to not making decisions quickly enough, simply because there are so many to make. The advantage of a startup is that without all the bureaucracy that comes with big firms, you’ll have the power to make decisions almost instantly.

You’ll of course make mistakes along the way, but the experience you’ll gain will certainly outweigh them. I’ve found that it’s often best to learn by doing.

With a couple of very successful start-ups that grew to £100 million+ companies, I saw No. 1 Botanicals as a test of my entrepreneurial skills. The concept began a few years ago when I read an article exploring why 1 in 10 residents in the Italian village of Acciaroli live healthily to be over 100 years old, with low incidents of the diseases associated with age, such as Alzheimer’s. Scientists attributed their long lives to a high consumption of rosemary, a super herb.

Convinced that I needed more rosemary in my life, I Googled “drinks with rosemary extract”, but found nothing. I bought a rosemary bush and put a few springs into some water, purely as a taste test. I knew that I wouldn’t be getting much of its medicinal properties without a pure extract. The problem was that I wasn’t a scientist or herbalist. I knew nothing about the extraction process, and didn’t have the facilities or equipment to do so.

To fill my own skills gap, I recruited a drinks manufacturer and was put in touch with the top botanical scientist at the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew. With all her ancient medical wisdom about plants, she highlighted that while single extract herbs had long been used in pharmaceutical drugs, no-one had used them to make a simple drink.


Passionate about the idea, Royal Botanical Gardens were keen to be involved, and would later authenticate our extraction process.

Both the manufacturers and the extraction team are highly-skilled individuals with their own view of how things should be done. While I never questioned their expertise, I was adamant that the drink should only consist of pure rosemary extract and spring water.

I lost count of the times that I refused to include sugar, stabilisers, preservatives and other additives. Likewise, I wouldn’t cut corners and use rosemary flavouring instead of pure extract – it would have defeated the point.

As stabilisers and preservatives make the drinks production process far easier, avoiding them complicated matters, and required a lot more effort. Ironically, making the simplest drink possible with just two ingredients was the most difficult process, but I was stubborn and would have it no other way.

If you have a clear vision for a product or service, don’t compromise on your core idea. Sticking to your guns and going against convention is how new breakthrough products come about.

Telling the story of the origins of your brand is a great way of marketing the product. This way, you’ll have a lot more to sell than just a product or service; you’ll have a story.

It was clear that a mass marketing strategy akin to the big soft-drink companies would be a wasted effort. So, I started to decide who it was going to appeal to first. Women over 50 were a clear target market, as well as the health-conscious and those with disposable income. We also appeal to younger people who are becoming more attune sustainable consciousness.

It of course pays to do your own quantitative and qualitative market research, but you’ll have a basic idea of who your product is for. Once you’ve realised your demographic, you’ll be able to gear your marketing towards them and decide the best way to communicate your story.

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I made a significant investment in advertising to make retailers aware of No. 1 Rosemary Water. This way, when I eventually got meetings with retailers, the buyers had already heard of us and were won over by our story. Most surprising were Harvey Nichols, who stocked No. 1 Rosemary Water straight away, despite having no similar product category to put it into.

After we’d launched our marketing, we started to attract health-conscious celebs. Stella McCartney’s agent asking for some No. 1 Rosemary Water. There was an order for Victoria Beckham to try, which she later posted a picture of to her 23 million Instagram followers. We also found a fan in Edward Enninful, the editor of Vogue, which certainly helped with promotion.

Companies and entrepreneurs are often so caught up with obvious trends and watching what other competitors are doing that they end up trying to replicate and improve upon existing ideas, rather than trying to pioneer new ones.

This is perhaps my most important lesson – there will always be blind spots out there, even for the world’s biggest brands.

Our next challenge is to make No. 1 Hemp Water by extracting CBD from hemp seeds. Due to confusion surrounding the legalities of hemp and CBD, it will be quite the challenge. A teaser picture of No. 1 Hemp Water bottle with a cannabis leaf has already been taken down by Facebook!

However, we know that due to their proven medicinal qualities and a maturing global debate, hemp and CBD will only become more popular and widely-used.

Our pure extract rosemary shots have also veered into uncharted territory in the pharmaceutical sector, and our new range of botanical soda mixers will take on the classic range of sugar and additive-heavy tonics.

Remember that when building your brand from scratch, hard work does pay off. So, dare to be bold, and know that just because your idea isn’t currently mainstream, doesn’t mean that it can’t be. Chances are that either no one has thought of it, or that those that have simply haven’t acted on it.

Find out more about No. 1 Rosemary Water and invest on their pitch page.

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