Fever Tree: Gross Margin Outlook

In Practise Analysis

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In November 2014, Fever Tree (FEVR) listed in the UK at a valuation of ~£150m. With 50%+ gross and ~30% EBIT margins, UK long-only funds basked in its asset-lite model.

One overlooked detail in the roadshow was its bottling setup. At the time of the IPO, FEVR outsourced all production to one bottling partner in Somerset, UK. It sourced ingredients, glass, and packaging, and sent it all to one bottling plant. And this bottling partner was a real partner: the company actually owned equity in FEVR.

One of the great things Fever-Tree did in the early days, well before the IPO, they formed a very good relationship with the bottling firm they still use in the UK. That firm invested in Fever-Tree at a price well below, between 5% and 10% stake. The business was valued less than the IPO price, so it was a true partnership. A couple of the directors of that business were directors – if it was that formal a type of word – certainly advisors on the pre-IPO board. It was a real partnership with real mutual interest. - Former Director at FEVR

Not only did this align incentives, but it enabled FEVR to benefit from great economies of scale. All of FEVR's exports were served from one bottling plant in Somerset.

As FEVR scaled to the US and EU, it needed more capacity. Today, the company has ten bottling and canning sites. As more volume is spread over more sites, gross margins have declined.

Over the last 6 months, FEVR has cut guidance twice and now expects a gross margin between 33-35% in FY 2022, down 8% from 2021 and 17.5% from 2019. This leaves FEVR in an interesting position; its brand seems as strong as ever yet margins are the lowest in its public history.

There are various data points that suggest FEVR’s brand is as strong as ever. For example:

  1. In the UK, FEVR has 45% market share by value, 50% higher than Schweppes, 20x its nearest premium competitor and a 7x higher sell through rate than other premium mixers
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