Fascinated by the story behind ODK, where it started and how it came to be the market force it is today, we talked to CEO and all round legend, Mauro Parola to find out more:
Where and Why did ODK begin?
ODK was started in Italy in 1992 as a family business, originally the product range was limited to powdered drinks such as hot chocolates and frappes. After looking to the United States of America and observing how the cocktail scene was booming over there in the 1990s ODK decided to diversify into the cocktail market. Interestingly, ODK’s first jaunt into this new industry was characterised by the sale of bar equipment such as cocktail shakers and pourers, rather than cocktail ingredients.
However, it wasn’t long until the bartenders and bar managers of Italy began requesting cocktail ingredients as well as cocktail equipment from ODK, this is when ODK took the opportunity to marry up their original expertise in powdered drinks with cocktails – creating the first range of ODK cocktail mixers, such as the sweet and sour mix powder. This first powder proved a great success and so ODK looked to develop more and different flavours for the cocktail market and so began ODK’s long tradition of product innovation.
In 1994, ODK in Italy built on the early success on the cocktail scene by launching their first range of cocktail fruit purees. Starting with only a limited range of fruits, in 2000 ODK soon expanded the range to encompass many different fruits and flavours following an ever increasing demand from bartenders. Eventually ODK were able to dominate the cocktail puree and powder market in Italy by 2005 although they didn’t stop there…
Instead of growing complacent with their new found success, ODK continued to innovate introducing a range of cocktail syrups. The cocktail syrups like the cocktail fruit purees started small and ODK continued to develop more and more interesting flavours with one eye on the rest of the world as they looked to grow their market beyond the borders of Italy.
Exports began in 2009, starting first with the countries within the format of Europe and the EU. ODK’s cocktail syrups and cocktail fruit purees were well received across many countries in Europe as they had a similar culture and therefore a similar use and need for the ODK product range. In the last 2 years, from 2015 onwards, ODK has expanded in the Asian continent in particular to countries in the Middle East and South East Asia, such as China, South Korea, Bahrain, the UAE and Qatar.
Starting from a small powdered drinks business in Italy, ODK now exports to 35 countries in the world with 58% of turnover now down to export alone.
How has ODK progressed over the years?
ODK has always had a grand tradition of returning to the market and, in particular our customers, discovering what it is they need and desire – from there we look to try and make that a reality. A strong desire has always been more flavours, bartenders are always looking for new cocktails to create and new flavours to experiment with and often turn to us when they know a flavour works well but it is not readily available in syrup or puree form.
ODK now has more than 22 flavours in our range, which is growing month by month. We have two new flavours that we are launching in the coming weeks – Yuzu and Blueberry. Even once the flavour has been created we still continue to test and develop each individual flavour to make sure it is as accurate as possible.
ODK have now progressed far beyond their individual products and have a brand to maintain with a following developing around the world. This has led to development in many areas of ODK such as new products centred around coffees and hot drinks, targeted at markets around the world that don’t have a strong culture of alcohol consumption; as well as packaging graphic design and more. ODK’s packaging – in particular for the fruit purees – has been one of our most successful innovations with many people turning to ODK due to the ease of use compared to many of the competitors.
The cocktail products of ODK will continue to develop however in recent years we have certainly progressed further into the world of hot drinks and baristas, which has almost brought ODK full circle again as these powdered coffee related products is where the company originally started.
Although one of the most interesting things for us remains to be how people receive and use the ODK products. We design them for a certain use but then are always hearing about applications we hadn’t event thought about. It is great to see people progressing with the brand and the product in their own way for example in the Middle East where we are seeing the fruit purees used in smoothies or where we are seeing our flavoured cream products for hot drinks being used in cocktails in the UK.
What’s on the horizon for ODK?
Now in 36 countries around the world, our horizon looks like growing this number. We of course want ODK to be available in as many countries as possible offering people the opportunity to try our great product.
As of this moment, mid way through 2017, we are currently working on developing more products for some of our younger markets such as the Middle East and Asia where alcohol consumption is not at the same levels as it is in Europe or America for example. This is where ODK has come full circle again, developing hot drink and coffee based products such as our frappe powders – allowing ODK to offer the people of these markets a real value proposition.
Although there is one thing that we can say for sure, we will be continuing on in the same way ODK has always been – listening to the bartenders, baristas, cafe owners and bar managers, innovating and developing our current products as well as new products to ensure our offering is one of the best around. We have a few more exciting products that we are currently developing but that we cannot talk too much about, all we can say for now is watch this space…