Demand surging

Panther M*lk creator targets £1m revenue

Panther M*lk has gained cult status

Rising demand from major retailers for an alcoholic oat cocktail has led its Glasgow creator to target revenues of £1 million next year.

Paul Crawford, who appeared on TV Dragons’ Den in March, is planning a major increase in production of his Panther M*lk brand next year, from hundreds of bottles per month to potentially tens of thousands.

He recently received a £17,500 loan through the British Business Bank’s Start Up Loans programme and Transmit Startups to support the company’s growth and expects to launch a series A fundraise early next year to help fulfil order volumes. 

During the Covid-19 pandemic, Mr Crawford was made redundant from his role with a tech start-up and decided to focus on developing Panther M*lk, which began as a side project.

The popularity of Panther M*lk has soared since it was first sold from a pop-up bar on Glasgow’s Mitchell Lane. In October 2020, a sustainable oat drink recipe was launched and this summer he took the brand on the road with a converted horse box, known as the Panthermobile, visiting some of Scotland’s biggest festivals and events. 

After securing contracts with well-known restaurants, bars and hotel chains in Glasgow, Mr Crawford is setting his sights on the UK retail market and also hopes to grow the business’ headcount.

He said: “This year our focus has been on getting the brand out there and while we’ve got a strong following in Glasgow already, it would be great to see Panther M*lk enjoyed all over the UK.

“Appearing on Dragons’ Den was brilliant for exposure and even though the deal with Deborah Meaden didn’t go through in the end, her advice and guidance since the show has been invaluable and we still keep in touch.   

“Panther M*lk was the world’s first ready-to-drink oat drink cocktail and we have worked hard to build a sustainable brand with support from consultants at Dark Art Drinks.

“We’ve picked up a number of awards and, most recently, we were Vegan Friendly certified. Our packaging is fully recyclable with labels now printed using organic ink and we’re committed to retaining our environmentally friendly approach as production ramps up.

“Finance is a critical element of our expansion programme and it’s great to have had support through Transmit Startups and the Start Up Loans scheme. It is an exciting time for Panther M*lk and our ambitious growth plans are already underway. Glasgow will always be the brand’s home, but we hope that conversations with UK-wide supermarkets could lead to a much wider geographical spread.”

Panther M*lk is one of almost 900 small businesses in Glasgow to receive a Start Up Loan from the British Business Bank. Combined, entrepreneurs in the city have received more than £7.4 million in funding to help set up their own businesses since the programme was launched in 2012. 

Barry McCulloch, senior manager, UK Network, Scotland at the British Business Bank, said: “Panther M*lk has quickly become a cult favourite in Glasgow and the business has gone from strength to strength in its first two years.

“During lockdown, a new wave of entrepreneurs decided to take their ideas to the next level and we are pleased to support ambitious and creative founders like Paul. The Start Up Loans programme was established to provide funding through a range of delivery partners, as well as offering support for additional business activities such as marketing, accounting and business development.”

Morag Kelly, business adviser at Transmit Startups, said: “Paul has used his unique ideas and previous experience of selling cocktails to create this incredible vegan drink.

“After using his Start Up Loan to purchase the horsebox, it’s great to see the Panthermobile out and about, professionally wrapped in Panther M*lk branding. It’s been a privilege and a pleasure for Transmit Startups to play a part in Paul’s story.”

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