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Panel Discussion, Imbibe 22

On Tuesday 5th of July, BIH founder Lorraine Copes curated and hosted an important panel discussion at Imbibe Live 22. At the ‘Industry Matters’ stage, Lorraine and four drinks brand founders discussed the emergence of Black-Owned drinks brands within the UK market and beyond.

At the UK’s No.1 Drinks event, Imbibe Live 22, Lorraine hosted an incredible panel discussion with some notable founders. They discussed the emergence of Black-owned drinks brands within the UK market and beyond. The panel included Nichole Johnson, founder of Lapin Rouille Champagne, Damola Timeyin, Co-founder of Spearhead Spirits, Aretha Anin, Co-founder of Haze Gin and Rico Oyejobi, Co-founder of Saint Ogun Rum.


Lorraine acknowledged the improved visibility of Black-owned brands over the past two to three years. It was broadly recognised that there is a gap in representation of brands owned by Black founders within the industry.

Lorraine began the discussion asking the panel why they embarked upon their journey’s into the world of drinks. Nichole spoke about being a wine enthusiast, and as a child she visited the vineyards that she now uses to make her champagne. After realising the distinct lack of representation in the industry of premium champagne, she decided to make a difference. Aretha and her co-founder have similar motives. Wanting to find a drink that represented east-London girls with Ghanaian heritage, they’ve mixed traditional London dry gin with Ghanaian spices. Damola and his co-founder similarly want to introduce the UK to premium African spirits.

Aretha discussed the importance of recognising the gap in the market for her product. She talked about travelling to Ghana for market research, challenging the misconceptions of women and alcohol consumption. Rico discussed the importance of narrative and branding, telling the audience about his family’s origins in Dominica. He explained that to him it’s important to hold heritage and stories with respect. With the clichés attached to rum branding, their vision is to create an authentic voice with the people and places that are part of the brand.


Similarly, Damola also talked about the importance of branding. As a Black-owned brand, people expect them to target a Black audience only. As a result, drinks branding often underserves the Black consumer. In Damola’s view, premium African products should be branded the same as any product, and be accessible to everyone.

Aretha has set her future sights on becoming one of the most prominent African gin products in the world. She is keen to fill a gap in the market, one that lacks representation, and she is confident that she has brought a genuine and authentic product into the market.

Nicole discussed that from a brand perspective, she wanted her wine to embody the five pillars of Black excellence. This highlights that at every stage of the spirits industry journey there has been Black influence. Educating on the long history of grapes and champagne is important for Nicole’s journey. In the context of vision, Damola wants to connect Africa through premium spirits, bringing authentic African products into the global market.

For more information on the brands part of this Imbibe Live panel discussion, head over to their websites below:

Nicole Johnson, Lapin Rouille Champagne

Damola Timeyin, Spearhead Spirits

Aretha Anin, Haze Gin 

Rico Oyejobi, Saint Ogun Rum

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