Drinks brand owner and distributor Proof Drinks is gearing up for the next phase of its growth as the company confirms the appointment of industry professional Jeremy Hill as managing director.

Hill is the founder and former chairman of Hi-Spirits, which was acquired by Sazerac in 2015. He is taking an equity stake in Proof Drinks, joining founders James McDermott and Paul Ferguson on the senior management team.

Founded in 2010, Proof Drinks owns and distributes Cazcabel Tequila and CUT Rum, as well as distributing brands including Swedish craft beer pioneer Pistonhead and coca leaf liqueur Agwa De Bolivia.

Hill said: “I’d always planned to return to the drinks sector once my non-compete agreement expired. I’d been following what James and Paul have been doing with Proof Drinks, and I see a lot of similarities between Proof and Hi-Spirits in the early days. It’s my mission to help the guys position Proof as the UK’s leading independent drinks agency.

“The fact that we have such a diverse portfolio of brands enables us to have interesting conversations with both existing and potential customers across the on-trade and off-trade. Proof has demonstrated that it is able to create and grow its own brands too, at the same time as adding value for its partners.

“Cazcabel is already a category leader in terms of its growth rate, while the recent launch of CUT Rum shows that Proof can create differentiated products even in the most competitive categories. As I’ve always maintained innovation is the lifeblood of the drinks sector and that will continue to be our focus. There are many opportunities out there, both established and evolving, we will ensure that we have the right fit within the Proof Drinks portfolio.”

McDermott said: “We’re very proud of what Proof Drinks has achieved so far. We’ve seen double-digit sales growth each year, have always made a profit, and now employ 20 people. The opportunity to bring Jeremy’s knowledge and experience into play alongside our own will be invaluable as we continue to grow.”

Ferguson added: “We’ve seen Cazcabel become a 40,000 case a year brand in just four years, while with Pistonhead we were ahead of the curve on the craft beer market’s shift into cans. The drinks sector is hugely competitive, but there are always opportunities. We expect both our portfolio and our team to expand further, and we’re delighted to have Jeremy’s proven entrepreneurial flair focused on the continued success of Proof Drinks.”

Proof Drinks works with leading retailers including Marks & Spencer, Tesco, Sainsbury’s Harrods and Harvey Nichols, while in the on-trade its brands are stocked by operators including Mitchells & Butlers, Casual Dining Group and the Restaurant Group. For more information see www.proofdrinks.com