An experienced UK retail sales director says he is looking forward to an exciting new challenge after joining highly ambitious West Midlands independent drinks collective Virtus Brands.
Tony Houlston, who has more than 30 years’ experience in the food and drink retail sector and was previously at symbol group Select & Save, was appointed sales director at Virtus at the start of the year.

Virtus Brands was founded by Wolverhampton entrepreneur Baz Kooner, who made a splash in the industry by launching his own five-times distilled premium vodka, Jatt Life, in 2020.
Jatt Life is now available in four different flavours and sold in 15 countries. Its success has allowed it to move into its own 15,000 sq ft in-house production facility, which has provided a springboard for Baz to help other drinks producers manufacture, develop and grow their brands under the Virtus Brands umbrella.

Virtus now consists of 15 different up-and-coming brands, including Jatt Life, as well as Rico69, which is a vegan cream tequila, Sweet Shop spirits, a range of flavoured vodka based on popular sweets, and Pink prosecco.

It also sells a range of pre-mixed cocktails under its Bartender’s Secrets range, ensuring Tony has plenty of variety when it comes to promoting and selling the products, which he intends to achieve via wholesalers, bars and through festivals later in the summer.

Tony said: “I have worked in the retail and off-licence trade for many years so while much of this sector is familiar to me, Virtus Brands is bringing a young, fresh and ambitious approach to the market, which I find really exciting.

“It’s a brilliant time to move into this sector because new, independent drinks brands are on the up. People are moving away from the big brands, they want new ideas, new people and new stories, which is just what Virtus Brands is all about.

“Ironically, I’m teetotal myself but I’ve been getting customers and my family, to taste-test our products. There’s something there for everyone, whether they’re a VIP sipping a vodka cocktail or a festival-goer looking for a quick alcoholic shot.”

Each brand under the Virtus Brands banner is owned and fronted by entrepreneurs who undergo a selection process to ensure their brand fits in with the Virtus ethos and who have shown the ambition Baz believes they need to make it a success.

New brands are being added to the collection all the time, which, he said, will help Tony to offer his customers ever-more exciting and varied products.

Baz said: “Getting somebody as experienced and well-known as Tony on board is a massive step for us. He is hugely well-known in the retail and drinks sectors and has an extensive network that we are really excited about plugging into in order to grow our sales.

“We have huge ambitions for Virtus Brands. We want to achieve unicorn start-up status and to do that we need to increase our range of brands and grow sales both in the UK and abroad.

“The independent drinks scene is booming and it’s an opportunity for anyone with passion, drive and creativity. We’re very excited about what lies ahead.”

Virtus Brands now employs 15 people and two years ago it added former Pernod Ricard UK commercial director Chris Ellis to its board as a non-executive director.
For more information on Virtus Brands visit www.virtusbrands.com