Shea Campbell has spent the last year working closely with the UK’s number one fruit purée brand in his role as Funkin’s Innovation Champion and says it was nothing short of an 'experience of a lifetime'.
As Funkin sets out to launch its 2017 competition, Campbell shares some insight for those hoping to get their hands on the coveted prize – one-year, part-time contract with Funkin worth £6,500, a £500 cash prize and the opportunity to have their winning cocktail featured on Funkin’s London Cocktail Week stand.
Here’s what the bartender from Orchid, Aberdeen has to say:
If you had to name a highlight, what would it be?
'It has most definitely been being integrated with the Funkin team. Everyone has been super inclusive and very open to ideas. The atmosphere has been great. I’ve been able to work with new products on the market and discuss the potential for future product launches. Another perk of the prize is their amazing office bar.'
Tell us how your experience has been.
'Incredible. I’ve attended lots of interesting events, including bar shows and the Funkin Innovation Forum. Our working partnership has been flexible and the team has been wholeheartedly understanding of my schedule, so that it works for everyone.'
What were your goals when you entered the competition to become Funkin Innovation Champion?
'I liked the idea of working on product development and encouraging bartenders to think a little differently about their approach to drinks. I also wanted to fill the gaps in the cocktail industry that would allow bartenders to use a better product than what they had before.
'The biggest eye-opener has been the sheer volume of bars (including pubs, franchises, hotels, etc.) that do not have the resources or training to make a lot of their own ingredients, so they rely on shelf-stable, tasty ingredients. A new ingredient or mixer to that level of the market has more innovation potential than perhaps something that only caters to top tier bars.
'Most of all, this experience has showed me that Funkin’s ethos to ensure that not only bars serve good drinks (offering the training and the product), but also that customers, no matter where they decide to have a cocktail, are getting better drinks.'
As the winner, you will be able to travel a lot and network alongside Funkin’s incredible development team
Why did you enter?
'I loved the idea of innovation and this style of competition.'
Why do you think bartenders should enter Funkin’s Innovation Champion competition?
'It's a different style of competition. It allows you to think not just about drinks, but how to improve a cocktail or speed up service so you can provide people with their cocktail of choice more easily.
'As the winner, you will be able to travel a lot and network alongside Funkin’s incredible development team.
'Being the Funkin Innovation Champion also provides you the financial freedom, on top of what you would normally get from your own work, to possibly pursue some of your own projects.
'You are also exposed to another side of the drinks industry — providing a service to a company. This aspect of the job is more business-orientated, meaning you manage your own time and complete projects at home for a deadline — skills that are beneficial moving forward.'
What advice would you give to someone entering this year’s comp?
'Know who your judges are. Use Funkin as the main flavour component. Think outside the box. Know Funkin’s audience and where they might like to be stocked in the future.'
What is your favourite Funkin product to work with and why?
'Having been lucky enough to use the whole Funkin range, the one that stands closest to my heart (as it was launched at the competition) is the Funkin Pro Coconut Purée. It has a beautiful texture and is balanced with acidity so you have more room within your drink to play with sweetness.'
What innovation have you been involved with in your role as Funkin’s Innovation Champion?
'Without giving the products away, we’ve been looking at flavours that we feel will become more mainstay in bars in the future. Also, I’ve been involved in the ongoing discussion of products that may be seeing their way into bars soon.'