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For the thirsty Tai-Pan on the wagon, there is only one choice, a Gunner. Invented over a century ago in the Captain’s Bar of the Mandarin Oriental, Gunner is Hong Kong’s only real

For the thirsty Tai-Pan on the wagon, there is only one choice, a Gunner. Invented over a century ago in the Captain’s Bar of the Mandarin Oriental, Gunner is Hong Kong’s only real cocktail: a non-alcoholic blend of ginger beer, ginger ale and a dash of Bitters. 

With a singularly refreshing taste and a sophisticated blend of flavours, Gunner was the quintessential thirst-quencher for British expats in the Far East. With the flow of military and business people between Hong Kong and London, the bartenders of the grander golf and tennis clubs in the 

UK soon began fielding a legion of special requests for this perfect post- match refreshment, and taste of ‘home’. 

Melvin Jay first tasted the drink after a round of golf in the 1990’s, and was amazed by the complexity and sophistication of the taste mixed with the extraordinary refreshment it gave. He started to notice a growing number of people enjoying the drink as an interesting, sophisticated alternative to the old school soft drinks like cola and lemonade. Fortunately, Melvin had enjoyed a long and successful career in marketing blue-chip consumer goods brands, (Nivea, McCoy’s crisps, Club biscuits, Ovaltine and Isostar to name but a few), and immediately saw an opportunity. His business record is also first rate – in 2001, Melvin founded a highly successful innovation and marketing consultancy called Clear, which was sold to M&C Saatchi for £23m in 2008. So 

here was a drink, with a devoted following, birthright, the epitome of cool, and a delicious, refreshing taste that was not available to the mass market in the hands of just the man to set this straight: and so GUNNA was born. 

In 2016, Melvin put his proven marketing and product development skills to work and researched a recipe that took him all over the pink bits of the map; with Hong Kong flavours and Cape Town packaging, he pulled blends and inspiration to create something a little bit special. GUNNA is neither some derivative cola nor sweet lemonade, it is a unique, grown- up alternative. When market tested with barmen in London, it piqued significant interest, not least because it was exceptionally popular with the all-important millennial consumer, who approved of the drink’s heritage, its stylish packaging, its full and characterful flavour, which set it apart from the usual boring soft drinks. 


As we all know, sugar is the real enemy, and in a connected, consumer- savvy world GUNNA has found its niche. In consumer taste tests the drink scores exceptionally highly; with a perfect blend of lime, natural gingers, bitters and sparkling water, GUNNA is a low-sugar, high-taste alternative to traditional soft-drinks. GUNNA uses all natural flavouring and no preservatives, and because its sugar content is under 5%, Gunna is exempt from the Sugar Tax, which makes it attractive to both retailers and consumers alike. 

GUNNA currently has two flavours, ORIGINAL the homage to Hong Kong and STEELWORKS, inspired by the famous blend of cola and ginger that rehydrated the Cape Town steelworkers in the last century. The packaging shows the portrait of a lion, ‘the perfect symbol to evoke the spirit of Africa’, but a lion wearing a pair of hipster glasses because, well, he’s cool despite the heat. Two other flavours are in development, both of which will boast equally compelling identities of their own. The PINK PUNK is a tribute to the eponymous Shirley Temple cocktail created to sate her youthful thirst while filming in the far east, and the MUSCOVITE, a symphony of real lemonade and mint, an admiration of the Moscow Mule, but without the kick. 

‘Each drink has its own identity’ says Melvin. “The millennial market loves brands with an interesting provenance. We felt that the purity of the ingredients and each drink having its own character identity was imperative. By mixing four flavour sensations – sweet, sour, bitter and spice – we have created a range of unique and delicious drinks that are personifications of the way we should feel about ourselves. GUNNA does not conform to racial, gender or sexual stereotypes, hence the diversity of flavours’. 

With a growing acceptance that our differences are what make us special, GUNNA is proud to promote this socially responsible message with its own unique and delicious style. ‘You are fantastic the way you are, so let’s celebrate your true character’ explains Melvin, ‘We believe that expression of self-identity should be without fear, prejudice or apology’. GUNNA have recently partnered with DITCH THE LABEL, the global anti- prejudice charity to further support this important cause. 

Already sold in over 2,000 independent shops, convenience stores and delis, their focus now is to rapidly build distribution. Melvin is delighted to announce that in the last four weeks alone, GUNNA is now sold in an additional 400 outlets. ‘We are focusing on convenience, small grocery, and food/beverage outlets like delis, sandwich shops, coffee shops, informal dining, and pubs. Within the 400 new outlets, 138 are symbol groups like NISA, Londis, Premier, Mace, Cost Cutter etc. We are targeting these shops so that we can approach the head office teams of these with a great tasting product, attractive packaging and strong consumer interest in the brand. We have made good progress in our discussions with the UK’s 3 major Cash & Carry chains and are in advanced discussions with some of the key multiple chains’. 

There is more good news for GUNNA with the appointment of a new Sales Director, Marcus Hudson. Previously Marcus held senior sales roles at two very successful soft drinks startups – Purity Soft Drinks and Red Star Beverages. As a result of his success on Juice Burst and Sparkling ICE, he has a great reputation in the soft drinks industry. ‘His in-depth understanding of soft drinks and strong relationships with the key soft drinks buyers will enable us to significantly speed up the process of getting GUNNA on the big shelves. 

With the big guns in its sights, GUNNA is the epitome of the refreshing face of the future. 

This post was created on December 7 2017 by Juliet Brine