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Food Innovators from Abertay help RAF veteran launch Heroes Vodka

4 April 2014

Abertay University's Food Innovation team have helped a military veteran launch a distinctive new brand of premium vodka.

The Heroes Drinks Company Ltd produces Heroes Vodka - a triple distilled premium vodka diluted with high quality de-mineralised water.

The company was founded by Chris Gillan who wanted to give something back to the Armed Forces after nine years of service.

During that time, he served three operational tours in the Middle East: two tours of Iraq and one working with the SAS in Helmand Province, training the Afghan National Police.

Billed as 'a vodka with a mission', 20 per cent of the company's profits goes to veterans and Forces charities.

Chris came up with the idea back in 2010, and first trialled the product at the Royal Logistics Corps 20th anniversary celebrations in April last year.

Although it went down well, he felt the packaging could do more to reflect his aims for the business and that he needed a larger number of impartial people to taste the product.

With this in mind, he approached Interface - a five year project created to connect the Scottish food and drink industry to the wealth of academic expertise available within Scotland's universities.

Interface told Chris that he was eligible for the Innovation Voucher Scheme (funded by the Scottish Funding Council), and put him in touch with Abertay's Food Innovation team.

Jennifer Bryson - Manager of Food Innovation @ Abertay - explains what happened next:

"When Chris came to us, it was clear that he had a good product and a good idea, but that he needed a bit of help refining this idea before he was ready to launch the product into retail. After our initial discussions, we decided collectively that it was the branding, the price of the product and the taste that needed to be further investigated.

"For the branding, we used our state-of-the-art product video animation and eye-tracking technology to help determine how the label performed against that of other premium brands of vodka.

"We also ran consumer panels to determine how the taste of the vodka performed against that of the competitors, and established an acceptable price for Heroes Vodka to be stocked at in the shops."

Speaking about his experience of working with Food Innovation @ Abertay, Chris Gillan said:

"The research undertaken by Abertay University has been a huge benefit to Heroes Drinks Company and the development of Heroes Vodka. Although extremely passionate about delivering a high quality product aimed at supporting our troops, the research has enabled Heroes Vodka to be tested by real consumers, providing crucial and unbiased feedback. Thankfully, the research confirmed its quality but it also identified some minor amendments required to the packaging.

"Overall, what we ended up with was a distinctive-looking product, with light, delicate flavours, and I'm delighted with it. It's a beautifully smooth, slightly sweet-tasting vodka, with a subtle peppery taste towards the end and the faintest hint of aniseed."

As well as donating to veterans and Forces charities, The Heroes Drinks Company also provides veteran employment opportunities - including to those with disabilities caused by their service.

The product has so far only been available online and sold business to business. However, following the input from Food Innovation @ Abertay, Chris will shortly be in discussions with major supermarkets about stocking Heroes Vodka on their shelves.


For media enquiries please contact Kirsty Cameron T: 01382 308935 M: 07972172158 E:

Notes to Editors:

Chris's father served in The Royal Highland Fusiliers, and Chris was part of the TA before he joined the Royal Air Force (RAF). It was while serving with the RAF that he was seconded to the SAS.

Heroes Drinks Company is based in Leith.

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