The best quality ingredients are needed to create the best possible cocktail experience, including the garnish. And an obsession with producing the best cocktail garnishes in the world led Daniel Singer to start his Miami-based company, Dirty food.
From humble beginnings, with products sold from the boot of Singer’s car, bar by bar, Filthy is now served by top bars, restaurants and hotels around the world.
The British-born entrepreneur moved to the US at the age of 18. In his own words, things had not gone well at school; he had also struggled with dyslexia and needed a fresh start. One of the first jobs he took was in a meat shop.
He says, “It was in that environment, in the highly commercialized nature of the meat trade, where I learned a lot about the kinds of businesses I didn’t want to be involved in and the kind of culture I would never want to have.”
In 2007, Singer finally found what he was looking for. He realized that some of the best bars and hotels were making cocktails, but using very standard, poor quality garnishes, olives in particular.
“There was a huge desire among those who work in the hospitality industry, the bartenders, who love and take pride in their work, to give people the best experience,” he says. “It was in this little dark area, with all those substandard olive trimmings, I saw it incredibly bright; a huge business opportunity, and I decided to investigate.
In 2009, he teamed up with his brother Marc, a documentary filmmaker who had just returned from Iraq, and together they launched Filthy Foods, a name that stems from Singer’s childhood.
“When I was a little kid, I’d play outside in the pouring rain and come home head-to-toe in mud and my mom would say, ‘You’re filthy!'” he says. “I chose that as a company name because it reflects the joy of being fully immersed in the joy of what you do, getting down and dirty and loving it.”
Singer and his brother embark on a journey of discovery to find the best olives in the world, a two-year expedition across Europe, tasting more than 200 varieties of olives for cultivation.
“Growing up, Marc and I rebelled against each other, so this trip was a chance to reconnect, to see if we could build something,” says Singer. “It was both about finding the best olives and falling in love again like brothers, celebrating each other’s strengths, supporting each other’s weaknesses and making the idea work.”
Upon returning to the US, they went from bar to bar with backpacks full of jars for three years. Eventually, the bartender-driven word-of-mouth got its first distributor and within a few years was present at major hotel brands, airlines and cruise operators.
However, Singer had to look beyond one or two strong products to break through as a brand. It had to be about the drinks people were drinking in high volumes in the cocktail room and how Filthy could be a part of those stories.
“The cocktail consumption market in the US is so diverse,” he says. “We did great with vodka martinis and Bloody Marys, but what about people who drank margaritas or whiskey cocktails, like Manhattans and Old Fashioneds? To make Filthy the standard garnish of all those drinks, we had to be more than just a produce company. Filthy had to become a partner company for the drinks you served.”
Singer also wanted to turn Filthy into a global company, but when the pandemic hit in 2020 and the hospitality industry came to a standstill almost overnight, he saw an opportunity to rethink where the brand was headed.
He says: “We have launched a range of new products, including Bloody Mary and Margarita mixes in sustainable packaging, so that people can still enjoy cocktails at home. As supply chain challenges unfolded globally, we focused on the US market and strengthening the partnerships we had built across the business.”
As the pandemic eased, Singer’s global ambitions were rekindled as the brand made strides in the travel industry, including cruise operators and airlines, channels that offered global reach and the opportunity to gain a foothold in key markets such as the UK, Europe and Asia. .
The company turns over $20 million, which Singer expects to triple within three years, and has yet to seek outside investment. And despite all of Filthy’s commercial success, he has never lost sight of the fact that quality products and ambitious plans are only part of the success story.
He says: “When you look at the most successful brands in the world, it’s rarely just about the physical product. It’s about passion. Yes, our products are beautiful, honest and consistently high quality, but the love that goes into it makes all the difference, and I want people to feel that love.”
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