Citizen Femme sat down with Amanda Thomson, the passionate CEO and Founder of Thomson & Scott, a portfolio of no and low sugar champagne and prosecco, to find out about her journey from working as a successful BBC Arts Broadcaster to founder of low sugar champagne and prosecco.
The current range includes Thomson & Scott Skinny Champagne Grand Cru Brut and Rosé, and Thomson & Scott Skinny Prosecco.
Moving from broadcasting to wine is a big change. What made you move?
I loved my job as a BBC presenter. Every day was different, and I could be interviewing Tom Cruise or reviewing a new art exhibition. Covering the Cannes Film Festival gave me a taste of the champagne lifestyle, but more significantly, a realisation that not all wines are created equal. As someone who was raised on a vegetarian and sugar-free diet, I realised that I didn’t know nearly as much about what I was drinking. The journalist in me was curious and wanted to find out more.
So this led to the great idea of a healthier glass of bubbles. The UK sugar tax is an indicator of stricter rules on what we are putting into our bodies. Tell us about the process of creating a low calorie, skinny Champagne and Prosecco.
It’s about transparency. For too long the industry has relied on the fact that – like me in the past – most of us don’t think as hard about what we drink as what we eat. Thomson & Scott is about beautifully crafted sparkling wines made from grapes that are picked at the perfect time, and then blended with care. That way you don’t need to add the deadly white granules and preservatives that most mass-produced wines rely on. It’s not about calories. And we’re certainly not alcohol-free! We recently won a Hero award from Women’s Health magazine, something I see as a huge endorsement. A healthy lifestyle is not about abstinence or giving up fun.
We definitely don’t want to cut out the fun! What has the reaction to the product has been like so far?
Pretty overwhelming. We sold out of Thomson & Scott Skinny Prosecco three times in the week it launched in Selfridges.
It became the number one searched for product on the Selfridges website, which was jaw dropping for me. Our social media followers can’t get enough of us, and inundate us with questions about when we might be stocked in their town or city. The Guardian raved about us too, calling us hilariously the summer’s ‘Basic bitch drink’. High praise indeed!
Congratulations, you have us Citizen Femme-ers drinking it too! What about the wine and champagne drinking community, has it been received well from them too?
We set out to create a portfolio of delicious sparkling wines that has little or no sugar. For some reason, this caused some of the established wine trade to raise their eyebrows. But we’ve proven from our sales that people want to reduce the sugar in their lives. The more debate we can create about this, the happier I am. We’ve nothing to hide, and that genuinely isn’t something a lot of the traditional wine houses can say.
You spent time learning about wine at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. A low sugar diet in the middle of the great Parisian restaurants can’t have been easy! Do you have recommendations for staying healthy in Paris?
Paris is a near disaster for vegetarians. Luckily the cool young quartiers are catching on to veggie/vegan/bio food. Thanks to my nagging, Le Cordon Bleu now offers a vegetables course. It’s only at weekends though, because they think that’s more than enough time for veggies! Helmut Newcake (helmutnewcake.com) is the city’s first gluten-free patisserie, and my favourite vegan restaurant is the Gentle Gourmet Café (gentlegourmetcafe.com).
What are your dreams for the brand?
World domination! We’ve had enquiries from Australia and mainland Europe, and will soon be stocked in North America. I’m also looking into some delicious Spanish and Portuguese sparkling wines to see how I can ‘Skinny’ them up.
We’re all about world domination (whilst staying healthy of course)! Do you have any advice for women wanting to start their own businesses?
Don’t think about gender. My attitude is to assume I’m being treated on a par with men, and if I sense even a hint of being patronised, then I play up to it. There’s something quite helpful about people underestimating you – I’m left to just get on with building my business. People who did that a couple of years ago when I was just launching are now getting in touch saying, “We must meet!”