StateWays - July/August 2015

StateWays is the only magazine exclusively covering the control state system within the beverage alcohol industry, with annual updates from liquor control commissions and alcohol control boards and yearly fiscal reporting from control jurisdictions

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41 StateWays ■ ■ July/August 2015 ized ads on social media. "We do a lot of geo-targeting," he says. "We will fi nd a cluster of stores that all sell our products, and then we use that zip code for our Facebook advertising. That way, we can cater directly to our demographic. We will let them know what stores are doing tastings or having sales. It also drives sales at the stores themselves, which creates a nice win-win scenario." The connection factor is key on social media. "We try to engage with the customers and have them join into the con- versation about our product," says Bauer, of VO|CO. "We hashtag (#) the product, and obviously we want customers to do so as well. You can create a one-on-one conversation that way. That's really important for us, because we're new to market, and that's how we can connect with customers over some of the bigger brands." More than Just Millennials Millennials are not alone in enjoying RTDs. Surprising even the brands, these products have found a broad appeal across gen- erations. "We fi gured our target-consumer sweet spot would 27 years old," Heyworth says. "And that was not at all true." As many brands have discovered, there is a major market for RTDs among Baby Boomers. Crafted Cocktails have received similar reactions among non-Millennials. "We're hot with the moms who like to enter- tain, the 30-50 age group," Vieira says. "They like Crafted cock- tails because it's something unique you can bring to a party. And the packaging looks classy. Martha Stewart quoted our brand as being a great hostess gift." Bauer, too, has witnessed strong Baby Boomer interest in LIQs. "We were shocked to see that, at a lot of our tastings, the products were very popular among people in their 30s, 40s, even 50s," he recalls. "Of course, we're thrilled to see that. It means that we've created a good product. These people could be some- one who wants to host a party with ease, and doesn't want to be stuck making cocktails for their guests all night long." The Container Conundrum Getting to the point where a new RTD enters the consumer consciousness entails a great deal of work. Producing RTDs is a diffi cult business from the onset. An industry still in its infancy, it requires extensive R&D and innovation prior to progress. The greatest struggle for many RTD companies is fi nding an effec- tive drink-container design. BuzzBall cocktails are sold in plastic, orange-sized balls. "We actually invented the fi rst plastic cocktail can in the United States. I got the idea from a tennis ball can," Kick says. "The lid posed prob- lems. At fi rst, I imagined a peel-away lid, like for yogurt containers. But you have to have something that can hold in a carbonated cocktail. So I looked into how coke cans held in carbonation, what parts per million worked to keep the beverage inside." That's how Kick came up with the metal top, which is hot-sealed to the top of the plastic can. Working with natural ingredients can also present obstacles — or so Crafted Cocktails discovered. "We use a glass bottle and have to hot fi ll it above 190 degrees in order to fi ll it without preservatives," Vieira explains. "There's no way to hot fi ll a plastic bottle. That means that anything in a plastic bottle has preservatives in it." For its natural watermelon ingredients, Crafted Cocktails will dehydrate watermelon into a powder, and then rehydrate it during the hot-fi ll manufacturing process. Bauer and his LIQs business partner faced a different prob- lem. They could not fi nd an American distillery that owned equipment necessary to fi ll and seal their shot glasses. Eventually, they located a machine that fi lled foodstuff, and spent $50,000 outfi tting it to suit their needs. "And then we had to fi nd a company that could label our shot glasses," Bauer says. "Our glasses are not perfectly round, like shampoo or soft-drink bottles. They're shot glasses, so they're angular. We probably went through 20 labeling companies. It would have been a lot easier to create another vodka brand - everything for LIQs had to be made custom." RTD Many of the newest RTD offerings are designed for outdoor parties, where mixing drinks for large groups of people is time-consuming. BuzzBallz are available in a variety of fl avors and combine spirits and fruit fl avors in a round, easy- to-drink container.

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