Screw cap or cork?
According to some surveys I’ve seen on line, while corks remain the preferred closure among consumers, the acceptance of screw caps has been growing steadily. One recent study in the UK indicates that twice as many people accept screw caps today as compared to 10 years ago.
Ah, but buying a bottle with a screw cap is another matter.
More and more wineries around the world are turning to screw caps, including some very high priced wines. Nevertheless, it seems as though a bias continues against the device known as a Stelvin Closure. Perception is reality and the notion that wines with a screw cap are inferior is still pervasive. At best, many seem to think they belong only on young, inexpensive wines.
It seems to me to be a conflict between the rational/functional versus emotion/sentiment.
Buffalo Trace Newsletter had an article last week with the headline, “Shakers Vodka Brand and Equipment to be Auctioned Online Through June 26.”
Infinite Spirits Inc., the makers of Shakers Vodka, filed for bankruptcy in early 2012 and now the assets are being liquidated. If you go to the auction website you learn that you can bid on the brand, the equipment and a host of other items. The bankruptcy filing shows the company has under $200,000 in assets and liabilities of over $2.3 million.
To me this represents a case study of a start up gone wrong. Got me wondering, what happened and why did it fail?
The story starts in 2003 when a group of entrepreneurs who had created Pete’s Wicked Ale decided to enter the spirits industry. They had sold Pete’s for $69 million to the Gambrinus Company in 1998 and I suppose wanted to parley the money into “the first high-end American vodka.” Their marketing concept was to replicate the elegant 1920s with frosted bottles shaped like Martini shakers.
From what I’ve read, in less than three months from intro, Shakers was number one in their home production state of Minnesota and quickly expanded to 19 other states. They were loved by vodka mavens, received a perfect 100 score from Wine Enthusiast and were Best of Show in the San Francisco Spirit Competition. At one point they marketed five products – wheat and rye based vodkas plus seasonal versions known as rose, violet and summer. The bankruptcy records indicate that they grew quickly from the launch and had annual sales over $1 million. Read more…
Last month, The Manhattan Cocktail Classic came to town and at the end of June, The Bar and Restaurant Show comes to the Javits Center in NYC. Details here.
I’d like to take a close look at these events and the impact on the business. In all candor, I haven’t always been a fan of these shows but they’re changing for the better, and it’s probably time I looked at them with an open mind.
Let’s start with The Manhattan Cocktail Classic, which was on May 11th to 15th at a range of venues around the city (over 70 locations). I was traveling and unable to attend but from all accounts, Lesley Townsend and her team had the best event since the show began in 2009. Three reasons, so far as I can tell.
Readers of Booze Business may recall that I began following this startup company a month ago (see April 27 posting) with the promise that I would periodically update their journey to brand development. (Their website is here.)
Their first product is Sorel (pronounced sore-el). It’s a drink that those from the Caribbean islands have been making for centuries and serve on festive occasions. Each island, and even families, has their own concoctions. Made from a variety of spices, herbs, horticulture and neutral grain spirit (NGS), JFB has overcome barriers and produced a market-ready product with a shelf price of $26.99. (Wait until you hear what retailers are saying.)
Since I first met the owners (Jack Summers, Tim Kealey and Alan Camlet) they’ve moved from planning and laying the ground work to implementation. Not, as it turns out, without some hiccups.
After months of work on perfecting the recipe to their satisfaction, the day arrives when 330 gallons of NGS appears at their facility. The “factory” is the former site of Red Hook Winery; the blending and bottling equipment is set and ready to go. Figuring out how to unload the alcohol is only part of the problem. The alcohol itself is the real concern.