How Owen’s Craft Mixers expanded its hotel business

In its first three years of operation following its launch in 2017, Owen’s was only sold to hotel groups and sports venues. The company sells its bartenders to hotel groups by using them as a shortcut for bartenders to create hundreds of complex, multi-ingredient drinks at night. Examples of popular bartenders that Irving sells to bars and establishments include its margaritas and cucumber mint mixes. But during the pandemic, the company has had to transform. It’s starting to focus on carrying its products outdoors, adding new retail partners like Kroger and Walmart, and trying to capitalize on a time when many Americans are starting to make beverages at home.

Now, the company is going back to its roots by capitalizing on local operators’ demand for faster, easier-to-make beverages. This week, Owen’s Craft Mixers launched a new product, the Espresso Martini Mixer, for busy bars with high demand for trendy cocktails.

This month, Irving received an undisclosed investment from Miami Heat player Jimmy Butler, who discovered the brand at a local bar. The funding extension will be used to support the brand’s next phase of growth, which will focus on Owen’s in-house mixer supply business.Overall, Owen’s Craft Mixers quadrupled local accounts since 2020, The expansion is dedicated to live entertainment and sports venues across the country.

Owen co-founder Josh Miller told Modern Retail the company’s new strategy consists of a two-pronged approach, with hotel-driven sales also being a form of promotion for the brand’s growing retail line.

Currently, the brand is available in 23,000 stores – major retailers are Publix, Kroger, CVS, Walmart and Total Wine, with Irving often selling alongside spirits brands. The company will also begin promoting its product line on Instacart and will partner with GoPuff later this year.

This mix of channels is designed to help Irving adapt quickly to changing drinking trends, Miller said. Owen’s has long been in the hunt for live event venues and sports venues — Citi Field, which started using Owen’s consoles in 2018, is one of the company’s biggest clients. But when the outdoors became popular at the start of the pandemic, Miller said, companies turned to creating related products and offering them to new customers as a quick fix.

In 2020, Irving launched Transfusion Mix, made with grape juice and ginger.product Co-branded with Barstool Sports and owns popular at golf events“Especially during Covid, we enjoyed golf so much, the Transfusion Mix is ​​now used on the PGA Tour and on more than 1,500 golf courses across the country,” Miller said.

Now Owen’s is turning its focus back to bars, restaurants and Arena events such as concerts and games. The espresso martini blender is the first product released under the company’s return to hotels strategy.

According to Miller, the idea came about after getting R&D feedback from bartenders across the country. Making an espresso martini takes time and some bars don’t always have the equipment on hand.

“We’ve heard from bars that they don’t even have espresso machines to meet customer requests,” Miller said. In turn, he said Irving’s team decided to create an off-the-shelf solution. “We developed this product from the ground up with flavor experts, and the can has the same amount of caffeine as Starbucks’ nitro-brewed coffee and delivers half an inch of automatic foam,” Miller said.

To launch a new espresso product, the brand gently introduces selected innovations bar and restaurant customers, Resulting in its first production run being sold out in 24 hours. “We think it’s going to be our best seller for the next six months,” Miller said.

To meet demand, the brand has also invested in a new 3PL manufacturer to triple the production run of the larger B2B. The investment in production will also allow the brand to focus on increasing DTC and Amazon channels in early 2023, after prioritizing in-store and local accounts over the past two-plus years.

Whether or not the espresso martini craze subsides, the company is betting “there will always be demand in bars and restaurants that don’t have the resources to make sophisticated beverages,” Miller said.

One of the first restaurants to start using espresso martini mixers was Gekko, a Miami steakhouse in Bad Bunny. Cafecito Con Leche Cocktail It quickly became the restaurant’s best-selling drink. “We want to use these fashion spots to help promote us so that customers will find Owen’s in stores,” he said. “Another way we’re going back to the world of premises is by partnering with major chains,” Miller said – including an upcoming partnership with Chuy Paloma of the Tex-Mex Partnership.

Beverage brands operating in the alcohol space today must drive steady sales through retail and hospitality partners, said Sean Ryan, a partner in Kearney’s CPG division.

“While most sales are driven through external channels, most brand value is driven through internal channels,” Ryan said, referring to the fact that many drinkers discover new cocktail recipes through their favorite bar or restaurant. fact.

Although the pandemic has temporarily halted dining and drinking, hospitality remains important to vendors.

“People are social creatures — they want to get out, they want to be with other people, they use social lubricant to socialize,” Ryan said. He added that while people may “turn to lower cost brands” due to inflation, “massive consumption will continue”.

Going forward, Irving will continue to create CPG products that can be used by home bartenders and hospitality businesses, with plans to capitalize more on seasonal cocktail trends. Meanwhile, Miller said the company is trying to resist every beverage trend.

“If we give in to the pressure we receive, we’ll just do our own RTD,” Miller said. “But we think our approach takes advantage of several growth habits, such as non-alcoholic and ready-to-drink beverages.”

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