How a former Pepsi exec leveraged previous advertising techniques to construct an alcohol startup that is approaching $15 million in income this 12 months as pre-mixed cocktails rise in recognition

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How a former Pepsi exec leveraged old marketing tactics to build an alcohol startup that's approaching $15 million in revenue this year as pre-mixed cocktails rise in popularity


  • Neetu Godara, Dan Seaside, and Kevin People are the cofounders of Social Lite, a line of pre-mixed vodka-soda cocktails with no sugars and synthetic components that is set to make $15 million in income this 12 months. 
  • Investing $100,000 of their life financial savings into constructing the enterprise, Godara, Seaside, and People obtained their massive break when Liquor Depot, a major operator in Alberta and British Columbia, shelved their product in 200 shops.
  • Now, Social Lite is offered at over 3,000 factors of distribution throughout the US and Canada.
  • Godara credited their success to countless hours of sampling at festivals and shops and promoting their product to each stakeholder on-line and in particular person. 
  • Arduous seltzers and vodka sodas are among the many fastest-growing drink segments, significantly now as alcohol gross sales have spiked in the course of the pandemic.
  • Godara’s at the moment partnering with native influencers to construct consciousness and increasing her gross sales workforce. 
  • Go to Enterprise Insider’s homepage for extra tales.

Within the spring of 2014, Neetu Godara met Dan Seaside and Kevin People, and the three bonded over their mutual love of vodka sodas and mentioned how there was nothing in the marketplace, in a can, that wasn’t stuffed with sugar or synthetic components.

Seaside and People had already been mixing up their very own drink recipes, however had been in want of somebody who might market and promote their potential product. The group determined to go all-in and see if a viable enterprise might come out of the recipes.

“It obtained to a degree the place we weren’t going to know if it might work until we make some in bulk,” Godara instructed Enterprise Insider. 

Having labored within the beverage trade for over 10 years, holding roles in innovation, model technique, and gross sales technique for corporations like Danone, Costco, and Pepsi, Godara was well-versed in shopper urge for food. With yearly got here extra market analysis suggesting that individuals had been on the lookout for, she stated, “cleaner, higher merchandise with much less synthetic components, and that the primary factor folks regarded to keep away from in drinks was sugar.” 

“I had seen the evolution of what we had been consuming as customers and what folks wished,” she stated. “And I had been proven the basics and key drivers within the market due to my job at Pepsi, which made me assured that I might go on the market and begin a enterprise.” 

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Godara, like many, wished to know what she was consuming. And thus Social Lite was born.

Within the fall 2014, the three 30-somethings invested their life financial savings, $100,000 collectively, to begin the enterprise, with the primary batch of 6,000 instances promoting to the one personal liquor market in Canada that may be offered on to: Alberta, which had 1,200 personal liquor shops. Godara stated they known as up each retailer to pitch their drink, positioning it as “the one product in your shelf with no sugar,” she stated. Within the first week, they offered 25 instances, pulling in almost 6,000 CA ($4,615).

After talking with a purchaser who was a vodka-soda drinker, they obtained their massive break into the liquor chain Liquor Depot, a predominant operator throughout the provinces of Alberta and British Columbia, and obtained shelved in 200 of its shops. 

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Social Lite.

Social Lite


In 2016, they secured a spot within the Liquor Management Board of Ontario (LCBO), the place they now maintain 25% of the market; one in 4 vodka sodas purchased on the LCBO is a Social Lite, based on Godara. She added that it is the first pre-mixed cocktail in North America with zero sugars, zero carbs, and no synthetic components.

Each tent, flyer, digital advert, and social media publish strengthened these particulars. It was about educating and never utilizing fancy emotional messaging, she stated, which separated them from rivals. By the tip of 2019, Godara reported that they’d offered 10 million cans. Social Lite is approaching $15 million in income this 12 months, which is a big step up from $2.5 million in 2017, she stated. 

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Taking over the function of salesperson at native occasions to construct partnerships

Earlier than Social Lite was obtainable at over 3,000 factors of distribution throughout Canada and the US, together with seven states, it was shopped at festivals, wine exhibits, and wherever that had area.

“I bear in mind these early days when folks would stroll by our sales space and preserve strolling, saying, ‘I do not drink drinks like that,'” Godara stated. “They thought it was a cooler, and at a sure age you form of graduate from a cooler, so we needed to scream: ‘It isn’t a cooler, there is no sugar, and it is premium vodka,’ for them to cease and take an opportunity.”

Godara stated the countless hours of sampling at festivals and shops helped them establish what folks favored and did not like. 

“When you’re sampling in a retailer promoting one 4 pack at a time, you rapidly study what messages get you to ‘shut the deal,'” she stated. “For us, that was talking to the advantages of our drink being 80 energy and no sugar. We additionally used the time period ‘Naughty glowing water’ to get folks’s consideration, and it labored. Then we might extrapolate that one-on-one interplay in our advertising technique and get issues out on-line.”

Neetu Godara and Dan Beach

Neetu Godara and Dan Seaside.

Neetu Godara


She emphasised the significance of entrepreneurs being salespeople at the beginning. “It’s a must to promote your product to each stakeholder, to your clients, whether or not it is on-line or in particular person,” she stated. “It’s essential persuade and make it compelling, and you do not have a number of time to seize these shoppers; they’ve ample quantity of choices on the market. It is a ability I am at all times engaged on.” 

It is this ability that helped her begin promoting throughout the border within the US, first in Florida in early 2020, then in locations like Meyers within the Midwest in addition to Recent Time grocery shops throughout Illinois and Michigan.

Learn extra: How John Legend-backed beverage firm Trace used its fan base to land a nationwide cope with Costco and improve its DTC enterprise by 300% in the course of the pandemic

Alcohol gross sales rise as the corporate pivots to pandemic-friendly advertising techniques

In response to an October 2020 report by Credit score Suisse, laborious seltzers and vodka sodas are among the many fastest-growing drink segments, outpacing wine and beer progress. This 12 months alone has seen spirits gross sales up over 27%. 

In response to rising recognition, Godara has begun working with native influencers in every market to construct consciousness. Just lately, she hosted an occasion in Chicago with 10 health and wellness influencers, together with individuals from “The Bachelor” and athletes. 

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Social Lite’s new branding, which goals to be extra gender impartial.

Social Lite


They’ve additionally partnered with BeerGuy.ca, an alcohol supply service obtainable to residents throughout Ontario, which come December will present a free can of Social Lite with 10,000 deliveries. 

Godara stated they’re additionally planning an out of doors social occasion within the winter with Toronto health influencers. Visitors will partake in a socially-distanced climb and tubing day, commencing with drinks courtesy of the model. 

She defined {that a} quarter of the advertising price range that will’ve gone to in-person occasions as a substitute was used to rebrand the cans to be extra gender impartial, which has helped gross sales improve by 77% over the previous 12 months. 

In September, the corporate started hiring a nationwide gross sales workforce, rising to a workforce of 20 workers. 

“The pandemic has compelled us to be inventive, nimble, and pivot, and now we’re onboarding our nationwide gross sales workforce, which is one thing we by no means had earlier than,” Godara stated. “Entrepreneurship shouldn’t be a giant leap of religion, as they are saying, it truly is about placing one foot in entrance of the opposite on daily basis.”



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