- Millennials don’t want to get drunk. What do they want? Apéritifs. – TechCrunch
- Millennial booze startup Haus wants you to ditch the Aperol Spritz
- A new drink for a new drinking sensibility
- Disrupting the distributors
- 6 Bay Area brands step up, give back during the coronavirus pandemic
- Aperitif Culture’s Bright, Botanical-Based Newcomers Are the Future of Drinking
- Haus Raises .5 Million in Seed Funding to Launch Aperitif Membership
- Direct-to-consumer is coming to the alcohol industry
- Haus Unveils Bitter Clove, A Whiskey Inspired Apéritif Delivering A Better Way To Drink
- Related Links
Millennials don’t want to get drunk. What do they want? Apéritifs. – TechCrunch
Gen Z doesn’t want to get drunk. Millennials are tired of the obligatory after-work drinks.
Haus, a new startup selling apéritifs online, has a solution for them. The company’s beverages have a lower alcohol content than standard hard liquors on the market, which means you can drink one, even a few, without getting wasted. Made from distilled grapes, fresh herbs and botanicals, its natural ingredients and A-plus branding are sure to appeal to the younger demographic.
Launching today with pre-seed backing from venture capital funds Combine, Haystack and Partners Resolute, customers can begin ordering Haus’ citrus & flower-flavored debut apéritif (15% ABV), priced at $70 apiece. The goal, co-founder Helena Price Hambrecht explains, is to be the first fully direct-to-consumer player in an industry dominated by digitally-novice incumbent alcohol brands and distributors.
Haus enters the market at an opportune time. VCs — more than ever — are funneling cash to innovative beverage projects. This year, Bev, a canned wine business, raised $7 million in seed funding from Founders Fund.
Liquid Death, which sells canned water for the punk rock crowd, attracted nearly $2 million in funding from angel investors Away co-founder Jen Rubio and co-founder Biz Stone.
And More Labs, the company readying the launch of Liquid Focus, is backed with $8 million in VC funding, among others.
Haus is run by husband-and-wife duo Helena Price Hambrecht and Woody Hambrecht.
The former has established herself in Silicon Valley, developing the brands of consumer-facing companies including the s of Airbnb, Dropbox, , Fitbit and Instagram.
Woody Hambrecht, for his part, has been a bona fide “booze guy” since a young age, making wine and managing 67 acres of wine grapes at the pair’s Sonoma County, Calif. ranch, where Haus is also headquartered.
Haus co-founders, husband-and-wife duo Helena Price Hambrecht (right) and Woody Hambrecht.
“We joke that it must have taken a Silicon Valley type to marry a wine & spirits guy because no one has done this before; it’s crazy,” Price Hambrecht tells TechCrunch.
“I can make something that gets a shit load of users and press in my sleep and I married this wine & spirits guy who understands the compliance, fulfillment, legal and finance elements.
The amount we can do together is insane.”
By “this,” she means launch a direct-to-consumer apéritif brand. It’s generally illegal to sell spirits online D2C aside from a small subset of liquors with lesser alcohol contents. Knowing this loophole, many restaurants across the U.S.
have begun making cocktails using only this subset of liquors (thus avoiding the steep fees required to obtain a liquor license) but Price Hambrecht says no one has thought to create an online store for apéritifs for fear of going up against the old guard of the alcoholic beverage market.
Because Haus handles every part of the process, including a patent-pending production model, the old guard isn’t an issue, nor is scaling.
Currently, Haus is making and bottling its beverages in a 3,000 square foot warehouse just North of the couple’s farm, with plans to purchase another 2,800 square foot warehouse as orders increase.
Un wine or whiskey, which must age years before going to market, it only takes hours to make apéritifs, simplifying one of the more complex features of the wine & spirits business.
Later this year, Haus plans to raise additional seed capital to launch a subscription product in 2020, begin constructing brick-and-mortar apéritif shops for the millennial and Gen Z cohort and release a second and third product line. Ultimately, Haus wants not only to disrupt the liquor business but provide alternative beverages to young people looking for better options.
“I was going through my own dilemma of drinking,” Price Hambrecht said. “If you’re a person that is career-focused, you’re possibly drinking 4-plus nights per week. I love how it brings people together; it’s a foundation of society, but you’ve got all these downsides. I never want to be drunk, I never want to be hungover.”
“It’s a cultural problem that we are solving.”
Startups Weekly: VCs are drunk on beverage startups
Millennial booze startup Haus wants you to ditch the Aperol Spritz
A little over a month ago, the New York Times had a hot take—”The Aperol Spritz Is Not a Good Drink“—and an online firestorm ensued. For many, this was blasphemy.
The Aperol Spritz—a cocktail containing prosecco, soda, and the eponymous Italian aperitif had become a holy rite of summer—mostly, as it turns out, because Campari, Aperol’s parent company, had made it so with some genius guerrilla marketing.
The Times, it seemed, was impugning millions of summer-loving people’s alcoholic sensibilities.
Those who read the entire article (which I’m guessing most did not) were met with a slightly different thesis than the headline implied. The idea wasn’t that the Aperol Spritz is always and completely bad, but that the version most often served in millions of bars around the world is a saccharine syrup bomb that could be so much better.
This fervor, perhaps unintentionally, highlighted an emerging trend: Aperitifs, long part of cocktail culture in Europe, are catching on in the United States.
[Photo: courtesy of Haus]Today, a new startup called Haus is banking on the idea that a certain swath of Americans are ready to explore these aperitifs beyond simply ordering an Aperol Spritz and nursing the next day’s headache.
The company, launched by startup veteran Helena Price Hambrecht and her husband, Woody, is two bets: 1) More and more drinkers, particularly those under 40, want more refined drink choices that also fit within their healthy lifestyles, and 2) It can reach those customers in new ways that upend the traditional alcohol distribution system.
A new drink for a new drinking sensibility
Haus’s first product, called simply “Citrus+Flowers,” is a white wine-based drink infused with lemon, grapefruit, elderflower, and hibiscus. Price Hambrecht claims that it has 80% less sugar than Aperol. She sees the product as a direct competitor of Aperol, but with certain flavor enhancements: “Tone down the bitter, tone down the sugar,” she says.
Price Hambrecht foresees a millennial-ish drinker who is, perhaps, watching their sugar intake and looking for something that won’t make them, well, shit-faced. “We wanted to create something you can drink all night and still feel good,” she says.
For the uninitiated, an aperitif quite simply means a pre-dinner drink. The offerings represent a certain type of concoction that usually has slightly more alcohol than a wine and less than a spirit.
The flavor profile is often akin to a fortified wine, with herbs and spices added in to make for a more complex (sometimes more bitter) experience.
Haus has 15% alcohol by volume (ABV), a smidge more than Aperol (11%), and much less than traditional spirits, which are 40% or more.
Helena Price Hambrecht (left) and Woody Hambrecht (right), cofounders of Haus.
[Photo: courtesy of Haus]Luckily for Price Hambrecht, her husband, Woody, is a winemaker and they live on a 200-acre farm with all the elements necessary to produce such a drink. Haus is the fruit of their labor.
Hambrecht sourced un-oaked chardonnay from California and built the recipe that’s being bottled today. Price Hambrecht, who has a background in marketing and creative strategy, devised the branding and overall aesthetic.
Disrupting the distributors
The big bet Haus is making is that people are interested enough in a certain new type of drink that they would order it online, not mindlessly at the liquor store when preparing for the weekend’s festivities. The one thing Haus has going for it is that it does taste good: I sipped a glass and it reminded me of Lillet or a sweet white vermouth.
Most of what people drink has been around for decades, if not centuries, and distribution is gate-kept by three big companies: Campari, Diageo, and Pernod.
The only way to scale as a spirit brand these days is to get picked up by one of these three, explains Price Hambrecht.
Otherwise, a craft spirits business will ly only see the light of day as an ingredient at a pricey cocktail bar to which they were able to sell directly.
Price Hambrecht thought this to be confounding: There had to be a way for small alcohol makers to find more customers than buried within a mixologist’s dozen-ingredient concoction.
The loophole she believes she’s discovered revolves around moderation—and that 15% ABV.
Alcoholic beverages with less than 24% ABV are legally considered to be wine, and therefore can be sold the same way that wine is. In other words, it can be sold directly, similar to how a wine subscription works.
The company doesn’t need to jump through the same legal and distribution hoops that a traditional spirit would have to.
[Photo: courtesy of Haus]Haus is available via its website for $35 a bottle (there’s already a wait-list of over 3,000 people). Price Hambrecht says that she also hopes to host events and ink distribution deals over time that would get more people to try the drink.
She doesn’t see Haus sold in liquor stores, but rather at places highly trafficked by her key demographic: coworking spaces, social clubs, tech companies, and so forth. (For example, a Haus-hosted happy hour at The Wing.) The direct-to-consumer ethos is the key to Haus’s strategy to subvert the traditional alcohol giants.
“We’re meeting our audience where they are,” she says.
The thesis follows recent alcohol industry trends. Spirit sales are stagnating, and there’s increased interest in premium and craft options. (Aperol sales, meanwhile, have skyrocketed—jumping 27% in Q1 of this year—which also indicates that there’s a growing appetite for aperitifs.)
Haus joins a growing movement to evolve drinking, one that includes everything from the natural wine trend to other startups such as Recess and Iris Nova (maker of Dirty Lemon), and even the hard seltzer trend upending the beer business.
“There’s so much static energy in the industry,” she explains. “Branding is stuck, the alcohol hasn’t changed.” Haus and these others, then, provide a glug of fresh booze.
“,”author”:”Cale Guthrie Weissman”,”date_published”:”2019-06-25T08:00:54.000Z”,”lead_image_url”:”https://images.fastcompany.net/image/upload/w_1280,f_auto,q_auto,fl_lossy/wp-cms/uploads/2019/06/p-1-a-new-drink-thinks-it-can-succeed-where-aperol-has-failed.jpg”,”dek”:null,”next_page_url”:null,”url”:”https://www.fastcompany.com/90368380/wants-you-to-ditch-aperol-spritz”,”domain”:”www.fastcompany.com”,”excerpt”:”A new alcoholic beverage called Haus thinks it can tap into younger consumersâ desire for wellness even in their boozeâand introduce a new type of drink to the U.S.”,”word_count”:962,”direction”:”ltr”,”total_pages”:1,”rendered_pages”:1}
6 Bay Area brands step up, give back during the coronavirus pandemic
Along with masks, product giveaways, and dollar donations, Bay Area brands are supporting healthcare workers, restaurateurs and others in creative ways—many of which allow us regular Joes and Janes to get in on the act of helping, too.
So take a cue from Allbirds, Galanter & Jones, Haus, Peace Out Skincare, Jins Eyewear, and ThirdLove and do some good. You'll feel so much better, we promise.
(Courtesy of Allbirds)
Doing good for the planet is woven into the mission and shoes of this SF company. So when Allbirds immediately got down to the business of helping during the pandemic, it was right on brand.
“Healthcare workers are on the frontlines of the COVID-19 crisis; we are humbled by their service, and wanted to do what we could to provide comfort to them during this challenging time,” says a company rep.
Allbirds has already donated $500,000 worth of wool runners to healthcare workers in the U.S., UK and Europe—an idea that took flight at the beginning of the year when a customer in China bought large quantities of the crazy-comfy kicks to send to doctors in Wuhan during the initial outbreak.
The B Corp has since launched a Buy One, Donate One program in which every pair of shoes purchased supplies a pair to a healthcare worker. (These bundles are specially priced.) So far, more than $1 million worth of shoes have been donated.
“The feedback from our community has been incredible, and we continue to be blown away by the generosity of our customers.
In the midst of the overwhelming uncertainty of this situation, the spirit with which so many are coming together to offer solutions and support for each other is a source of great hope,” the spokesperson says.
We're all for giving and getting. However, if your closet has already reached maximum sneaker, just donate a pair of men's or women's shoes outright for $60. // allbirds.com
(Courtesy of Galanter & Jones)
Anyone who has ever lounged on one of Galanter & Jones heated chairs or benches knows how yummy it feels. This is something the SF furniture company taps into with its #ContributeWarmth drive for COVID-19 relief.
Here's the deal: Through Thursday, April 30th, the brand is soliciting Insta posts (videos are cool) about how you're sharing warmth, where you're finding moments of joy, creativity, laughter, calm, and humanity during shelter in place.
For each submission, the company donates $10 to Tipping Point, a Bay Area organization raising $30 million to support non-profits and people disproportionately affected by the coronavirus.
That donation doubles to $20 when you feature your own Helios Metro or other G&J piece. Make sure to tag @galanterjones and #contributewarmth. // galanterandjones.com
(Courtesy of Haus)
Sonoma's farm-to-glass spirits label is putting its money where its our mouth is with The Restaurant Project. In an effort to support the restaurant community, Haus has created special co-branded products and 100 percent of the profits go directly to the restaurants themselves.
” millions of Americans around the country, we're desperate to help restaurants and their employees. We realized that the existing options— gift cards or takeout—simply weren't sustainable or scalable.
By creating a high quality culinary product and selling it online, we're glad we can help restaurants receive financial support from their fans and patrons across the country,” says Haus cofounder/CEO Helena Price Hambrecht.
The project kicked off with nine restaurant partners, including San Francisco's Rich Table and Mister Jiu's. Each chef/restaurateur provides his/her vision along with key ingredients and flavors and, voila, Haus cofounder Woody Hambrecht and Aaron Koseba, head of production, work their magic.
Haus x Rich Table's apéritif is crisp and botanical, blending some of the Hayes Valley spot's favorite ingredients—shiso, local citrus, and aromatic chrysanthemum. As for Haus x Mister Jiu's, it's a smoky apéritif, one that's herbaceous and warm with black cardamom, lapsang tea, spicy ginger, and floral osmanthus.
Brandon Jew, native SFer and chef/founder of Mister Jiu's, is thankful for the collab: “Since our closure it has been a rollercoaster of decision making and emotions. With each week that goes by, it seems more dire.
Trying to stay alive each week is our game plan, so our collaboration with Haus felt a godsend.
These kinds of collaborations don't just give us creative stimulation, it gives us a little financial breathing room and, more importantly, it gives us hope that one day we can reopen the restaurant the way we remember it.”
Pre-order products now for deliveries that will begin shipping in mid-May. Each collab is $80 for two 750ml bottles. Really thirsty? Try The Restaurant Project Collection, which comes with a 750ml bottle/flavor from each of the nine restaurants ($360). // drink.haus.com
(Courtesy of Peace Out Skincare)
This small-but-fierce SF brand, known for innovative, one-step skincare products, has been actively supporting COVID-19 relief from the beginning; founder Enrico Frezza is from Milan and his family lives in Italy. Understandably, Peace Out Skincare's first donations went to two Italian hospitals.
Then, Stateside, it donated 10 percent of the profits of product sales from March 18th through 25th to NYC Health + Hospitals fund and set up monthly donations to Feeding America. The biz is also giving away products through Donate Beauty. So far, 250 boxes of Allure Best of Beauty Beauty Award Winner Peace Out Acne Dots have gone to nurses and docs in New York.
And, ready for delivery soon: 500 boxes of Peace Out Emergency acne and pore treatment to SF hospitals and 250 to New York hospitals.
Plus, as a gay-owned and operated business, PO is donating products to the LGBTQ community in SF on its own.
“We are small but we are working to do what we can in as many different ways as we can,” says CMO and creative director Junior Pence. Peace out! // peaceoutskincare.com
(Courtesy of Jins Eyewear)
all the other (non-essential) storefronts in Union Square, Jins Eyewear (151 Powell St.) is shuttered right now. Good news is the online store is open—and giving away free glasses to doctors, nurses, and other frontline workers in the Bay Area and beyond.
Every day, the brand randomly chooses five people to receive a complimentary pair of Rx optical frames or sunglasses.
But that's not all: Recognizing that the rest of us are logging way too much screen time during #quarantinelife, Jins is offering free blue-light blocking lens upgrades (usually $60) with the purchase of any frame—with or without prescription. (I got my eye on these beauts.) See ya. // jins.com
(Courtesy of ThirdLove)
Dealing with an uncomfortable bra is the last thing women battling coronavirus need to worry about—which is exactly why SF's direct-to-consumer bra brand ThirdLove is working with University of California San Francisco and Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx to donate 1,000 sets of bras and underwear to healthcare workers—including medical professionals, administrators, and hospital staff. ThirdLove also donated 2,000 masks to UCSF and is providing high-quality elastics for more masks being made by the Rothy's-led Open Innovation Coalition, a group of retail partners including Marine Layer and others to provide all types of personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontline workers who need it. Bra-vo! // thirdlove.com
Aperitif Culture’s Bright, Botanical-Based Newcomers Are the Future of Drinking
Photo: Courtesy of Haus; Illustration: Emily Carpenter/Thrillist
At this point in your journey through adulthood you’ve probably figured out that drinking with friends is fun… until it’s not.
What sounds a good idea in theory — Bar hopping! Opening yet another bottle! — can lead to an unhappy lesson in diminishing returns. Oh, I don’t have to tell you. We’ve all been there: sloshed past the point of dignity, nauseous, laid-low with a hangover.
Most of us are trying to cut back, which may be why aperitifs are trending right now.
These are the appetizers of the spirits world. The word comes from the Latin amperire, “to open up,” as in to open up your palate and prep your digestive system for a fine meal.
As a category, aperitifs cast a wide net, encompassing everything from the Aperol spritz to the Negroni to a small glass of Cava to a Pastis.
Typically it’s something dry and a little bit bitter, light and maybe bubbly.
What people are excited about now is the way aperitifs (or aperitivos, in Italian) lend themselves to low-ABV drinking.
Lately, I’ve been having a splash of Spanish vermouth topped off with sparkling water with an orange slice and a couple green olives, for example, instead of a glass of red wine.
It’s a step removed from the non-alcoholic cocktail movement — because maybe you do want to craft a buzz, but a mellow one, and you want to maintain it at a certain level throughout the night without losing your cool.
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“An approach to social drinking that leads to deeper connections”
The way third-generation winemakers Helena and Woody Hambrecht tell it, this is how Europeans have been drinking forever. And it’s why they created their own unique low-ABV aperitif spirit, Haus.
“Aperitif culture is a way of drinking,” Helena told me, an approach to social drinking that leads to deeper connections throughout the evening, without the accidental drunkenness. “It’s about control.
” And it’s not limited to before-dinner drinks.
You could describe Haus as an aromatized wine, but it’s lighter, and there aren’t any headache-inducing mystery ingredients. They start with a natural, low-sulfur chardonnay base and botanicals, some grown on their own Healdsburg, California farm, to create a “sessionable” 15% ABV spirit.
It’s designed for flexibility — an ounce or two on the rocks, with sparkling water or juice, or as a lighter sub in a cocktail. Currently there are three varieties: an amaro-, lightly-spiced Bitter Clove, the Citrus Flower, made with meyer lemon peel and real elderflower, and a Rosé that’s expected to return in time for the summer season.
The Hambrechts avoid artificial flavors or colorings, so it hits that all-natural, better-for-you sweet spot.
I was so taken with the barely-sweet, botanical blends when I tried Haus with the Hambrechts that I went and ordered a bottle for a fancy dinner party I had the following week.
That’s right, ordered. The Hambrechts are so into disrupting drinking culture, you’re not even going to find Haus on store shelves.
Instead, you order it online, and it comes with this charming little ‘zine that shows you how it’ll fit into your lifestyle.
And you can even sign up for a subscription, so the Haus keeps on coming to you, just your quip toothbrush and your Billie razors, only much more fun.
“You can really tell the difference in the ingredient choices.”
But there’s more to the rise of aperitif culture besides their low-ABV appeal. Some of the newer spirits are being crafted in homage to the aperitivo’s origins as an herbal tonic.
Before Daniel de la Nuez and Aaron Fox created their line of natural botanical spirits, Forthave, the two were nerding out over centuries-old herbal medicine recipes and collecting vintage spirits.
“The thing we came across is that the further back you go to pre-1950s spirits,” (in other words, before the advent of artificial ingredients) “you can really taste the difference in the ingredient choices,” Nuez says.
Forthave’s amaro, named Marseille, is adapted from a medieval tonic recipe attributed to 15th-century botanist Richard Forthave (hence the name of the label), which was used to protect people from the Black Plague. “We took out the stuff we didn’t think would be too yummy,” Fox says, “and added in honey from an upstate [New York] farm.”
the Hambrechts, Nuez is inspired by European aperitif culture. “It’s something that I grew up with,” he says. “In Spain you go to these lunches where you start with something light, vermouth, to get your taste buds going.
” Fox studied painting in Paris, where he fell in love with natural wines and spirits.
Together, they began developing their own aperitivo recipes in their home kitchens and at the Williamsburg restaurant Fox owned then, and before they knew it, the dining world was catching up with them.
Aperitifs have become part of the dining equation.
The Marseille is the first in Forthave’s historical line of spirits. They also have a line created around colors: Red (similar to Campari), Blue ( gin), and Brown (crafted with single-origin coffee liqueur).
I had a spritzer with their Red one chilly night while waiting for my table at Gaskins, a farm-to-table Hudson Valley, NY restaurant, and noticed it indeed had the bitter orange notes of Campari, but with deeper herbal tones that somehow made the drink’s experience feel lighter.
It harmonized well, as I nursed it with my tart cabbage and gochujang salad and my duck with spaetzle.
And that’s exactly the kind of context in which the makers of Forthave want to see their spirit enjoyed. They want their spirits to fit in well with today’s brighter, ingredient-focused menus.
“You’re seeing a direction towards lighter flavors,” Nuez says.
Restaurants are moving away from heavy, intense sauces and playing with fresher taste profiles, and that’s something Forthave is trying to connect with, he says.
When Fox was a bartender 15 years ago, no one was ordering these drinks. But now, “we’re seeing a tremendous amount of interest in the last few years,” he says. Beverage market research firm IWSR backs up Fox’s experience, reporting that global sales of aperitifs rose by 7.
4 percent last year while vodka, brandy, and rum declined. They’re still but a tiny wedge in the overall market, but they’re gaining ground. Aperitifs have become “part of the dining equation,” as Fox puts it.
“It’s how we dine, and the fact that people have taken to our style is something we’ve both been very, very happy about.”
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Adriana Velez is a senior food editor at Thrillist.
Haus Raises $4.5 Million in Seed Funding to Launch Aperitif Membership
Get handcrafted, pre-dinner drinks delivered right to your door, thanks to a new aperitif membership program. Last week, Haus announced that it raised $4.5 million in seed funding, reports FoodBev.
The funding round included 10 funds and 100 individual investors.
Founded last June, Haus will use the funding round to expand its operations and launch Haus Membership, a free-to-join monthly membership program that gives members access to exclusive flavors, product discounts, free shipping and members-only events.
The Haus Membership, which is available in all states except Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, New Hampshire, Utah, South Dakota, Alaska and Hawaii, offers three plans:
You May Be Interested In:
|One bottle per month||Two bottles per month||Six bottles per month|
|$35 monthly||$63 monthly||$144 monthly|
|Free shipping on all orders||Free shipping on all orders||Free shipping on all orders|
|10% discount on all orders||20% discount on all orders|
|Access to exclusive flavors||Early access to exclusive flavors||First access to exclusive access|
|Access to members-only events||Early access to members-only events||First access to members-only events|
Membership begins the day a member signs up, with their first monthly shipment going out three to five days after. They also receive immediate access to events and exclusive flavors.
The membership program is on auto-renewal, so members are billed monthly and will receive their monthly shipments their original enrollment date.
Members can pause their membership for up to three months per year without charge.
In addition to the new membership program, Haus offers an online store where customers can buy aperitifs Bitter Clove, Citrus Flower and Rose Rosé, each with alcohol by volume of 15%.
They also have a starter kit which includes 200 ml bottles of Bitter Clove and Citrus Flower, a deck of Haus playing cards, and a Haus tote bag. Made with all-natural ingredients, the Haus team recommends serving the product on ice, with soda or tonic water, or in a cocktail.
They even offer recipes. They also recommend refrigerating the product after opening.
“Antiquated liquor laws have stunted innovation in the spirits space since prohibition, despite the fact that today’s drinkers are desperate for something different,” said Haus co-founder and co-CEO Helena Price Hambrecht. “Selling directly to the drinker means we can build relationships with our customers, iterate quickly their feedback and ultimately create the products they want.”
Haus investor Gerry Ruvo also commented on how Haus is different than would-be competitors:
“With the low-ABV category on the rise and millennials caring more and more about what they’re putting in their bodies, Haus fills a massive gap in the beverage space.
The business is completely unique when you look at consumer packaged goods.
Un most brands, Haus produces the product end-to-end with no middle man, and is running a hyper-efficient production system that’s almost impossible to replicate. I’m thrilled to be an early partner,” Ruvo said.
This is another example where the membership model can take a unique startup and provide it with a scalable operation. The company started small a year ago, built an audience, and created a plan strong enough to attract investors.
Now with $4.5 million in seed money, Haus can try the membership model to scale its operation according to demand.
Maybe they’ll add more flavors and grow beyond their current market, both of which are possible in a membership-based business.
Direct-to-consumer is coming to the alcohol industry
July 9, 2019 by Cale Guthrie Weissman
The direct-to-consumer model is infiltrating the alcohol industry.
New alcohol brands, both independently owned or part of bigger conglomerates, are using online content and marketing strategies to appeal to younger demographics by applying a DTC sensibility to booze, one category that — un mattresses, razors, athletic wear, beauty and household products — has only recently seen the rise of direct-to-consumer contenders. Thanks to a few legal loopholes — along with some recent legal wins — online alcohol brands Haus, Empathy Wines and One/Vodka (owned by Pernod Ricard) are beginning to create a new growth playbook.
Traditionally, the alcohol you buy in stores relies on what’s called the three-tier model. It essentially means that booze makers are forced to sell to alcohol distributors (such as Diageo and Pernod Ricard) who then sell to retailers.
This has made it so that only the select brands are given the opportunity to have national distribution. U.S. law, however, says that wine and other lower-alcohol beverages are able to circumvent this system and sell directly to consumers.
Winemakers have been doing this already, through national — and international — subscription wine clubs (e.g., Winc, Wine Club of the Month and Naked Wines).
The shift to direct selling for booze brands comes as buying alcohol online is beginning to hit the mainstream. In 2017, sales hit $1.7 billion in the U.S., according to Rabobank.
Research from Gartner L2 found that online liquor sales increased 61% year over year between 2018 and 2019 — a much faster clip than the industry’s overall sales.
Recent media coverage has focused on flagging alcohol sales, but the direct-to-consumer space is just getting started.
For e-commerce alcohol brands, the hurdle lies in getting people to buy a drink online that they’ve never tried before. Irresistibly, DTC-style branding can help.
When aperitif brand Haus launched online last month, it aimed its branding and marketing strategy directly at affluent millennials, selling for $35 a bottle and hiring DTC agency Gin Lane as its branding partner.
It’s positioned as an online-only, health-conscious, hard alcohol alternative.
“There’s a lot more branding involved,” said Nik Sharma, the former head of DTC for VaynerMedia. “You have to get crafty — it has to be story-based.” Sharma helped lead e-commerce at the beverage startup Hint and then moved on to wine at VaynerMedia, with the launch of the company’s alcohol brand Empathy Wines.
Both Hint and Empathy, he said, required building new brands from scratch and having consumers buy the product directly. What’s most important, Sharma said, is making an impression.
People who are buying alcohol on the internet, Sharma explained, “aren’t buying because it’s a new kind of vodka or a new kind of wine.” They’re looking for something else.
“The founder story usually gets at what the differentiator is,” he said. “[Customers] are buying into the brand equity.”
According to Rob McMillan, evp and founder of Silicon Valley Bank’s wine division, the recent push toward DTC is a natural evolution of the wine industry.
Because of the nature of alcohol distribution — more specifically, the fact that there are so few distributors who control the majority share of what’s put on store shelves — fine winemakers have been forced to sell their products directly.
For decades, that simply meant setting up a tasting room on the wineries’ premises and selling bottles locally. While other companies shifted online due to growing competition from the s of Amazon, wine has stayed mostly analog. This, said McMillan, “is incredibly inefficient.”
Now, these alcohol companies are seeing a shift in demographics. Baby boomers are growing older, and millennials, many of whom don’t necessarily know about fine wines, are a growing majority. His annual survey of 1,000 top wine-makers indicates that the product has yet to penetrate many young palates.
“The younger consumer hasn’t made any growth in market share in terms of wine,” said McMillan.
What the industry is realizing, said McMillan, is that it “needed to do a better job of providing a product that young consumers can afford and want.” For decades, wine was marketed as a product for a certain generation. Now, a shift is on the horizon.
New brands, with new marketing strategies, are seeing healthy results. Empathy Wines, for example, has over 2,000 subscribers and said it’s fulfilled more than 7,000 orders since its 2018 launch. (Subscribers pay a minimum of $243/year and a minimum one-off purchase is $81.
) Its brand messaging focuses on highlighting and supporting grape growers, in addition to the wine itself. Similarly, Haus’ pitch was on a drink with less sugar than Aperol and less alcohol than most spirits.
According to the company, its online store has seen more than 40,000 visitors and its first batch of 5,000 bottles sold out within 12 hours of launch (those who missed out will have a second chance on July 10).
To Sharma, this proves there’s an opening for a new type of alcohol brand. “Everybody wants to be cleaner,” he said. “There’s a trend toward cleaner alcohol.
” McMillan agreed, pointing out that the younger generation “wants to know what they are putting in their mouth.
” New brands have to cater to that mindset, and transparency in supply chain and ingredients lists is a common DTC brand strategy.
For the centuries-old alcohol market, an industrywide digital rebranding is still in its early stages. As more small brands see success by bucking traditional trends, a new playbook will be laid out.
“I think what’s going to be interesting is seeing how non-sexy brands fit within that sexy profile,” said Sharma.
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Haus Unveils Bitter Clove, A Whiskey Inspired Apéritif Delivering A Better Way To Drink
With low-ABV drinking culture on the rise, Bitter Clove has one third the alcohol of whiskey, and satisfies the previously unmet need of consumers who want to enjoy the earthy, spicy taste of dark liquor without the undesired consequences.
Haus launched in June 2019 with its first flavor, Citrus Flower – an alternative to Aperol, which saw soaring demand.
Its first allocation sold out within hours; the second selling out before it was even released.
Founded by Silicon Valley startup creative veteran Helena Price Hambrecht and third-generation winemaker Woody Hambrecht, they launched Haus to solve a problem they personally experienced.
“We wanted the ritual of drinking without the consequences of high sugar, high alcohol liquor — And it turns out millennials want the same thing,” said Co-Founder and Co-CEO Helena Price Hambrecht.
“Nothing in the market worked for us, so we decided to make a new product that's delicious, yes, but also lets us bring the focus of drinking culture back to how we spend time with the people in our lives.
With Bitter Clove, we're excited to deliver the first low-ABV solution for brown liquor lovers.”
Bitter Clove is made with a base of distilled and fermented chardonnay grapes, as is common with apéritifs, as well as natural botanicals, including cloves, star anise, Saigon cinnamon, and ginger. Whenever possible, the ingredients are sourced from the Hambrecht's ranch in Sonoma County, and each bottle is made and batched by Woody and the Haus team.
“I created Bitter Clove to be reminiscent of drinking an old fashioned by the fire,” says Haus Co-Founder and Co-CEO Woody Hambrecht.
“Bitter Clove recreates that experience and taste to give whiskey lovers the lower ABV option they've been looking for.
We're proud to be the first to create a whiskey alternative that appeals to the new generation of drinkers who, us, want to put the emphasis back on how we gather.”
Bitter Clove, and every Haus apéritif, is meant to be served the way you prefer it – on the rocks, with soda, in a spritz or in a cocktail. Thanks to its low-ABV, Bitter Clove is designed to be enjoyed throughout the evening.
Breaking away from the alcohol industry's 100-year-old norms, Haus sells direct to consumer and can be shipped to customer's home, office, coworking space, or wherever is most convenient. Haus is the first competitor to the liquor space to leverage a direct to consumer model, which enables the company to build a meaningful relationship with its customers.
Right now, customers can pre-order a single bottle of Bitter Clove for $35 or two bottles for $70. All purchases are exclusively available online at Drink Haus.
Haus is the first direct to consumer brand to redefine the alcohol industry for today's generation of drinkers. Haus' first line of products, apéritifs, are all-natural, low alcohol by volume alternatives to gin or whiskey, designed for consumers who want the social ritual of drinking, without the undesired consequences.
The first company of its kind, Haus owns production end-to-end, bypassing traditional gatekeepers and selling directly to the drinker. Haus was founded by Helena Price Hambrecht, a Silicon Valley brand and creative veteran, and Woody Hambrecht, a third-generation winemaker. The company is based in Healdsburg, California.
For more information visit www.drink.haus