Tequila is one of the fastest growing spirits in the U.S., and Partida Tequila, one of the newest entries into the premium tequila market, is one of the most celebrated. Partida has won multiple accolades, and was the only line of tequilas to be awarded with 96-100 points for all three types of tequila in Wine Enthusiast’s 2008 Tequila Report.
The man behind Partida’s success is its founder and chairman, Gary Shansby; and I was able to speak with him for about an hour last week to learn more about Partida and the man behind its success.
Shansby is an experienced brand-builder and has spent his career developing and marketing more than 50 household consumer brands – everything from Famous Amos Cookiesto MetRx and Vitamin Water. He has a vineyard in Sonoma – “a tremendous way to lose money but a beautiful hobby;” and it was only 8 years ago that his journey into the spirit business began.
After being asked if he had ever considered the spirit business, Shansby – experienced in food and beverages, but not liquor – studied the industry. He discovered that
“the growth of important premium [spirit] brands was coming from entrepreneurs and not the big companies. Most of the entrepreneurs were mavericks in their industry, or they had no industry experience, and they were defying the logic of the big companies.”
He met with some of these mavericks, like Grey Goose’s Sidney Frank, Patrón’s Martin Crowly, and Skyy’s Maurice Kanbar (who has a minority stake in Partida), and concluded that they were “all passionate about their brands,” and intent on “building a brand and not a company. They were all driven – not for monetary gain – but for their love of what they were doing; and they were all having a great time.”
Shansby’s study of the market revealed that Patrón was the only brand in the tequila category that was poised for success; however, he “also noticed that the tequila industry had pretty much ignored women, yet about ½ the consumption in the United States is by females, mostly driven by the margarita.” With a strong background in branding, Shansby set out to find a tequila that would become successful in the American spirits market.
But, how do you develop the perfect tequila? Shansby began meticulously researching tequila. An MBA student was dispatched to Mexico for a tequila fact-finding assignment, while Shansby surveyed the market. Thorough knowledge about tequila – how it is made, what makes one tequila different from another, etc. – and understanding the tequila consumer were paramount. Shansby concluded that “the American consumer…likes a smoother taste – a product that brings out the natural agave and a little less of the old shot environment that had existed in the earlier years of tequila. I had to find a method to make something much smoother, but has the same alcohol content, but didn’t reek of it. I knew that the age of the agave, how it is cooked, how it’s processed, how it is aged; each little element had a different twist on it and I studied the different things that could be done.”
What made it all come together? Check out part two of the interview …
Originally published on Examiner.com