Have you seen the Tequila Aficionado Dia de los Muertos Magazine?
We’d like to extend a very special “Thank You” to the tequila and mezcal brands who took a chance on our outside-the-box idea of social media content creation for agave spirits brands.
We enjoyed every opportunity to sip and share these brands through our travels and found no shortage of inspiration for content creation throughout the trip and beyond.
We’re looking forward to a 2015 Tequila tour from Texas to the Great Lakes in September and hope they’ll consider coming along with us again.
The images and captions included in the Dia de los Muertos Magazine are samples of the content we created during the 2015 Dia de los Muertos Tour. For more, please visit the Tequila Aficionado Wiki where each of these brands is featured in depth.
If you’d like more information on how your brand can get involved in the 2016 Tequila Aficionado Tour, please email Tours@TequilaAficionado.com and we’ll send you all the juicy details. In the meantime, we can tell you there will be lots of heartland goodness involved like Wisconsin cheeses for pairing with tequilas and mezcals, Michigan apples for cooking with tequila, fall foliage and much more!
*FTC Disclosure: Brands appearing on the Tequila Aficionado Dia de Los Muertos & Heartland Tour had to be vetted as Brand of Promise Nominees and paid a nominal fee to be on the tour.
Learn all about tequila from field to glass and then get paid to share your love of agave spirits with others! Buy Them Both Now!
It didn’t take the North American Free Trade Agreement to get U.S. consumers to buy Mexican. Tequilas, brandies, liqueurs and beers from south of the border have been popular here for years. Nafta, a steadily growing Hispanic population and increasingly worldly consumers have helped grow these products even more dramatically in recent years.
By Michael Sherer
Margaritas, for example, are the most popular cocktail in the country. Mexican brands now account for 40% of imported beer sales. Mexican brandies rank at the top of the list of the world’s best-sellers, as do coffee liqueurs from Mexico.
“Everything Latino is hip and cool across the food and entertainment categories,” said Jose Chacon, senior brand manager, tequilas, at Allied-Domecq. “The same dynamic is affecting our industry.”
“The number-one thing driving the popularity of Mexican products is the boom in Mexican restaurants in the past 10 years,” said Craig Johnson, group brand director, Allied-Domecq. “What’s driving tequila and Mexican brandies in particular is consumer interest in true, authentic Mexican products.”
Tequila, which suffered a setback between 2000 and 2001, is back on a growth curve again. Agave shortages in Mexico, due primarily to a failure to anticipate growing demand, caused prices to rise dramatically at the end of 2000 and throughout 2001. As lower-priced “mixtos” dropped out of the market and more acreage has reached maturity, however, supplies have stabilized. Happily, in 2002, the category roared back, to the tune of an 8.1% increase, to more than 7.1 million 9-liter cases, according to the Adams Handbook Advance 2003.
“People stayed away as prices went up,” Chacon said, “but now they’re coming back. We’re seeing better prices on Sauza as agave supplies grow, and we’re getting back to fundamentals of the business to get the brand back on track and back to historical levels of growth.” Indeed, according to preliminary research, the Sauza line grew by double-digits in 2002, according to the Adams Handbook Advance 2003, to more than 1 million 9-liter cases.
Category leader Jose Cuervo, which also saw its phenomenal sales growth slow during the past two years due to higher prices, is also seeing renewed growth. The combined Jose Cuervo line increased sales 4.8% in 2002 to more than 3.4 million 9-liter cases. The brand owns its own supply of agave fields. While it doesn’t see the shortage completely ending until 2006 because of the plant’s 8- to-12-year maturation, it has definitely eased.
Sauza tequila sales rebounded last year by 18.8%.
Cuervo Gold is continuing its focus on the “CuervoNation” program this year. Consumers will have chances to win trips to exciting CuervoNation “outposts” and ultimately a trip to the brand’s 8-acre Caribbean island. Diageo’s Jose Cuervo portfolio now includes the best-selling Jose Cuervo Especial (Gold), Jose Cuervo Tradicional, made with 100% blue agave; Jose Cuervo Añejo, also made from 100% blue agave and aged for at least one year in American oak barrels; and Jose Cuervo Reserva de la Familia, made from 100% blue agave, and produced in limited quantities after being aged in new French and American oak barrels.
To continue bringing consumers back to the category, Cuervo plans to launch a product line extension later this spring. Details likely will be available when this issue comes out.
To kick off the summer selling season, Allied-Domecq’s Sauza will be partnering with regional out-of-category suppliers for Cinco de Mayo. The promotion promises to generate excitement for both the brand and the category.
Two Fingers, imported by Heaven Hill, will take advantage of flattening prices this year by repositioning the brand. A summer co-pack promotion with margarita mix will help draw attention to a new label destined to give the brand’s signature black bottle better shelf presence.
Jose Cuervo is highlighting its CuervoNation program in Cinco de Mayo point- of-sale.
As the core business starts to grow again, the brands that expect to benefit most are super- and ultra-premiums.
“While the value-priced tequilas were off about 12.2% from 1998 to 2001, ultra-premiums were up 7.5%,” said David Dorsey, brand director at Brown-Forman. “Ultra-premiums are still doing very well. We’re seeing good growth on Don Eduardo.”
“Tequilas will see the next boom in ultra-premium brands, like vodka did a few years ago,” said Kathleen DiBenedetto, group product director at Jim Beam Brands, which imports El Tesoro and Chinaco. “They’re still considered a white spirit, and consumers are more educated now. They know about 100% agave tequilas, and what reposado and añejo tequilas are.”
Jose Cuervo, in fact, is putting a little more emphasis on its superpremium Tradicional and ultra-premium Reserva de la Familia. The producer’s web site, now in both English and Spanish versions, uses Tradicional as an example of the brand’s 200-year Mexican heritage.
Each year’s bottling of Reserva de la Familia is packaged in a special edition box designed and hand-crafted by a different Mexican artist.
Two Fingers Tequila, from Heaven Hill Distilleries, is running a co-pack promo with Margarita mix this summer.
Sauza also makes use of higher-end products in the brand portfolio to get consumers to trade up. Both Hornitos and Conmemorativo recently added 1.75-liter packages to their mix, the first superpremiums to offer that size. Tres Generaciones gives Sauza presence in the ultra-premium segment.
“People tend to stay in the Sauza franchise even as they try new tequilas,” Chacon said. “They feel comfortable and confident when they try new products in the family.”
Jim Beam’s El Tesoro relies heavily on brand ambassadors, including master distiller Carlos Camarena, to spread word-of-mouth praises for the brand. They’ll concentrate on accounts in nine markets this year, conducting tastings and educating staff in both off- and on-premise accounts. New packaging also will be introduced in May.
El Conquistador, from Heaven Hill, uses shelf talkers to explain differences between blanco, reposado and añejo as well as tasting notes for each. Like other ultra-premium brands, it competes in a variety of spirits tastings for awards which help generate interest in the brand.
Leading Brands of Tequila
(thousands of 9-liter cases)
Jose Cuervo/1800 (*)
Allied Domecq Spirits USA
Barton Brands LTD
Rio Grande Tequila
Total Leading Brands
(*) Includes 1800 Tequila through 9/02; 1800 Tequila is now handled by Skyy Spirits. (p) Preliminary Source: Adams Handbook Advance 2003
Even Montezuma, from Barton Brands, leverages its awards to help spur sales at retail. The brand has won both gold and silver medals from the Beverage Testing Institute. As the third best-selling brand in the U.S., Montezuma had a stellar year in 2002, upping its sales by 33.5% to 650,000 cases nationally. While operating from a smaller base, the fourth-best-selling tequila, Rio Grande, from McCormick Distilling, increased sales by 50% to 162,000 cases nationally in 2002. [McCormick has also had success with Tequila Rose, a 34 proof product that is a strawberry-flavored cream liqueur mixed with tequila, as well as Tarantula Azul, a citrus-flavored tequila in an eye-catching package.] And Bacardi USA had success last year with Tequila Cazadores, which saw sales increase 9.1% to 120,000 cases nationally.
Interestingly, several changes of tequila brand ownership and distribution have occurred during the past year. Skyy Spirits is now handling 1800 Reposado and Añejo Tequilas and the superpremium Gran Centenario, brands that had previously been part of Diageo’s portfolio here in the U.S. Margaritaville, first introduced by Seagram about five years ago to tremendous initial success, has landed at David Sherman Corp., which is trying to recapture the brand’s excitement. And the smaller superpremium brand Corazon is now being handled by Sidney Frank Importing.
Mexican cerveza continues to grow faster than beer from any other country or any other segment, for that matter. Category leader Corona saw growth of about 9% last year, nearly double that of the import category as a whole. While that was slow compared to heady 30% growth a few years ago, it accomplished it in the face of a price hike and the slow economy.
Corona’s success is a credit to its consistent strategy over the past two decades.
Brown-Forman’s Pepe Lopez Tequila is using a “Pepe Loves Rita” theme in its p-o-s this spring.
“We don’t really look at or market our products as Mexican,” said Don Mann, Modelo product director at Gambrinus Company. “The brand leverages space between imports and domestics. It has the cachet of an import, but is more approachable than other imports, so it has broad consumer acceptance as a result.”
New television and radio spots that kick off this month and a full promotional program are on tap for the brand this year. Corona Light will get a lot more focus with its own series of ads and more attention in family promotions.
“Cinco de Mayo is an opportunity to get a jump on the summer selling season,” said Bill Hackett, president of Barton Beers, Ltd., Corona’s other importer. “We have a huge opportunity with Corona Light. The growing light beer market is a 45 share of the beer industry. Light beer is still under a 10 share of the import segment. That’s a huge opportunity for retailers as well.”
The other Modelo products — Negra Modelo, Modelo Especial and Pacifico — also are well supported at retail with programs scheduled throughout the year.
This past January, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. (left) and Alec Baldwin participated in the Gran Centenario Tequila snowshoe and tobogganing race at the Squaw Valley Sports Invitational in Squaw Valley, CA. The event was part of a weekend of festivities benefiting Kennedy’s Waterkeeper Alliance, a grassroots organization dedicated to preserving and protecting water from polluters.
Mexican brands imported by Labatt USA also are experiencing strong growth. Tecate is now the number-four import in the country even though it is targeted squarely at Mexican-Americans. Last year the brand went through a transition as it shifted to programs designed to appeal to a younger generation while not alienating traditional, first-generation Mexican-American consumers.
The brand is using CART racing, soccer and music to bridge the generations. Tecate’s CART program is even bi-lingual to give it broader appeal.
For Cinco de Mayo, the brand has come up with a “Celebracion las Cincos de Mayos,” a play-on-words in which “las Cincos” become five senoritas on point-of-sale materials flirting with a guy named Mayo. The materials also highlight Tecate’s five package sizes.
A more edgy and contemporary ad campaign kicked off in January. The brand also is sponsoring a lot of new up-and-coming Mexican bands here, using music to reach new consumers.
Dos Equis is aimed at a broader market and will continue the “Dos Equis Zone” program it began a few years ago. The program encourages consumers to experience the brand in its native environment, tying into travel destinations like Cancun.
Corona Extra and Corona Light are positioning themselves as “The Drinko for Cinco” in p-o-s materials.
For Cinco de Mayo, the brand is offering an all-in-one Fiesta Pack of beer, chips and salsa at a special price. This summer, Dos Equis will promote “liquid” sports like water skiing, surfing and windsurfing.
Sol continues to focus its effort on core markets in the southwest and southern California, but will likely also get support in a few emerging markets in the northeast.
Brandies and Cordials
Kahlúa, one of the biggest brands in the world, saw its sales decline somewhat last year. The brand is in the middle of a strategic review of its global positioning and will likely develop new programs later this year to renew consumer interest in the brand.
In the meantime, it is taking advantage of the revival of classic cocktails by promoting three drinks that helped make it famous — the White Russian, Black Russian and Kahlúa and milk or cream. Allied-Domecq’s “first choice” sales teams will be working with on-premise accounts to increase demand which is expected to have a spillover effect on off-premise sales as well.
Allied Domecq also is focusing efforts on a superpremium line extension called Kahlúa Especial, which is said to be hand-crafted and carefully blended for extra smoothness.
Other coffee liqueurs from Mexico are capitalizing in off-premise accounts on Kahlua’s popularity. Kamora from Jim Beam, Sabroso from Barton Brands, and Copa De Oro from Heaven Hill all offer a price alternative to the category leader. Consumers often look for value brands like these at retail after trying a well-known brand on-premise.
Brandy is another spirit from Mexico that is sometimes overlooked. Surprisingly, brandy outsells tequila by about a six-to-one margin in Mexico.
One of the most popular spirits brands in the world, Kahlúa is promoting The White Russian (as well as Black Russian and Kahlúa and milk/cream) in a variety of p-o-s materials.
Presidente, for example, is the number-one selling brandy in the world and the top spirits brand in Mexico. Off-premise, the brand’s focus has been on Mexican-Americans. An aggressive on-premise program, however, will likely broaden Presidente’s appeal at retail. Consumers are slowly being introduced to the brand in cocktails like the Presidente Margarita at Chili’s Grill and Bar.
“As consumers start to encounter the brand on-premise, they will begin to see and ask for it off-premise,” said Johnson.
The brand also will repeat a joint promotion with Sauza in September on Mexican Independence Day.
Allied-Domecq is counting on increased awareness of Presidente also helping premium Don Pedro brandy and the ultra-premium Azteca de Oro, aged 12 years in the Spanish solera system.
While Cinco de Mayo is a good time to merchandise all these products from Mexico, their popularity with consumers means they’ll sell year round with a little attention from you. *
What’s With The Worm?
Some consumers may look for a worm in the tequila they buy or wonder why it doesn’t have one. In reality, only certain brands of mezcal are sold with worms in the bottle. The stuff of frat houses legends, mezcal isn’t tequila. But in one of those oddities in the spirits industry, all tequilas are mezcals.
Mezcal refers to any spirit made with some type of agave plant. Tequila, like champagne or cognac, must conform to certain standards to carry the name. Tequila must be made with at least 51% blue agave from a certain area around Jalisco, Mexico.
Mezcal, on the other hand, can be made with a variety of different agave types. In all cases, it is made with 100% agave, and usually the agave is roasted in a pit for several days, giving it a smoky characteristic somewhat like Scotch, also giving it its reputation for being “rough.” (Modern tequila production often uses large autoclaves to steam the agave piña instead.) The roasted agave is then stone ground to release its juice for fermentation.
Most mezcal production occurs around Oaxaca, south of Jalisco. Mezcal producers liken their product to armagnac, a product different in character from cognac, but not quality. There are different stories about how the worm got into the bottle. The most commonly accepted is that around 1942, an artist named Jacobo Lozano Paez started a small bottling plant and initially bought mezcal from a family in Oaxaca.
By 1950, Paez was a self-proclaimed connoisseur of mezcal and noticed that batches made with agave heavily infested with agave worms tasted much different. It gave him the idea to market his mezcal with a worm in the bottle. Consumers began to accept the worm as proof of alcohol content.
Like tequila, mezcals come in different types: blanco, bottled immediately after distillation; madurado, similar to reposado tequila; con gusano (“with the worm”); añejo, aged in oak for at least six months and usually from one to four years; and triple-distilled minero, often considered the best. Only a few brands, such as Barton’s Monte Alban, are still bottled with a worm.
From the March/April 2003 issue of Beverage Dynamics
Learn all about tequila from field to glass and then get paid to share your love of agave spirits with others! Buy Them Both Now!
Originally published on TequilaAficionado.com Dec 3, 2006
The trend in the spirits industry is for cross marketing with a guerrilla attitude.
That’s shooting your enemy not from behind trees and bushes, but…
From where they don’t expect you to be! Nobody’s proven to be better at this than Jose Cuervo.
In Part I, we took you inside the Taberna del Tequila, tequila producer Jose Cuervo’s stealthy way of introducing their products to a new captive audience—air travelers—all across the country.
In Part II, we revisited one of our favorite haunts from the 70’s and 80’s, Southern California’s El Torito Mexican restaurant chain. There, Cuervo has been steadily maintaining their relationship with tequila drinkers for almost 50 years.
In this final installment in the Mega Marketing of a Brand series, we promised you a sneak peek at the future of Jose Cuervo’s marketing strategy. We also hinted that the future had almost nothing to do with tequila.
In fact, the chances are good that—without you knowing it—you’re already up to your caballitos in their mad plan to take over the tequila taste buds of the world. Also, we’re going to explain how you’re part of Jose Cuervo’s mysterious“forth tier.”
Blackberries, laptops, PDA’s, and desktop computers. E-mail, e-mail discussion lists, blogs, forums, and podcasts. Broadband, DSL, and wireless Internet. Reaching out and touching someone has never been speedier!
It’s so easy for all of us to communicate our thoughts and feelings, now. Almost instantaneously, a hot deal on a caseload of your favorite blanco—or a good or bad review of a new reposado–can be forwarded to hundreds of tequila aficionados with the click of a mouse.
In fact, that’s exactly how I do it.
As soon as I write this entry, I can publish it on this site. Every member or surfer can then agree or disagree, express their feelings on the subject by writing back, and even forward this blog/article to their friends. No more waiting to hear what anyone thinks about the hype behind an average reposado, or the reemergence of a favorite añejo.
Just post and click “send.”
Large and small tequila producers now have websites that allow consumers to check them out, contact them, and ask questions. By the same token, these producers can glean information from their customers and request feedback.
What do you do with all this information? How do you use it?
Jose Cuervo has figured it out. But first…
How ‘bout a Beer With Your Tequila?
In 2004, the Adams Beverage Group, a market-research firm in Connecticut, reported that U.S. spirits sales rose 3.8 percent in 2003, the highest level since the 1980’s. Beer sales dropped by 0.6 percent that same year.
According to New York-based consulting firm, Beverage Marketing Corporation, beer’s overall share of the alcohol beverage market has eroded like the salt around a margarita glass. By contrast, since 2000, the market share held by wine and spirits has grown, especially among younger consumers.
Finally, the Distilled Spirits Council of the U.S. reported in 2004 that spirits accounted for 29.7 percent of alcohol sales in the U.S. compared with 28.6 percent in 2002. Most of that growth was from the super-premium brands that, for our purposes, are defined by the council as tequila retailing for more than $27. The volume of all types of super-premiums sold represented about 1 percent of the U.S. market.
Paul Walsh, liquor giant Diageo’s Chief Executive, said it best at last year’s annual shareholders meeting:
“Every year in the U.S. for the next ten years, there will be half a million more consumers coming into the legal drinking age, and they will be adopting spirits earlier in their life cycle,” he proclaimed.
People 21 to 24 years old account for 30 percent of the nation’s beer consumption. Beer’s demise is blamed on the relationships being forged by spirits companies with consumers in their 20’s.
Are you seeing a trend here?
Snappy radio spots, flashy cable television commercials, vibrant print ads in magazines and on billboards, hip sporting events sponsorships, and interactive websites are all weapons used by marketing experts to get ‘em while they’re young, and make ‘em lifelong customers.
What Jose Cuervo is doing to ride the wave of this trend is no secret any more.
In Part II, we explained the process by which your favorite tequila is distributed in the US. Developed after Prohibition and known as the “three tier system,” it includes importers, distributors, and every bar and restaurant you can think of.
We also shared with you the secret to Jose Cuervo’s success in working the three tier system. They’re so good at it that they have quietly modified it to fit their 21st century marketing plan. It’s so slick, that even Al Capone would approve!
Jose Cuervo has actually added a “forth tier.” And, although it is illegal to sell directly to the end consumer (you and me) they’ve just about managed to do it using—are you ready for this?–your cell phone!
In London this past spring, in conjunction with i-movo, Splendid Communications, print, outdoor advertising and radio promotion, Cuervo tequila invited consumers to enter a drawing for tickets to an exclusive Cuervo de Mayoparty.
Consumers were instructed to enter by texting Cuervo with their birth dates to a designated number. Winning entries were sent a text message with a code word. Reply with that code word and bingo…! Instant text tickets. On the night of the event, staff members used PDAs to verify the winners.
The response rate was phenomenal. Eighty percent of the target market that relies on mobile phones to organize their lives answered the call. In the marketing world, this was a home run!
So the next time you get that text message on your cell, or whatever gadget you use, it could be from Jose Cuervo himself.
With all this high-tech marketing, what’s next? JCTV?
Not to be outdone by Diageo, Allied Domecq, together with Conde Naste Traveler Magazine, has produced a television show for the Oxygen Network. Bring Home the Exotic re-creates travel experiences for friends and family. What makes this five-part series so special is that Kahlúa is the special guest star!
Geared toward women in their 30’s, the show not only allows Kahlúa to control its product and brand messages, it also meets the spirits industry’s marketing standards that at least 70 percent of a TV or film audience is over age 21.
The show has been so effective that Allied Domecq is concentrating on producing more shows instead of focusing on product placements in existing TV shows and movies.
On the flip side, in partnership with Hispanic media powerhouse Telemundo, and Mexican television producer Argos, Jose Cuervo has graciously allowed filming of the hot new telenovela, Corazón Partido(Porque el Amor Manda), on the grounds of La Rojeña distillery. Sauza has also jumped at the chance of having their distillery featured in the show. The exposure is not just in Mexico and Latin America, but to millions of Hispanics living in the US that watch Spanish language television, too.
Like Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck in the classic cartoon of piano oneupmanship, Sauza just finished sponsoring the “Sauza Tequila Academy” on board Carnival Cruise Lines’“Fun Ship” Fascination.
Remarkably similar to Cuervo’s Taberna del Tequila spotlighted in Part I, the number two tequila producer designed a program to teach adult passengers everything they’ve ever wanted to know about Sauza.
From its distinguished history, to specialty cocktails, to sponsored topside parties, cruise vacationers in search of new experiences can discover another side of Sauza. With t-shirts and recipe cards, passengers can even relive their memories of the Tequila Academy once they’ve returned home.
According to the Distilled Spirits Council, each year the alcohol industry spends more than a billion dollars on “measured media” advertising. That’s TV, radio, print, and outdoor. Radio and TV alone are estimated for this year to be about $110 million. That’s a four-time increase from 2000!
There’s no escaping our friends Jose Cuervo, Sauza, or any other tequila company that decides to follow their lead and can keep up.
The trend in the spirits industry is for cross marketing with a guerrilla attitude. That’s shooting your enemy not from behind trees and bushes, but…
From where they don’t expect you to be! Nobody’s proven to be better at this than Jose Cuervo.
With downloadable music videos, podcasts of news reports and interviews, and even your favorite TV shows—all with commercials–expect him to be everywhere. Even on that i-Pod with the small screen that you carry with you in your car, to the gym, and while you walk your dog.
An interesting question crossed my desk concerning the term craft as it relates to tequila.
This person asked…
“The one thing I am finding is the definition of ‘craft’ is all over the place. What does craft mean to you? Do you think it is based on the method, quantity, who makes it or maybe all of these factors?”
This reader went on to ask if I considered a particular big name brand as a craft tequila, and if not, would I consider a certain higher priced line from this same transnational corporation that owns the brand as a craft tequila.
Further, he confessed that two other well-known brands could be considered “craft” tequilas even though one of them had reported sales of over 50,000 cases in 2013.
“…an activity that involves making something in a skillful way by using your hands.”
The word handcraft is defined as…
“…to make (something) by using your hands.”
There are even deeper meanings to craft as it relates to the beer, wine and spirits industries, but before I get to them, let me remind you of some tequila facts and a huge marketing myth.
Fact #1: Tequila has its own geographic indication (GI). The blue weber agave from which it is made can only be grown, and tequila can only be produced, in specific states and regions in Mexico.
Fact #2: According to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS), despite 13 million 9 liter cases of tequila sold in 2013, it is still–and always will remain–virtually last in sales volume behind whisk(e)y, gin, vodka and rum due to Fact #1.
This brings me to the…
Tequila Marketing Myth–Borrowing Benefits
So, how does a PR or marketing firm with no real knowledge of what good or bad tequila is, convey the message that its client, usually a high powered, non-Mexican owned tequila brand (and all that that implies), is just as cool as the other kids who may or may not be as well funded?
You “borrow” benefits from the guy ahead of you. You compare your tequila brand’s features and benefits to the leader in the field, thus making your client “worthy by association.”
From the moment that Herradura rested tequila in used Jack Daniels barrels to attract the American whiskey drinker decades ago, marketers have tried to disguise tequila (and mezcal, now, to some extent) as something else.
And because of Facts #1 and #2 above, tequila marketers have for years misled the public by borrowing benefits from wines, beers and all other spirits in a seeming effort to gain tequila’s acceptance into the mainstream drinking public, and to increase sales.
Here’s what it means to produce a craft product in each of the following arenas.
The Brewers’ Association defines craft as small(“6 million barrels of beer or less per year”),independent (“less than 25 percent of the craft brewery is owned or controlled by a beverage alcohol industry member that is not itself a craft brewer”), and traditional(“a brewer that has a majority of its total beverage alcohol volume in beers whose flavor derives from traditional or innovative brewing ingredients and their fermentation”).
“…those whose annual production of distilled spirits from all sources does not exceed 750,000 proof gallons removed from bond (the amount on which excise taxes are paid.)”
According to the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), a proof gallon needs an entire conversion table to figure out. We’ll let you do the math, here.
The American Distilling Institute’s (ADI) guidelines are similar but allows certified craft spirits a “maximum annual sales of 52,000 cases where the product is PHYSICALLY distilled and bottled on-site” and “maximum annual sales are less than 100,000 proof gallons.”
Where wine is concerned, the Department of Revenue defines a “small winery” as any winery that produces less than 25,000 gallons of wine in a calendar year. A “farm winery,” however, can produce up to 50,000 gallons of wine annually.
Some have even arbitrarily issued their own definition of small winery as one producing as little as 10,000 gallons per year, and a nano winery as generating only 500 gallons per year.
A simple Google search shows that each state has its own slightly different definition of what a craft wine or spirit is, and several states with popular wine growing regions like California, are constantly updating their definition to accommodate growing wineries.
The same growing concerns in the craft beer industry have prompted the Brewer’s Association to update their ground rules to allow for larger craft producers.
The Revenge of Brewzilla
According to Impact Databank, a large chunk of the beer industry has surrendered significant market share (some 6.7 million barrels, or 93 million 2.25-gallon cases since 2009!) to the spirits industry. The only bright spot for the entire category is the resurgence of locally brewed craft or specialty beers increasing in volume by 14% to 20.2 million barrels.
These stats have not been lost on spirits marketers who follow trends in similar markets to practice borrowing benefits. The big brands like Miller-Coors, Anheuser Busch-Inbev (Budweiser) and others also have jumped onto the craft bandwagon by either investing in small breweries or by inferring in their marketing that they still make their beer by hand.
As Ashley Routson, a craft beer advocate famously known as The Beer Wench, and whose upcoming book “The Beer Wench’s Guide to Beer” will be an unpretentious, comprehensive approach to beer, puts it…
“In my opinion, the fight over the word craft should be one of semantics, but instead, its become a battle of the egos.”
Routson goes on to say, “The word ‘craft’ is not a synonym for the word ‘good,’ ‘great’ or ‘better.’ Many non-craft breweries and large tequila producers make world class beer and tequila–there is no argument there. You don’t need to use the word craft to define your beverage as being good.”
“We need to separate the garbage from the good stuff. [Like craft] beer that is only made with the basics, grain, water, hops and yeast, the brewers do not use additives or adjuncts to flavor the beer.”
Cortez concludes, “[Tequila] is a product that takes time, care and only the purest agave extraction. The distillers depend on the time to harvest the agave, baking the pinas and perfectly extracting the juices. Once it is distilled it is a product that is pure and only flavored by the barrel with no extra additives.”
Tequila Industry consultant, Chris Zarus, innovator of TequilaRack, the world’s first take home tequila tasting kit that deliberately includes samples of some of the finest small batch, micro-distilled reposado tequilas sourced from family run distilleries, takes the craft argument to a higher level.
“The word craft has unfortunately been abducted by the marketing department and now misleads the masses. We go to classes that advise us on how to make our brands ‘craftier’ with specialty releases with funny names [and] all owned by multinational conglomerates that work relentlessly to reduce costs via cheaper ingredients and mechanization.”
Zarus believes that there are two industry definitions of craft which differ from what the consumer understands. They involve a specific recipe and a specific process.
In this craft version, the product is consistent and costs are contained.
“The Jim Koch’s [founder of Samuel Adams beer] view that his recipe makes his beer craft regardless of the fact that MillerCoors brews it for the masses,” explains Zarus. “In [Koch’s] opinion, its like a chef going to your house to cook his special recipe.”
“If you think about it in broad terms,” reasons Zarus, “all consumer products have a specific recipe. The difference here may be that the recipe is full flavored and is preferred by fewer due to its heartier taste.”
In this definition, the process is the craft.
Tequila Fortaleza, produced by famed fifth generation distiller, Guillermo Sauza, Zarus illustrates, “[Is] very
specific, old world, but not very mechanized. In this way the outcome varies by batch and the state of the local ingredients. The craft is the process.”
The downside, insists Zarus is that, “…the product varies by batch, like some wines. There is a lack of product consistency. Some batches have more acclaim than others and the maker is not getting to charge the full price of the best batches.”
This last seeming liability has been turned into a profitable tequila marketing plan by some boutique brands like Ocho and Charbay who source their agave from single estates thus promoting the brand’s terroir and creating buzz for individual vintages.
The Meaning and the Art Form
The two essential elements that Routson, Cortez and Zarus all agree upon are, first, that the craft process is the art form, whether in beer, wine or spirits.
The other factor that our panel of professionals agrees on is the battle of maintaining the true definition of the word craft.
We’ll explore these issues and how you can define, select and measure a craft tequila in Part 2 tomorrow.
To say that Roberto Sanchez del Toro, exclusive importer and brand developer of Rancho La Joya tequila (NOM 1555) has endured adversity would be an understatement. To say that he has survived his life’s challenges, thus far, with grace and his boyish charm still intact would be putting it mildly.
San Antonio, Texas, resident, Roberto was a young high school student when, due to immigration reasons, he was forced to manage the family’s thriving tamale husk production business while his parents were temporarily out of the country.
Then, as a sophomore at St. Mary’s University, he decided to create his own tequila business only to suffer defeat at the hands of the merciless Texas spirits retail and distribution industries.
Fast forward to 2013…
A rabid lifelong San Antonio Spurs fan, it was during a hard fought pick up basketball game that Roberto took a knee to the groin. A subsequent doctor’s exam revealed the shocking news that he was suffering from advanced testicular cancer followed by surgery and three months of chemotherapy while simultaneously reviving his failed tequila business.
All of this before the age of 24!
In this clip, Sanchez del Toro, following in his parents’ entrepreneurial footsteps, learns the pitfalls of the tequila business firsthand…
Here, Roberto recalls the start of 2013…
A shrewd businessman even in college, Sanchez del Toro, now with a degree in International Business, kept the lines of communication open with the García family, third generation Highlands agave producers of Rancho La Joya tequila.
Roberto takes us through the tequila’s process…
Even though the distillery has a large output capacity to meet demand, Roberto discusses what the ramifications of the current agave shortage could mean to the producers of tequila Rancho La Joya.
[To learn more about Rancho La Joya’s production techniques, click here.]
Along with partner, Mike Garcia, a successful San Antonio technology marketing executive (no relation to the agave producing and distilling family), and a team of consultants as guides, Roberto Sanchez del Toro, now 25, has a clean bill of health and is ready for the long haul with his newly revamped Rancho La Joya tequila, as well as having taken over the reigns of the family enterprise.
With a redesigned bottle that more accurately represents the juice inside, and the promise of statewide distribution from Glazer’s, Roberto is anxious to turn his initial sales call rejections into inspired action within the state of Texas, the second largest consumer of tequila, and beyond.
Of all the start up businesses Roberto could have chosen, he explains in the following segment why he selected tequila.
The Five Year Plan
Roberto describes where he sees Rancho La Joya Tequila in five years.
Rancho La Joya is available in blanco and reposado expressions. Plans are in the works for a 36 month aged añejo to be called Diamante that will be marketed with branded stemmed glassware.
At this time, only the following local restaurants and bars carry Rancho La Joya…
Like the San Antonio Spurs, who are currently battling in the 2014 NBA Playoffs, Roberto Sanchez del Toro has proven that bringing your “A” Game and passion into everything you do invariably results in a winning record.
The preceding podcast was recorded by Tequila Aficionado’s Founder, Alexander Perez, on March 21, 2006.
Sadly, many brands still persist in the Tequila Girl marketing that Alex mentioned over seven years ago. Some brands believe they’ve evolved and took it a step further with Tequila Boy marketing. I believe the true aficionado finds both of these offensive.
True aficionados don’t buy their tequila based upon how attractive an ad model is. It saddens me that so many brand marketers are stuck in the 1990s and won’t let go of this old advertising paradigm.
When all you put out there is co-ed bimbos doing shots, drinking from red Solo cups, or worse, from the bottle, you’re telling the world you don’t want your brand to be taken seriously. I love a shirtless hunk as much as the next straight woman but don’t try to dazzle me with him while you pour cherry soda and light beer into a blender to hide the taste of your mass produced tequila.
Show me a brand owner, male or female, who is smart, savvy, self assured and passionate about their tequila and I’ll stop what I’m doing to listen.
Alex said “Tequila companies need to rethink their marketing tactics” and they still do. The big boys are still marketing their swill with expensive distractions, but the little guys…we love the little guys here at Tequila Aficionado. The little guys are slowly changing the tequila marketing landscape.
People like Alex Viecco at Montalvo who is also involved in programs to create biofuels from tequila production waste products; people like Sergio Olmos of Nuestro Orgullo who take up the banner for a family business and knock themselves out trying to create the best product possible, not for the money, but for family pride and love of agave spirits; people like Laurence Spiewak and Lance Sokol of Suerte who put thought and meaning into a logo rather than attempting to dazzle us with tits and ass.
Yes, there are still small brands that believe they can grow by emulating the big brands with sponsored DJs, rock bands, edgy artists, and girls with great plastic surgeons but they rarely make it past that crucial five-year threshold. Superficiality attracts superficiality. When your marketing involves pretty girls in club attire giving shots to partygoers who will quickly forget what they drank, then you must realize that your tequila will last only about as long as their buzz does.
I think we’re on the cusp of something, though. It makes me very happy to see tequila brands that are finally letting the tequila do the talking.
As brands take themselves and their products more seriously, so too does the consumer. People like Mary Clemente of JuradoTequila are partnering with great chefs like Grant MacPherson. Pairing dinners are becoming popular ways to market good tequilas and I hope they’ll soon take the place of trays of shot glasses.
People are beginning to appreciate what great tequila and tequila culture can bring to their lifestyle through books by authors like Lucinda Hutson. Lucinda was well ahead of her time when she first began this journey, but perhaps tequila drinkers have grown up enough to become aficionados and truly appreciate the treasures she pens.
We welcome these changes at Tequila Aficionado. Alex’s vision was that Tequila Aficionado become a resource for all things agave including mezcal, sotol and other agave spirits. He wanted to interview people in the industry, people with a passion for fine tequilas, people breaking the old paradigms. He wanted to provide honest discussions about the merits of particular spirits over tastings, not just a simple “thumbs up” or “thumbs down.” He envisioned an online resource that would bring depth to tequila culture. He hoped to create in a magazine what a master distiller creates in a small batch, something that pleases the senses, enhances, informs, and provides the perfect finish that brings you back time and time again.
Something was missing in the mix all these years, but we believe we’ve finally found the right combination to bring that dream to fruition.
We have new Sipping off the Cuff episodes airing every week so you can taste along with us; bloopers and outtakes so you can laugh with us; Founder’s Features that are interviews and articles of significance to tequila history; Portraits in Tequila taking you beyond the label to see the story of the people behind the tequila; reviews of books on all aspects of tequila from dirt to drink and beyond; reviews on tequila related products like glassware and the foods, treats and cigars that can be paired with tequilas; articles on agave related industries; features on distilleries; and reviews of hotels and restaurants in Mexico’s tequila region.
We will always have a focus on the finished tequila product, but we’re deeper than that. We’re no longer focusing simply on the finished tequila; we’re expanding to encompass all of tequila culture because, after all, it isn’t about just a quick shot –
It’s about the whole experience.
We look forward to sharing that experience with you.
Lisa Pietsch, COO
Learn all about tequila from field to glass and then get paid to share your love of agave spirits with others! Buy Them Both Now!