Cocktail Syrup Producer Pivots to DTC

The pandemic has upended companies. Take Liber & Co., for instance. The Austin, Texas-based producer of cocktail syrups offered principally to bars and eating places. Then Covid hit.

“The pandemic initially decimated our income,” stated co-founder Chris Harrison. “Within the third week of March 2020, 70% of our enterprise was wholesale to bars and eating places.”

Harrison didn’t panic. Whereas his wholesale income evaporated, direct-to-consumer gross sales vastly expanded. 2021 was the corporate’s greatest 12 months, and 2022 has began sturdy. DTC income is now bigger than wholesale.

He and I not too long ago mentioned Liber & Co., together with the pandemic-induced pivot, enlargement plans, and extra. Our complete audio dialog is embedded under. The transcript is edited for size and readability.

Eric Bandholz: Inform us about your organization.

Chris Harrison: I co-founded Liber & Co. in 2012 with my pals Adam and Robert, who’re twins. We have been in our early 20s on the time. We went to highschool collectively after which to the College of Texas right here in Austin. Our curiosity was making good alcoholic drinks. We noticed a distinct segment for cocktail syrups. It was a gradual begin and bootstrapped — no marketing strategy and no enterprise capital — though a household buddy invested for a little bit of fairness.

We gained momentum, accrued data, constructed provider relationships, and bought the correct gear. We finally manufactured the syrups ourselves. We promote to bars and eating places and direct to shoppers.

The pandemic initially decimated our income. Within the third week of March 2020, 70% of our enterprise was wholesale to bars and eating places.

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However we rebounded. 2021 was our greatest 12 months, with 80% year-over-year progress. 2022’s been sturdy, too. This week we secured a lease in Georgetown, simply north of Austin. We’d like extra manufacturing house. We will’t launch new merchandise as we don’t have accessible pallet positions. We’re going from 7,000 sq. ft to 21,000. It’s a giant chew. We signed a seven-year lease.

Bandholz: Did you take into account shutting down the enterprise when Covid hit?

Harrison: No. It was a intestine verify for certain. Our bar and restaurant enterprise stopped, however our on-line gross sales by way of Amazon and our Shopify retailer elevated by 300%. Gross sales to liquor shops have been steady. We ended 2020 with extra income than in 2019.

Our direct-to-consumer channel is now bigger than wholesale.

Bandholz: How do I make an Previous Long-established?

Harrison: It’s a easy drink, simply two components: whiskey and our Previous Long-established Cocktail Syrup, which is enriched with gum arabic, fragrant bitters, and somewhat orange peel. It’s the non-alcoholic model of an Previous Long-established. Simply add 1 / 4 ounce of the syrup with a shot of booze. Then stir over ice, and also you’re good to go. It’s all-natural with actual citrus and sugar and appears much like maple syrup. You can also make 36 Previous Fashioneds with one bottle.

Bandholz: Have you ever thought-about personal labeling?

Harrison: No. The margin on personal labeling is low. Plus we don’t have the capability. Essentially the most worthwhile facet of our firm is the model. The merchandise are nice, however anyone may reverse engineer what’s taking place right here. It’s not sophisticated. Sourcing, components, high quality management — it’s a meals merchandise.

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We now have massive plans to maneuver past non-alcoholic syrups and do some booze stuff. Promoting booze triggers a slew of laws, however the margins are nice.

Bandholz: You’ve had a powerful 2022 to this point. What’s driving that progress?

Harrison: It’s primarily direct-to-consumer gross sales by way of our Shopify website and Amazon. We generate about 40% extra income on Amazon, though the per-order quantity is low, barely over one bottle on common.

Amazon is sweet for us as a result of we tightly management who will get our merchandise — no third-party resellers. Our contracts for all distributors stop reselling on Amazon, though we’ve had points with that. Normally, nevertheless, we’re the one vendor of our merchandise on that market.

Plus, Amazon drives prospects to our Shopify website as a result of our bottles say, “You need cocktail recipes? We now have 600 on our web site. Go there.”

However most of our Shopify-store prospects hear about us word-of-mouth. We pulled our Fb advertisements after the iOS replace final 12 months. We do some Amazon promoting.

We’ve retained influencers on Instagram who promote and tag us. We’re massive on Cocktail Reddit and Tiki Reddit. Bars and eating places that purchase our merchandise additionally drive consciousness. Individuals go to Saltgrass Steak Home, for instance, and order a pineapple margarita. Then they ask, “What is that this?” The bartender offers them our recipe, which has our title and model.

We use Grapevine, the post-purchase questionnaire, for suggestions. It’s principally, “The place did you hear about us?” Many individuals will say a bar, a buddy, or on Amazon. It’s essential to understand how folks come to our model.

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Our advertising lead, Alex, and our advertising assistant, Cristina, are cocktail novices. They’re pushing TikTok. Cristina seems in our movies — 15, 20 seconds. She’s nice. I nonetheless like longer movies, nevertheless, for YouTube. It’s laborious to assessment a bunch of bourbons in a brief clip.

Bandholz: Speak concerning the Instagram influencers.

Harrison: We’ve had good luck with that program. The influencers usually love our merchandise and don’t ask for cash, simply samples.

We’ve not too long ago began experimenting on YouTube with cocktail influencers doing critiques. These are normally former bartenders who’re taking their data into their dwelling studio.

An instance is Anders Erickson out of Chicago. He does high quality productions and is aware of his stuff. We partnered with him, and it’s been an excellent match. We prolonged an affiliate low cost to him. He provides the hyperlink under his YouTube video that sends folks to our web site, which we observe.

Thus far it’s been nothing however upside for us. It’s not like a 10-times return on advert spend, but it surely’s positively value it. And since it’s YouTube, it’s evergreen. We’ll get visitors from these hyperlinks 5, 10 years from now.

Bandholz: The place can folks discover you?

Harrison: Our website is We’re on Twitter, Fb, Instagram, and YouTube. I’m on LinkedIn.

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