May 2008

Mix Masters

By: Anthony Dias Blue


At Downtown Disney’s Tortilla Jo’s restaurant (the only Mexican restaurant in the Patina Group’s portfolio), G.M. Frank Moreno shows off creative versions of tequila-based cocktails using Daily’s Daiquiri/Margarita mixes.


There is no good way to make a cheesecake Martini. For those in the beverage industry, that curious statement might be spoken either as a hard-learned truth or as a challenge. For American Beverage Corporation (www.ambev.com), it was most definitely a challenge. Based in Verona, Pennsylvania, American Beverage Corporation (ABC) is a multi-million-dollar manufacturer of non-alcoholic mixers, ready-to-drink cocktails and juice beverages, and there are few endeavors this company is not willing to face—and eventually overcome.

Eric Stenta, Director of Operations for the Patina Group’s restaurants at Downtown Disney in Anaheim. Here, he sits at Catal’s outdoor UVA Bar, sipping one of three Martinis made with Daily’s Divines: A La Mode, Cheesecake and Chocolate.
 
Bringing Something to the Party
ABC’s approach to the adult beverage market is equal parts diversity and innovation. With its flagship brand, Daily’s Cocktail Mixers and Ready-to-Drink Cocktails (www.dailyscocktails.com), ABC has put together a broad portfolio of products for the domestic alcoholic drink market, and it’s far from finished.

“When we entered the ready-to-drink world, we knew we had to bring something to the party,” says Tim Barr, Director of Marketing. “For example, our ready-to-freeze pouches with alcohol already included are available in Margarita, Mojito, and Strawberry Daiquiri. They’re portable frozen blended cocktails with no need for a blender.”

This alcohol-inside product is just a natural progression for a company that had already carved out a strong presence in the non-alcohol cocktail mixer category. For Daily’s, the release of one such product is only the first wave of an overall attack on the market segment. The next wave is to continue to expand the category and capture more market-share by creating and introducing new flavors.
In 2006 Daily’s launched a Mojito mix, and late last year enhanced the line-up with Mango Mojito, Blueberry Mojito and Caipirinha offerings. Daily’s latest entry in the marketplace is a line of all natural Martini mixers that include Lemon, Pear, Blueberry, and the first ever All Natural Sour Apple Martini Mix.

Today, Daily’s features about 150 different products—several times that number when you count up all the flavor extensions Daily’s has available. “We realize that you can’t just live on your laurels, so innovation has been a huge driver of our company,” says Barr. “We’re continuously trying to launch new and innovative products.”

Such efforts also mean continuously finding ways to build brand awareness, and that means the company perennially seems to be one of those rising stars, even though it’s been around for decades—since 1960 to be exact.

Small Town Beginnings

The Daily Juice Company was born in Verona, a leafy suburb of Pittsburgh. Tony Battaglia, President of ABC, remembers seeing the company’s trucks delivering fresh juices door-to-door as a kid. “Growing up, everyone knew this company,” he says. There’s something almost heartwarming about ultimately working for a hometown business. And for Battaglia, Daily Juice was just another part of his formative upbringing, every bit as integral as the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Pirates. (Well, maybe not that much.) “I’m a born-and-raised Pittsburgher, and I was raised on Daily’s products. We’d get the orange juice delivered, and after it was consumed, the twin-eared jug became our large family water-bottle.”

Battaglia has been with ABC since 1996 and was named its President in 2002. Today, the company has more than 500 employees and is still woven into the life-fabric of Pittsburgh, but it has also grown to be nationally distributed in supermarkets, liquor stores and on-premise accounts. The company has stopped delivering fresh juice door-to-door, but is opening new doors—and not just for consumers, but for on-premises accounts as well.

“You won’t be in this game long if you don’t have quality products. The taste has to be there, especially for high-volume restaurants that sell a lot of drinks. Because of our convenience and the economics behind our products, we save bars and restaurants money and time. We do our own R&D to ensure that our products are every bit as good as making a drink from scratch,” Battaglia says. “Quality-wise, that’s where we’ve set the bar, because a bartender on the first shift doesn’t make the same drink as the bartender on the second shift.” It’s a winning approach that has helped the company partner with Hyatt, T.G.I. Friday’s, and Red Lobster. Such high-profile partnerships provide tremendous marketing and sales opportunities for Daily’s, which has also worked with such brands as Kahlúa, Malibu and Sauza.

26-year old Jake Rossman is the Asst. G.M. at Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen at Downtown Disney. He sits at a colorfully tiled piano with his signature New Orleans creole-crusted Bloody Mary, starring Daily’s Original Bloody Mary Mix.
 
The Big Time
It’s generally agreed that in 1988, when ABC became a part of the Dutch conglomerate Royal Wessanen, bigger things started to happen for the company. Royal Wessanen recognized the opportunity for Daily’s growth and focused intently on building the brand. It also kept the right people, like John Gorman, Senior Product Development Specialist.

Having been with the company 22 years, Gorman knows that success comes by emphasizing great recipes and can speak with confidence: “I’ve talked with a lot of different bartenders, and a couple of our national sales guys started out bartending, and the consensus is: There is no good way to make a cheesecake Martini—without our mix.”

Specifically, he’s talking about the new Daily’s Divines Cheesecake, a cream-based mixer that resides just about where the cocktail meets dessert. When combined with vodka, it produces an indulgent dessert Martini that is flavored with graham crackers and cream cheese. The two other current flavors in the Divines line are Chocolate and A La Mode. All are designed to partner with a neutral or flavored spirit or liqueur, and surely there will be additional inventive products to come.

Where does ABC go now in terms of product development? “We have that conversation all the time here,” Gorman says. “Some of the more premium markets are areas that we really want to focus on. Whatever we do, we move quickly, but at a deliberate pace. Daily’s Divines was an idea that was committed to and carried off in about a year. That’s a quick turnaround from ideation to finished product.”

Thinking Outside—and Inside—the Box

The future also includes thinking outside the box when it comes to packaging, although sometimes it’s also about thinking inside the box. Specifically, the Daily’s Bag-in-Box idea. Ready for the refrigerator and featuring a push-button tap, the new packaging for the ready-to-drink cocktail line stresses convenience, while flavors like Appletini, Cosmopolitan and Pomegranate Margarita stress variety.
PULLQUOTE: “Fundamentally, it’s about quality. We have to be the best solution-provider to our customers.”

Paul Beranek, Vice President of Sales, says that as the company moves forward, it will proceed with its mission to meet the needs of its customers in every arena. “Fundamentally, it’s about quality. We have to be the best solution-provider to our customers. We do a lot of consumer research in flavor profiles and convenience to ensure that success. Sales jumped 30 percent three years ago, and that growth has continued and remains vigorous.”

As the company approaches a solid half-century mark in business, there are more endeavors it’s looking to undertake, more pioneering work to introduce. Battaglia wants to keep moving up in the big boys’ neighborhood of the beverage market. “For a company our size, we’ve had to use whatever tools available to be successful. For us it’s about innovation,” says Battaglia.
 
The Mint Julep is a traditional drink served at Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen, and the Mojito is also a house favorite. Using Daily’s Mojito Mix—and plenty of mint— bartender Martin Cisneros concocts both simultaneously.

For Kids, Too

As well as having such a strong presence in adult beverage market, about two-thirds of ABC’s business comes from its fruit drinks and juices. The company’s Little Hugs is a wildly popular market-leader in the children’s drink category. The company is also partnering with the Walt Disney Company on product promotions for High School Musical, Hannah Montana and this summer’s new movie release, Wall•E. Having such high-profile partnerships has made ABC the third-largest domestic producer of non-carbonated bottled fruit drinks.

THE TASTING PANEL, 17203 Ventura Blvd, Ste. 5, Encino, CA 91316
Content ©2014 THE TASTING PANEL magazine. All rights reserved