March 2011

Vodka to Go

By: Fred Minnick

AN ATTENTION-GETTER ON THE SHELF AND A TOUGH COMPANION FOR THE OUTDOORS, KRÜ 82'S STAINLESS "GO ANYWHERE" BOTTLE HIKES UP SALES . . . BUT INSIDE THERE'S A SURPRISNGLY SMOOTH NEW VODKA


Damian and Michael Costanzo of New York's Buy Wise Liquor Outlet
PHOTO: DOUG YOUNG


"Oh God, another vodka," Michael Costanzo recalls saying when he was propositioned to carry, well, another vodka late last year.

The owner of 5,000-square-foot New York metropolitan area Buy Wise Liquor Outlet sees hundreds, if not thousands, of new products a year, with vodka manufacturers hustling to become one of his 225 vodkas, representing 20 percent of his liquor sales. Nevertheless, Costanzo took a look at this shiny new brand called KRÜ 82. After all, Kru Spirits was backing the product with a strong marketing campaign that included advertisement buys in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, Maxim, USA Today and other high-profile publications. 

This, along with grassroots sponsorships and product seeding, combined to create instant product recognition and consumer demand.

When Costanzo saw KRÜ 82, its tall, shimmering stainless steel container boasting a thick black strap and slender carabiner reminded him of the pricey water bottles found in sports retail. KRÜ 82's stylish, outdoorsy looks appealed to him right away. And the taste hooked him as well. Costanzo took in the Holland-distilled, wheat-based 82-proof vodka and enjoyed the clean, fresh taste.

"When I tasted it, I was surprised at how smooth it was," comments the retailer.

Despite his surprise, he didn't expect to move the product in December, which he says is not a good time to introduce a new product. But he held a tasting and gave KRÜ 82 front-of-store placement. His customers were intrigued with the packaging.
 
PHOTO: KEVIN MOLONEY


 "The packaging drew them in, and then the quality reinforced it. Usually, when we hold a tasting, about 30 percent of the customers taste. With KRÜ, about 80 percent tasted it and liked it," Costanzo says.

Within a matter of days, he had sold 20 cases to customers who ranged from 21-year-old women to 62-year-old men. He says the large KRÜ 82 billboard in the middle of Times Square was especially helpful.

"Think about the exposure of the people going through Times Square every day. That kind of exposure is how you make brands," Costanzo says.



Green Marketing Power

For Boulder Liquormart in Colorado, the marketing power of KRÜ 82 was strong. But what really sold buyer Tiffany Lough was the brand's reusable packaging. Now it's among Boulder Liquormart's 500 vodka SKUs.

 
Tom Colby, Buyer for Colorado's Boulder Liquormart.
PHOTO: KEVIN MOLONEY
 "My biggest factor was the reusable container it comes in because we have such an outdoorsy client base," Lough says. "The packaging alone will help move this product, as hikers and runners will be attracted to it.""

She thinks it will especially appeal to her so-called green crowd. The stainless steel bottle is shatterproof and is 100 percent free of Bisphenol A (BPA), a common organic compound often used in packaging that the FDA has deemed dangerous to infants and young children.

It's also refreshing for new vodka to be different, according to the buyer. "How many raspberry vodkas can you have? A new vodka product has to lend itself to a niche market to stand out," Lough says. "If a new vodka is not different, a customer is not going to buy it. With this outdoorsy clientele, KRÜ 82 will do great!"

Martinis on the Slopes

Ron Vaughn, co-owner of Denver's largest liquor store, Argonaut Wine & Liquor, believes his customers will buy KRÜ 82 based on its price.

According to a recent Markets and Research study, premium vodka drinkers have been trading down to mid-range price points. Vaughn says he's also seen customers buy smaller bottles and that KRÜ 82 will benefit from these economic shifts.

But what will keep the customers coming back is KRÜ 82's packaging, he says. "People will be making their own Martinis on the slopes, packing KRÜ 82, vermouth and Martini glasses in their backpacks."

 
Ron Vaughn of Denver's Argonaut Wine & Liquor.
PHOTO: KEVIN MOLONEY


 

 

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