Spotlight on Innovation: Spritz Society’s Instagram-Focused Genesis
Community engagement lets this wine-based canned cocktail brand capitalize on trends and support retail sales through its strong Instagram following
Spritz Society, a wine-based canned cocktail brand built around – and largely by – its devoted virtual community, is challenging industry standards when it comes to research and development and marketing initiatives by simultaneously building a brand and developing an audience. With a focus on ingredient transparency and eschewing seasonal trends, Spritz Society has become an innovator poised to demonstrate how community engagement can build brands with strong direct-to-consumer and retail sales.
The brand was born when founder Ben Soffer noticed a void in the canned cocktail space for the spritz cocktail – not only a personal favorite, but a category his Instagram audience of 1.6 million followers consistently engaged with (he runs the Instagram account @boywithnojob). As a result, Soffer and cofounder Jake Lewin built Spritz Society and its four flavors via crowdsourced suggestions and audience polling, collectively creating a product that launched in August 2021 with a slew of dedicated customers.
In doing so, Spritz Society capitalized on of-the-moment drinks trends such as ingredient transparency and non-traditional canned beverage offerings, both of which are corroborated by Drizly’s data. Earlier this year, Drizly saw spritz-inspired SKUs like the Chandon Garden Spritz rank among its top-selling new wine products, and in Drizly’s 2021 consumer report, a majority of those polled rated ingredient transparency as the most important health factor in their purchasing decisions; Spritz Society’s five-ingredient wine-based cocktails include a full ingredients list on each can.
While canned wines make up less than one percentage point of share on Drizly in 2021 to date, the category has seen slight gains in recent years. However, Spritz Society markets itself as a ready-to-drink (RTD) cocktail, allowing the product to compete directly with the fast-growing hard seltzer and RTD categories.
BevAlc Insights sat down with Soffer and Lewin to learn more about their innovative beverage, building a product around a lifestyle, and how retailers stand to gain as Spritz Society products enter nationwide distribution.
BevAlv Insights: What inspired you to create Spritz Society?
Ben Soffer (BS), Spritz Society founder and CEO: Over the last 2.5 years, I fell in love with spritzes in general, whether Aperol or any of the various spritzes that you find on a restaurant menu. I loved the color, I loved the flavors, and I would always post about them on my Instagram stories. And I spoke about this term ‘spritz season’… and my audience would always comment in abundance, asking ‘where can I get that?’ or ‘it’s so beautiful, what does it taste like?’ And there was a lightbulb moment where we saw that there is a massive trend in the RTD space for things like hard seltzers, but where are the spritzes? My audience seems to love spritzes, so why don’t we see if this is something that we can mobilize?
How did you transform that social media-driven interest into a tangible product?
BS: We had a bartender make the top 10 [spritz] searches on the internet, photograph them, then polled my audience, and we got 50,000 survey responses with a 92 percent approval rating that my audience loved spritzes. From there, we acquired the Instagram handle Spritz because as social natives, that was just as important as anything else. I polled 3,000 of [my followers] with a Google Form, asking them their opinions on logos, flavors, can designs, and anything related to R&D. We then called that community the Spritz Society, knowing it was a community of people that we could use to empathetically build this brand from the ground up. [We decided] if we were going to use my audience and use my wife’s audience… we wanted to make sure that [Spritz Society] was built in their image… and wasn’t just another product.
How do you describe Spritz Society in the market? What sets it apart from other canned drinks?
Jake Lewin (JL), Spritz Society cofounder and president: The truth is that we truly feel we’re pioneering a new category in a way. So you have your seltzers, you have your canned wines, now you have your spritzes. And suddenly, you know, we’re delivering something that most people buy three different products to make. They buy Prosecco, they buy Aperol, and they buy an orange or something. And with us, you’re just getting this fun in the can. It’s convenient. It’s beautiful. It’s all natural. It tastes delicious. And it’s just a different experience.
How are you remaining engaged and engaging with new customers?
BS: Because we’re wine-based and we can sell direct-to-consumer, we’re able to directly communicate with our customers … and we can reach out to them with any R&D related questions. But where we’re really trying to dive deep is our subscription business. We know that if you’re a subscriber then you definitely love the product … so we plan on using that community to continue to help iterate [new products] as well as our social community.
What do you think retailers should know about Spritz Society and what the brand brings to the growing canned wine and cocktail trend?
BS: I think first and foremost, it’s transparency when you look at the entirety of the RTD category. What sticks out the most is that people don’t even know what the base alcohol is in canned cocktails or hard seltzers. We have five ingredients per can. You can see them right on the back. Secondly, [retailers] are getting a significant push and a lot of help from our social community. So when we go into a retailer, we’re not relying solely on the retailer to sell our product or the distributor to sell our product. We are coming in with six million followers from our community. Plus with our PR and all of our friends, family, influencers, and celebrities, we reach over 100 million people. So we come with a built-in network that we own. That makes it significantly easier for velocity on-premise or in a retail location.
JL: What I think is interesting is that we’re able to support our retailers in ways that none of their other brands do or can. For a retailer to generate awareness around a product in a specific location … they need to do something physical, whereas we have the ability to reach tens of millions of eyeballs per day through our digitally owned real estate and through the communities we built. And as a result, there’s less risk in bringing on Spritz Society as a new brand because we have a built-in marketing engine.
How is Spritz Society combatting the idea that the spritz is a summer-only beverage?
BS: That’s a question we think about all the time. The first comes with building a lifestyle around Spritz Society so that it’s not just the drink that you’re craving, but it’s the entire environment. So for example, in November, we’re launching the Spritz Society Leisure Club, which is our first collection of merchandise that has really highly designed products like hoodies, sweatpants, and T-shirts that sort of go with this après-ski environment. We’re making it something that you want to drink and want to wear during all seasons. The second is continuing to be relevant in holiday times, so we’re releasing a holiday box in December that really targets gifting.
JL: We’re also fortunate to have a huge community base in evergreen markets. We know from our social data and our direct-to-consumer data that we have massive communities in places like Arizona, California, Florida, where there aren’t seasons the same way New Yorkers see them. And as a result, with our content and our flavors, we’ll do our best to make those feel more evergreen and not seasonal. But those markets do the heavy lifting for us on their own because it’s five o’clock every day in Arizona, and there’s always a sunset.
Is there a myth you want to dispel for retailers about canned cocktails or wine-based products?
BS: I think that in general, at least for me, the category is dominated by seltzer, and the hard seltzer category just does not put the emphasis on taste. They put the emphasis on calorie count and carb count. People used to drink because they like the taste, they like the feeling, and they like the lifestyle, not because they are trying to lose weight. This whole new world of seltzers really has pushed their narrative of health, and we’re drawing it back to the reason why you love going to a restaurant and ordering a cocktail – because you love the way that it tastes.
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