The pandemic has driven fundamental shifts in the business of alcoholic beverages as well as domestic behaviors within the home. With strict at-home orders, Americans began bringing more and more alcohol into their homes to combat stress in some cases and boredom in others; interest in at-home cocktail making rose sharply. Owen’s Craft Mixers is a premium mixer brand that offers an array of flavors and mixes to allow consumers to make the perfect cocktail from the comfort of their home. The mixers are available in 14,000 physical stores including Public, Kroger, and CVS, and online through the company’s website and Instacart. Owen’s Craft Mixers are also available at bars and restaurants, sports venues, and golf courses. This omnichannel strategy led to a 378% increase in sales year-to-date as compared to 2020.
Alleywatch caught up with Cofounder and President Joshua Miller to learn more about the company’s impressive traction, future plans, latest round of funding, which brings the total funding raised to $9M, and much, much more.
Who were your investors and how much did you raise?
The investors include Lee Brice (country music star), Mario Lemieux (NHL Hall of Famer), Darius Rucker (Grammy Award-winning musician/star) Ryan Hurd (Country music star), Maas Family Fund (Founder/Creator of Rumchata, recently sold to Gallo), Larry Levy (Levy Family Partners, Founder of Levy Restaurants), and Todd Bondy (VC investor, Drink Owen’s Mixers LLC). The round is Series B and we raised $7.5 million.
Tell us about the product or service that Owen’s Craft Mixers offers.
Owen’s Craft Mixers is an award-winning, premium mixer company. Created as a solution to perfecting a quick and delicious craft cocktail, Owen’s has become a key component in the nation’s leading retailers, bars, stadiums, and restaurants. Owen’s Craft Mixers are made in the USA from real ingredients (real juice and pure cane sugar) and quality you can taste. Today its award-winning portfolio includes Ginger Beer and Lime, Grapefruit and Lime, Mint, Cucumber and Lime, Tonic Water and Lime, Cranberry and Lime, and Margarita Mix. Owen’s is proudly the Official Cocktail Mixer of Barstool Sports, and the Owens-Barstool Transfusion Mix is currently available at multiple retail outlets and golf courses, including Troon golf clubs throughout the United States.
What inspired the start of Owen’s Craft Mixers?
Tyler (cofounder) and I started Owen’s based on a common experience that most people have in a bar or restaurant. We were at a local bar on a Friday night, and we were looking to enjoy some cocktails to start off the weekend. We noticed there was a specialty cocktail on display and we decided to order since it sounded enticing. The cocktail took a long time to produce, mainly because the recipe required multiple steps and the bartender was super busy with many incoming orders. We waited for about 20 minutes and then finally the cocktails were served. Within that amount of time, we started talking about the popularity and rise of craft cocktails in all sorts of bars/restaurants. The cocktail didn’t live up to the expectation and when asking the bartender what they thought, they replied “yeah I’m not really sure how to properly make the drink.” It was at that exact moment that we decided to create a solution that was both quality-driven and help improve the efficiency of making the actual cocktail.
How is Owen’s Craft Mixers different?
Owen’s unlike other brands is made with the base of real juice and pure cane sugar- offering a low calorie and sugar, high-quality cocktail mixer. Each Owen’s Mixer incorporates multiple ingredients in the bottle allowing consumers to simply combine their favorite spirit over ice with Owen’s providing a high-quality cocktail in two easy steps. We are also proud to be made in America, as well as family-owned and operated. Our team consists of incredibly talented industry professionals that we consider family as well. They are a major driver of our success.
What market does Owen’s Craft Mixers target and how big is it?
There is a massive opportunity within the “adult beverage” space, specifically in the premium cocktail mix segment. We remain demographic agnostic, meaning we are focused on a quality solution for anyone looking to consume a high-quality cocktail or mocktail. The total addressable cocktail mixer market is over $4B. During 2020, premium cocktail mixers grew over 60% according to IRI data. Owen’s is the fastest-growing premium mixer brand in terms of total sales for the past 6 quarters in a row.
What’s your business model?
Owen’s takes an omnichannel approach: brick & mortar retail (off-premise), bars, restaurants, stadiums, golf courses (on-premise), and e-commerce (direct to consumer). We work through liquor and beer distributors nationwide that provides us with an extremely powerful DSD network.
What was the funding process like?
The funding process was surprisingly enjoyable and seamless. It’s clear that all the people we spoke with had heard of Owen’s previously, but more importantly, saw a massive opportunity. Our discipline and focus on being the best non-alcoholic cocktail mixer provided prospective investors with clear confidence that we could scale our business and do exactly what we have set out to do.
What are the biggest challenges that you faced while raising capital?
It was a unique process given COVID prevented any real face-to-face meetings, so the majority of the conversations were either virtual or over the phone. There was also a lot of uncertainty over the past year, so it was imperative to provide a clear path to success and exactly how we were going to scale the business coming out of COVID.
What factors about your business led your investors to write the check?
Overall growth and focus led our investors to write the check. Each entity involved had confidence in the plans we have laid out, and more importantly, they see our team as the perfect group to become #1 in the space.
What are the milestones you plan to achieve in the next six months?
As the on-premise (bars/restaurants/stadiums) start to reopen, we want to welcome back our partners and be the supporting cast in their beverage program to create high-quality cocktails for guests returning to their spaces for the first time in over a year. We are also focused on expanding our retail presence within the stores with greater floor displays and programming with top spirit brands.
What advice can you offer companies in New York that do not have a fresh injection of capital in the bank?
Managing emotions is the hardest obstacle I have personally faced as a founder. You can’t let the highs get too high or the lows get too low. Showing discipline and focus with your emotions will help you make more shrewd and strategic business decisions. And the age-old saying, “Patience is a virtue,” couldn’t be any more relevant. Stay the course and adapt when necessary.
Where do you see the company going now over the near term?
We see Owen’s as becoming THE go-to premium cocktail mixer for any demographic and occasion. I love that Owen’s can be used in so many ways and paired with essentially any type of spirit. We firmly believe that Owen’s presence across the country will not only continue to grow, but we will start to become top of mind for any consumer looking for a quality and convenient cocktail solution.
What’s your favorite outdoor dining restaurant in NYC
I’m biased, but Bareburger will always be my favorite since they were the first to serve Owen’s. My second favorite is Olio E Piu. Those espresso martinis hit differently on a Saturday afternoon in the Summer…