How to Create a Drink Company (And Why It Matters to Your Business)

Kate Fenstermacher

When we decided to create a beverage, from scratch, we had no idea what that entailed or where to start. But we knew we had to figure it out. And we knew it had to be great.

There were a couple preliminary phone calls with companies that promised to walk you through the process from formulation, to package design, to production, to breaking bread with 50 Cent when your beverage goes gangbusters. All this for the low, low price of $20,000. With an additional $10,000 per month for ongoing consultation and management. No thanks. We’ll figure it our ourselves (because that’s what we do.)

The phone calls did have one upside. They introduced us to an independent consultant that appeared to know what he was talking about. So we cut out the middle-man and started working with him and a formulator, which it turns out, is all you need to get started.

Concept:
We brainstormed about what we wanted the drink to embody. The color, the taste, the size, the story. This was creative development at its finest. Taking on the point-of-view of a client, even though it was our own endeavor.

Prototypes:
We tasted hundreds of different samples. They varied in fizziness, flavor, scent, color, etc. We tasted some really delicious stuff. And some not-so-delicious stuff. Finally, we landed on our perfect blend; a delicious elixir of ginger, blackberry and a hint of pear. Pointed feedback was the key to success. We learned from the other side of the table that the best way to get great work from a vendor is to learn how to give feedback that they understand.

Ingredients and Can:
Lead times. Paperwork. Holy crap. Can printing? Did you know there are only three aluminum can manufacturers in the world? Yeah. That’s a fact. And getting on their radar is tough when they run cans 24/7 for the ‘big guys’. The process for getting can art finalized was brutal (makes getting a print ad ready seem like a joke), but we did it. Making sure all the ingredients and cans arrived around the same timeframe was crucial. Project managing something like this is no joke. Our first full shipment of beautifully printed cans arrived in a truck that contained 263,700 Sunshines (time to get selling!) Did I mention we won a CA award for the can design?

Manufacturing:
Let’s do this! For the first run, I had the formulator join me on site at the plant. She provided the batching instructions. The ingredients were mixed and then cooled. And we were off to the races. Hundreds of cans were run per minute as we periodically grabbed them off the line to taste, check color and carbonation level. QA at its finest. There were a few tweaks to be made on the line but after that, everything ran smoothly. Success!

Logistics:
Now for shipping and warehousing and distribution. A whole different ballgame.

Shipping proved to be the easiest. Lots of carriers are available with competitive pricing. Once you figure out the process, it’s pretty easy.

We selected a local warehouse to store our product; making sure it met the parameters of storage for our product. Do not store in direct sunlight. Keep under 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Do not stack the pallets.

Distribution:
This was probably the toughest nut to crack. We consulted with a few different people we had relationships with. We made some mistakes, but learned from them and eventually figured out what works best for our product.

This is the tip of the iceberg of everything that goes into creating and manufacturing a beverage. There are a lot of other intricate details like trademarking, insurance, and doing everything you can to save every fraction of a cent per can. But you get the gist. And I’ll let someone else talk about the difficulty of actually selling the product into retail.

The point of this article: When we work together and you’re talking about logistics or manufacturing or distribution or packaging challenges, we don’t just say we know what you’re talking about. We know what you’re talking about. For reals.

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