Beverage Industry

Drinks Americas: Serving Up Premium Beverages Nationwide

September 1, 2005

Drinks Americas: Serving Up Premium Beverages Nationwide
By Molly V. Strzelecki
To be a wine aficionado always has been seen as being privy to the upper-crust of all things upscale. To be a connoisseur of bourbon or an authority on scotch gives notion to having insight into drinks of a higher standing. These days, consumers are quickly developing an affinity for the finer things in life, especially when it comes to their beverage of choice. And when you take a look at the offerings from North and South America, a lot of options exist to choose from.
Spanning the northern-most part of Canada to the southern-most tip of South America, the countries and regions across the land each boast beverages they can call their own. Since the dawn of the company three years ago, Wilton, Conn.-based Drinks Americas has made it part of its mission to bring these upscale drinks to consumers nationwide.
“We were founded on the concept that we would sell premium alcohol and non-alcohol beverages,” explains J. Patrick Kenny, founder and chief executive officer of Drinks Americas. “We wanted a focus on today’s young and urban consumer as well as the Hispanic consumer and current beverage trends. That’s why Drinks Americas was formed.”
Since its founding, Drinks Americas has focused on growing its portfolio of high-quality beverages, leveraging many of its products with their iconic images. Drinks Americas products range from Old Whiskey River, a bourbon backed by country singer Willie Nelson, to sparkling lemonades that are part of Paul Newman’s Newman’s Own food franchise.
However, the company isn’t limiting itself to people-icons. This past June Drinks Americas entered into an exclusive agreement with Rheingold Brewing Co. for the purchase of Rheingold Beer, making it the sole producer and marketer of the well-know New York brew.
“Our products are associated very often with icons,” Kenny says. “To us, icons are not only living and breathing people, but also icons in the way that Rheingold beer is an iconic brand of beer in New York. Everyone in New York knows what Rheingold is; knows that it’s one of the oldest beers still available in New York, dating back to 1838.” Kenny adds that during the coming year, Drinks Americas plans on introducing several major icon brands to follow in the path of its current offerings.
The company prides itself on keeping up with the latest beverage trends, and one trend that has been making strides during the past few years has been increased wine consumption. Consumers are more knowledgeable about grapes and regions, and can decipher between a Syrah and a Shiraz. As they gravitate toward the more premium wines, Drinks Americas is right there with them. The company’s latest venture is the formation of Drinks Global Imports LLC, importing super-premium wines from all corners of the earth.
“It’s a super-premium select-label wine company where we are meeting specific retailers’ needs through bringing some of the finest wines from Australia, Italy and France that we’ve been able to find through our level of expertise,” Kenny notes.
For this new arm of the business, Drinks Americas not only imported wines, but also imported an industry veteran, Richard Shiekman, to help mold Drinks Global Imports. “Between his expertise and our access to distribution and management resources, we thought this would be a good time to add that part of the company to our enterprise,” Kenny says.
Various consumer groups drive trends, and just as one segment is going full-force toward super-premium wines, other segments are taking a cue from the growing Hispanic population in America.
“The huge growth of the Hispanic population has had an influence on overall drinking,” Kenny explains. Drinks Americas acquired the rights to Damiana, which Kenny describes as a “Hispanic Sambuca.” The product has been a surprise for Drinks Americas, exceeding all expectations, doing particularly well with the Hispanic market, and also doing well as a “topper” for Margaritas.
“Anyone who knows about Damiana knows that it is a legitimate Hispanic liqueur that is put in Margaritas,” Kenny says. “There are people out there who put French liqueurs in Margaritas, and not that we begrudge them for taste, but it doesn’t seem to fall in line with the whole Hispanic theme of a Margarita. We believe we’re capturing a trend, which is the growth and influence of the Hispanic community, and the product is reflecting that.”
Drinks Americas hopes to continue this whirlwind of rapid growth by taking regional beverages and expanding them nationally, bringing in more icon-branded products, and continuing to market to targeted audiences to grow and distribution of its products. Kenny adds that the goal is to be a $200 to $300 million company within the coming years.
Drinks up, Americas, there are plenty of premium beverages to go around. BI