Groupe Geloso was founded in 1960 by Italian immigrant Vincenzo Geloso. He and his sons, Aldo, Antoine and Nicolangelo, rose from humble beginnings importing and crushing grapes to creating a multi-national beverage company that would help define future categories in the alcohol beverage industry.

Geloso Beverage Group LLC, Rochester, N.Y., a 100 percent subsidiary of Group Geloso, offers its signature 16-ounce Clubtails “Cocktails in a Can” and 200-ml flasks containing Johny Bootlegger, a 12 percent alcohol by volume (ABV) spirit-like malt beverage with Prohibition-themed varieties like Prison Break Black Cherry, Alcatraz Apple and Sing Sing Sour Grape. These popular brands are malt based and distributed in 19 states and Canada, with national distribution planned for 2017, Geloso’s U.S. Business Director Paul René says.

In addition to these SKUs, the family owned and operated company makes and manufactures four Lolita Cocktails, Spanish-like Sangrias, and two low-alcohol wines out of its corporate headquarters in Laval, Quebec, which is north of Montreal. The Mons Abbey Ales line, brewed with natural, 100 percent pure Abitibi Esker water and Belgian Trappist yeast, is manufactured in Geloso’s microbrewery in Amos, Quebec. Additionally, under the direction of brewmaster Jean-Louis Marcoux, the brewery is undergoing a $7 million expansion scheduled for completion in December.

“Our corporate facility in Montreal holds four production permits for malt beverages, wine, spirits and ciders,” René notes. “We treat our malt processing differently than most all others. It provides a base alcohol that allows us to develop and market products with a true spirit-like taste. This is our major point of difference.

“There are thousands of brands to choose from today, so suppliers must immediately impress consumers,” René continues. “I believe our brands deliver a cleaner, cocktail-like profile that is much different than even the most popular progressive adult beverages. We not only produce 100 percent of our own malt, we source flavors across the United States, Canada and Europe.”

Although they’ve only been on the market for five years, the 10 percent ABV Clubtails have resonated with consumers who no longer want to mix their cocktails the old-school way. The “cocktail-in-a-can” line is available in eight flavors including Sunny Margarita, Peach Breeze, Long Island Iced Tea, Sex on the Beach, Bahama Mama and Screwdriver.

Launched in March, the brand’s newest flavors are Hurricane, which blends cherry, orange, grapefruit and pineapple, and Blue Motorcycle, a descendant of the brand’s Long Island Iced Tea, which is anchored by a splash of blue curacao flavor.

“We strive to offer and maintain cocktail flavor profiles that will appeal to young and old alike while understanding the geographic popularity of some flavors,” René says. “…Geographically targeted marketing is crucial. We currently have four major markets where our leading seller is different from the other. As a small producer, we can service these markets appropriately without being swayed by national trends.” 

Pivotal packaging design

Packaging design played a key role as the brand continued to grow. “Point of sale starts with packaging, not just flavors,” René says. He explains that after a short test period, Geloso Beverage relaunched Clubtails in new, brightly colored 16-ounce cans and made tweaks to its flavor profile so it would more closely emulate a cocktail. 

“We also wanted to separate it from a traditional flavored malt product. We knew immediately upon relaunch that we had developed a product that would carve its own niche within the malt beverage category,” he says.

René notes that in the past year alone, Clubtails sales have grown more than 100 percent, and Johny Bootlegger more than 25 percent after 10 years of triple digit growth. “We recently completed a plant expansion and began distributing to north Florida,” he says. “Next year, we hope to expand across the Midwest and West, and believe national distribution is within reach in the next 24 months.” 

To stand out on the shelf, Johny Bootlegger is packaged in flasks. “[It’s] the only malt-based beverage packaged in a flask,” René says. He adds that the newest flavor, FireShot, will be unveiled at the National Beer Wholesalers Association (NBWA) Convention in October.

Also coming this fall, Clubtails, which was initially available only for single-can purchase, will be available in six-pack glass bottles in four flavors.

In addition to its Clubtails and Johny Bootlegger brands, Geloso Beverage produces a 6 percent alcohol by volume Sangria in 16-ounce cans and 1-liter bottles. “We sell an awful lot of sangria in New York City,” René says. “Because of our high-quality malt, our Sangria is so refreshing that it competes with any low-alcohol wine-based product.”

In a competitive beverage landscape, today’s distributors are faced with more SKU offerings than ever before. But René believes “innovation, creativity, quality and a never-ending commitment to succeed” will keep Geloso Beverage relevant in a consolidated industry.

 A passion for people and innovation is another key driver. “Our owners are actively involved with our R&D department. They taste daily, they drive different challenges, taste profiles and look to lead when it comes to innovation,” René says. “We are now developing some new profiles on the malt side that haven’t been attempted, which is exciting. I look forward to where our next home run will come from.”