In 2018, then-up-and-coming country singer Morgan Wallen released the song “Happy Hour.” In the song, Wallen recalls all the moments that led to the end of a relationship with a stuck-up girl, and how he eventually decides to drink in celebration of the relationship being over. He sings, “Girl, I know a breakup ain’t supposed to be fun, But I’m here at happy hour, happy-hours is done.”
Similarly, Carrollton, Texas-based BuzzBallz, a ready-to-drink (RTD) mixed drink and cocktail company, is aiming to change the way consumers view happy hour — in a slightly different way.
“We are here to reinvent happy hour,” says founder and CEO Merrilee Kick. “We cherish and build our business around the way a consumer relaxes and unwinds. RTDs are projected to continue to grow in sales over the next five years. New consumers are trying RTDs every day and we’ll be there every step of the way.”
Spearheading with spheres
While working as a high school teacher and toward getting her Master of Business of Administration (MBA) in the mid-2000s, Kick notes that’s when the idea for BuzzBallz was born. The idea came to her while grading papers poolside and wanting to enjoy a RTD cocktail in a plastic container instead of a fragile glass, she explains.
Kick then “began to research ways to create the packaging and learn the rules of the adult beverage space” and eventually founded BuzzBallz in 2009.
“I was low on money, help and had no mentors in the industry, so I learned how to do all the jobs myself,” Kick explains. “I worked hard and began to learn a lot with the help of my sons and their friends who thought the idea was really cool. After a hard first year with many mistakes along the way, I began to hire a few employees and better understand the business, and the rest is history.”
Compared with other RTD beverages on the market, BuzzBallz’s products are notably different due to their spherical shape. Inspired by a glass votive from a family trip, the idea to use a pop-top came after noticing a can of tennis balls at a sporting goods store, Kick says.
“Our packaging is so unique, it’s instantly recognizable wherever your see it,” she adds. “We have quality ingredients and a wide variety of flavors not found in other brands yet. We are innovators and trendsetters — we love what we do and are always looking for ways to improve, expand and excite others with our brand.”
Building the BuzzBallz brand
With more than 25 options made with 100% juices, the BuzzBallz portfolio of mixed drinks and cocktails are made with vodka, rum or tequila. BuzzBallz Cocktails are ready to enjoy, as are BuzzBallz Chillers, but the Chillers are made with an orange-wine base.
The company also offers BuzzBallz Biggies, 1.75-liter drinks compared to typical 187-ml “ballz,” both coming in at 15% alcohol by volume (ABV).
Additionally, BuzzBallz has a receipt upload program, allowing the company to see which flavors are purchased more regularly in various states. Kick says the top-selling SKU is the wine-based Choco Chiller.
“Consumers tend to gravitate toward more traditional cocktail flavors, like Margaritas and Piña Coladas, but we’ve also seen success in the curveball flavors, like our Cran Blaster or seasonal Eggnog, that they weren’t expecting from us,” she explains. “Our consumers love surprises, and that fun spontaneity is very in line with our brand. We love our consumers, and they are the best promoters for our brand.”
The newest flavors from BuzzBallz are Espresso Martini and Chili Mango. The two flavors were launched after “a lot of taste-testing,” Kick says. Normally, the company has almost 30 flavors within research and development (R&D), she notes. Flavors are added to the portfolio only after they pass testing, she explains.
“Some flavors only test launch in certain markets, and if sales are solid, we expand our distribution,” Kick says. “Both new flavors have been a hit, especially our Espresso Martini.”
The CEO also notes that the company is “constantly inventing and trying new flavors,” with plans to launch certain flavors in specific countries. BuzzBallz is distributed nationwide and in almost a dozen countries.
Making it on the market
As more and more RTD beverages enter the market, Kick says that the company will rely on modernization to set it apart from the rest as the category continues to grow.
“The RTD market is growing with many new suppliers, many of whom are new to the game,” she explains. “The companies that have the most success are the ones that dive into innovation. Consumers want a variety of fun and exciting quality cocktails that taste good for a decent price.”
Noting the uptick in competitors, Kick understands what consumers want and plans to deliver with BuzzBallz.
“Consumers are looking for new unique flavors and drinks, similar to what you can get at a bar that they can take on the go with their busy lives” she says.
Kick says she can’t unveil quite yet what is coming next from BuzzBallz, but there’s little doubt that consumers will be buzzing with excitement when they arrive.