In 2016, the social media app Instagram launched its Instagram Stories feature, which allows users to share photos or videos to their profile for 24 hours. Users also have the ability to add effects, layers, music or polls to their story.
Ben Soffer, founder and CEO of New York-based Spritz Society, utilized the feature for audience polling, collectively creating a product that launched in August 2021.
Explaining that Spritz Society was founded after noticing there was little space in the market for wine-based ready-to-drink (RTD) beverages, Soffer notes that malt-based beverages were “having a big moment” when Spritz Society was founded a few years ago, but they gave him and his wife headaches — and left them feeling bloated.
“Because of this, we’d always order spritz cocktails at bars and restaurants,” he explains. “I began posting ‘rankings’ of various spritzes on my Instagram Stories, and the interest and engagement from my followers led to the initial idea for Spritz Society.”
Through a series of direct messages and a poll asking for what consumers were looking for in a canned cocktail, Soffer says Spritz Society was born.
“But ultimately, we wanted to make something that wasn’t malt-based, tasted good, was made of high-quality ingredients, and that we knew people would love,” he adds. “Community is at the core of everything we do and we will continue to use crowdsourced innovation to make products the community feels is missing from the market.”
Soffer describes the current sparkling wine cocktail market as crowded — especially in terms of RTDs, noting that the category has only continued to grow as new brands emerge.
“The influx of competitors speaks to consumers demand, which is great, but what makes Spritz Society continue to stand out since our launch in 2021 is our fun fruit flavors, our all-natural, transparent ingredients and our out-of-the-box collaborations,” Soffer says. “We have also found great success in staying true to our commitment to our loyal fan base — listening to them and letting them guide us when it comes to what flavors they want, what markets they want to see us in and more.”
Sparking consumer interest
As for what consumer trends are contributing to Spritz Society’s performance, Soffer points to shifts in Generation Z’s preferences. He says Gen Z is showing different alcohol consumption habits compared with previous generations.
“This new generation of consumers is looking for better-for-you options with high-quality ingredients and a lower ABV (alcohol-by-volume),” Soffer explains. “They also seek brands that have a clear identity and personality they want to associate themselves with. Given this shift, we’re incredibly proud to be trendsetters in the better-for-you wine movement.”
When asked what differentiates Spritz Society’s portfolio from others on the market, Soffer says that it comes down to product and community.
“With the product, unlike most sparkling wine cocktails, Spritz Society uses only all-natural ingredients — from its colors to its range of fruit flavors,” he notes. “Having just a handful of quality ingredients is super important to us. We want to be transparent with our customers about what’s in their drink versus the mystery ingredients that can be in other RTDs, which is why we put a nutrition label not only on the box, but on every can.”
Soffer adds that the brand is proud of how it makes the cocktails.
“As for the community aspect, born out of my community as well as my wife and her sister ― Claudia and Jackie Oshry’s communities ― Spritz Society has a built-in audience of millions that advocate for, recommend and share Spritz Society, both online and IRL (in real life),” he explains.
And while Soffer says that success is “a difficult metric,” he notes that, from a sales perspective, Pink Lemonade is the company’s most successful SKU year-to-date. From a marketing, PR and brand perspective, Soffer points to the company’s collaboration with Claussen for the viral Pickle Spritz.
“Our fans have been asking for another tropical-inspired flavor for a while, and after doing marketing research and polling our community, we landed on Passion Fruit and couldn’t be more pleased with the result,” he says of the company’s most recently released variety, Passion Fruit. “The flavor is the perfect combination of tart and sweet and adds a whole new flavor profile to our lineup.”
Varieties created through partnerships with Claussen and The Skinny Confidential also are part of the Spritz Society’s innovation pipeline. The Skinny Confidential collaboration with Lauryn Bosstick was a no-brainer, Soffer says.
“She has been a fan of the product since launch and decided to become an investor in the brand along with her husband, Michael Bosstick, CEO of Dear Media,” Soffer says. “Beyond that, we share the same audience of pop-culture obsessed, millennial women. Our fans, the ‘Spritzers,’ were so excited about our collaboration with The Skinny Confidential that Pink Lemonade become our fastest-selling flavor, selling out in just under 60 hours.”
After getting lots of consumer requests to make the variety a permanent flavor, Soffer says the company relaunched the flavor just seven months after the initial launch. Although the collaboration mainly targets Spritz Society’s existing fan base, Soffer says the brand was excited to see that it saw more than 65% new customers.
He describes the attention as proof that collaborations “can be brand moments, revenue drivers and customer acquisition tools all at once.” Because of the DTC drop’s success, Soffer says that the flavor is being mandated in major retailers across the country, including Whole Foods, Walmart, H-E-B, GoPuff and more.
The appeal to a broader consumer base also was accomplished with the Pickle Spritz release.
“The launch of Pickle in collaboration with Claussen opened us up to a wider audience, with over 75% of purchasers being new customers,” he notes. “The uniqueness of the flavor really helped pique the interest of the masses, and we were thrilled with all of the buzz it created in the RTD space and how much everybody loved it.”
Soffer credits the brand’s community as what makes it so special. He says the most successful marketing programs are those that put the community “front and center,” including meet-and-greets. The brand hosted a meet-and-greet at a New York City Whole Foods, and Soffer recalls that “hundreds of Spritzers turned out” to support Spritz Society.
“Our new flavor collaborations and launches also top the list of most successful marketing programs this year, especially the Claussen Pickle collaboration,” he notes. “While it had initially started as an April Fool’s joke in 2022, so many Spritzers wanted it to be real that we put the wheels in motion to bring it to fruition. … We’re working on bringing this to retail as a seasonal SKU in 2024.”
Foreseeing future trends
Regarding what’s to come next, the founder says that the company is “always planning for the next new, exciting flavor or collaboration.” There are future plans for brand partnerships that are larger and more strategic, Soffer says, and set to be shared in 2024.
Currently, the brand’s distribution footprint spans across nine markets throughout the United States and also is available to ship nationwide through its website. Soffer says that the brand has seen massive growth during the past year, specifically with its expansion into grocery chains.
Retail was a big focus for the brand during its second year of business, and Soffer notes Spritz Society plans to continue that momentum.
Considering what the future holds for the sparkling wine cocktail market, Soffer says that ingredient transparency is key.
“People are paying more attention than ever to ingredients and what they are consuming, and purchasing habits will show they are favoring brands that value authenticity,” he explains. “We have been doing this since day one and have been able to establish a strong reputation for honesty and reliability with the consumer.”