SPA GIRL COCKTAILS – The Founder, The CEO and The Rainmaker – How Three Women Are Shaking Up The Liquor Business

I am excited to share the cover story I wrote for the August issue of Beverage Industry News.

Ready-To-Drink (RTD) cocktails first saw success in the 1990s and 2000s with sweet, easy-drinking drinks. The revival of RTDs has introduced craft, super premium products that use natural ingredients to produce low-calorie and low ABV drinks that fit consumers’ health focused lifestyle.

The popularity of RTDs is reflected in the numbers. In 2018, the mixed drinks category (ready-to-drink, malt beverages and pre-mixed cocktails) was the most buoyant segment within the U.S. alcohol segment with a 6.1 percent increase. According to a Mintel report in November 2019, “one in five drinkers is reducing their alcohol consumption, however, RTDs were the only alcohol segment to experience an increase in consumption over a 2018 measure” and the ready-to-drink spirit based cocktail category grew by 40.7 percent in 2018. According to DISCUS, spirits-based premixed cocktails grew 7.5 percent to $351 million in the U.S. in 2019. And Nielsen reported that the RTD prepared cocktails category grew 83 percent to $105.37 million in the off premise for the 52 weeks ending in December 28, 2019.

Riding on this trend is Spa Girl Cocktails, a woman-owned, woman-led, award-winning, better-for-you vodka cocktail company. Spa Girl Cocktails was founded by Karen Haines, an entertainer, interior decorator, and cook. Always entertaining, she would create different drinks to share with her guests, including the healthy, gluten free, vegan cocktails that would become Spa Girl Cocktails.

With a great product in her hands, Karen looked to grow the business. Enter Alisa Marie Beyer. A noted serial entrepreneur, Alisa worked in the beauty business for years. Described as a “turn-around CEO”, she has worked with both large and emerging beauty brands creating iconic, award-winning products, while building a power team of women around her.

While Alisa did not know the liquor business, she had always wanted to do something in the industry. Growing up, she would listen to stories about her great, great grandmother, Estella Houston Fogelman, who bottled her own booze on her farm in Pennsdale, Pennsylvania in the late 1800s.

In early 2019, Alisa met Karen Haines at an event in Hollywood, California. She tasted Spa Girl Cocktails and thought, “ooh, that is amazing.” At the time, Spa Girl Cocktails was producing less than 700 cases per year. Alisa bought 100 bottles and sent them to high-end executives, including 50 female executives, and took bottles to cocktail parties. She put Spa Girl Cocktails in blind tastings against other RTDS. The response was incredibly positive. What was not to like about a pop-and-pour RTD vodka martini that is gluten free, vegan, and made with organic cane sugar and comes in at 48 calories and is 33 proof? “People want healthy, but they also don’t want to drink a lot to get a buzz,” explained Alisa.

After meeting Karen, Alisa made the jump from “lipstick to liquor”. Coming from the beauty industry where the barrier to entry was low but the competition high, she was not intimidated by the liquor business. Alisa explained, “I chose to enter the beverage alcohol industry not only because I was completely wowed by Spa Girl Cocktails when first introduced, but because I believe women are underserved consumers across the total alcoholic beverage industry—even though they account for nearly half of the category’s total consumer base. Spa Girl Cocktails is an emerging brand with a product technology that represents the future, not the past, of the alcoholic beverage industry. It’s time for women to make their mark in premium spirits.”

Read the complete story in Beverage Industry News.