What do Grammy-award winning singer-songwriter Darius Rucker and NHL Hall of Famer Mario Lemieux have in common?
They’re both now invested in emerging nonalcoholic beverage company Owen’s Craft Mixers.
The New York-based premium cocktail mixer brand announced Tuesday the closing of a $7.5 million fundraising round that included Rucker and Lemieux, as well as country singers Lee Brice and Ryan Hurd.
Levy Family Partners, which led Owen’s initial fundraising round in late 2019, also participated alongside Maas Family Office.
“I believe Owen’s is poised and positioned for tremendous success moving forward, and I am beyond excited to be involved as a partner,” Lemieux said in a statement.
Owen’s has now raised more than $10 million to date, which has enabled the company to expand into more than 15,000 off-premise retail locations, 3,000 bars and restaurants, 750 golf courses and dozens of professional sporting venues.
Owen’s co-founder Josh Miller said the new investment would be used to continue fueling growth, and to help the company fulfill new purchase orders. The company’s also plans to make several new hires and bolster its sales and marketing efforts.
“Not only do want to accelerate growth and keep the business running at full speed, but more importantly we want to continue showing people that you don’t have to mix with low-quality ingredients,” Miller said.
Owen’s mixers come in a variety of flavors, including ginger beer and lime, mint-cucumber and lime, grapefruit and lime, cranberry and lime, tonic water and lime, and a margarita mix.
According to Miller, sales were up more than 450% year-to-date through April, and Owen’s — which was founded in 2016 — recently scored placements in Publix and 7,500 CVS locations nationwide.
Miller added that sales could triple in 2021 as its mixers make their way into 10,000 more stores.
“During our first 2.5 years in business, we didn’t sell to a single retail store,” Miller said. “Our whole philosophy was built around getting into the top bar, restaurant and nightclub programs in the country.”
That strategy worked well until the COVID-19 pandemic forced many of its top accounts to temporarily shut their doors.
“We were riding high heading into 2020,” Miller said. “We were working with Delaware North and we had a deal with Live Nation. However, 47% of our business was on-premise, and when the world shut down that went to like 10%.”
But just as bars were closing, Miller was finalizing was lucrative licensing arrangement with digital media company Barstool Sports for a co-branded a “Transfusion Mix” that contains grape juice and ginger ale and is designed to be mixed with vodka.
“The Transfusion is a cocktail that was born on the golf course, and cult-like followers know to call for it,” Miller said.
Owen’s launched its Barstool-branded “Transfusion Mix” last July and sold one million cans within the first four months.
“Barstool was a huge catalyst for us,” Miller said. “You couldn’t ask for a better partner. They over-deliver on everything.”
Additionally, as the official cocktail mixer of Barstool Sports and the presenting sponsor of its popular “Fore Play” golf podcast, Miller said Owen’s generates brand awareness within an important consumer demographic.
“We get to talk about Owen’s, how to use our mixers, where you can get the brand and why you should buy it,” he said.
Owen’s also launched an e-commerce business in 2020, which proved critical at a time when a growing number of consumers were becoming self-taught home mixologists.
“We had to pivot quickly and change our messaging to show people where they could buy the brand directly,” Miller explained, adding that Owen’s products were only sold at about 6,500 off-premise locations at the time.
The Barstool partnership, coupled with the company’s new e-commerce business and its availability at hundreds of U.S. golf courses — most of which remained open during the pandemic — helped the company to grow during a challenging time.
“I see enormous opportunity for the brand to grow exponentially moving forward through their partnerships with concert venues, other on-premise and retail locations,” Brice said via a statement.
In addition to being used as a mixer, Miller said a growing number of sober-curious drinkers are using the brand in mocktails.
“The brand is very versatile,” he said. “It can be mixed with an alcoholic spirit or consumed on its own. And that’s another huge part of this raise — just helping every audience understand why it is relevant to them.”