Ready-to-drink alcohol products are arguably the most disruptive category the beverage industry has seen in recent years. According to a recent study by drink market analysis firm IWSR, ready-to-drink products have, since 2018, been growing faster than any other major drinks category and will command 8% of Total Beverage Alcohol by 2025. RTDs aren’t only stealing share from beer but also attracting spirits consumers, cider drinkers, and wine lovers all over the world.
It’s no surprise that industry vets are recognizing the profitability of RTD cocktails, including Adam Kost, who spent more than 20 years in the alcoholic beverage industry including roles at Heineken USA, Pernod Ricard and AB Inbev’s ZX Ventures. He supported Dos Equis’s “Most Interesting Man in the World” campaign and spearheaded marketing and innovation for Waterloo Sparkling Water.
But in the two decades Kost spent building beverage brands, he noticed a distinct lack of purpose-driven products in the alcohol space. That’s why he decided to launch Country Luau, a line of canned cocktails made with real spirits in four tropically inspired twists on classic cocktails. Paying homage to its roots in Nashville, Tennessee, and Austin, Texas, the brand donates 2% of sales towards supporting emerging musicians through their Mixed for Music™ Program.
All professional musicians ages 21 and over can apply for a grant, which typically starts at $250. Appropriate grant fund uses include anything that furthers a musician’s career: equipment, transportation, photography/videography, album art, or studio time.
“I knew that when I had the opportunity to create my own brand, I would intentionally design it to give back,” Kost explains. “I’ve worked for a number of big corporations in the alcohol industry over the years, and we always sponsored popular music artists. As the founder of a business, I thought it was important to take a reverse approach to that corporate model.”
Rather than leverage popular artists to help grow a brand, he wanted to leverage a brand to help smaller artists build their audiences. “That being said, we see an opportunity to partner with larger musicians who are aligned with our mission and values as we grow,” he adds.
AZXO, an Austin-based indie rock/pop band, was the first to receive one of Country Luau’s grants.
“We’re going to use the funds to make a music video,” said AZXO frontman Zhìpéng Xíng. “Music marketing is so visual now and a high-quality music video can translate beautifully to social media platforms. Getting our sound out there along with our bright, colorful aesthetic will help us reach new audiences, create new fans, and hopefully book more live shows! This grant means a lot to us.”
Country Luau is named for the environment it strives to create – an inclusive, judgment-free good time where friends and strangers can relax and enjoy each other’s company. It’s inspired by the storytelling of country music and the laid-back vibe of the luau.
These sparkling canned cocktails come in four flavors: A rum-based Strawberry Daiquiri, Spicy Pineapple and vodka, Yuzu Ranch Water with real tequila, and a Mango Mosa spiked with vodka.
“From my background working in the hospitality and culinary worlds, I started to see flavors like memories,” said Kost. “With our Yuzu Ranch Water … those [flavors] can create good new memories with a newer flavor in yuzu. And with our Strawberry Daq, we wanted to make it taste and smell just like that nostalgic frozen daiquiri mix from our youth. We kind of joke that it’s not a cocktail, it’s a time machine.”
Each 12 oz. can is designed to be highly sessionable at 5% ABV, two grams of sugar and 100 calories.
“It was vital for me to create a brand that is both personal and had a clear purpose, and our mission at Country Luau is to bring people together,” says Kost. “And I know that great music, good friends, and obviously a tasty canned cocktail can do that really well. And from a consumer perspective, giving back to local music economies aligns with our customers’ passion points and lifestyle.”
Country Luau is now available online with nationwide shipping and at independent liquor stores, bars and restaurants throughout Tennessee and Arkansas. It will be available in South Carolina in early June and throughout Texas by October.