This is a 2 part interview with Devotion Vodka's CEO & Founder, Drew Adelman. Drew illustrates the concept I use with all of my Foodpreneur clients, Practical Passion .
Drew, what is your background?
I was born and raised in New Jersey and started out with a major nightclub chain called Polyesters, located on 26th street in Manhattan. I am also an avid fitness buff and wanted to create something that was good for you. So I jumped in and learned everything about the food business.
Drew, what motivated you in starting Devotion?
Vodka is a drink that you can mix with anything. Because of my affinity for lifestyle & fitness and as gluten-free products continue to be one of the strongest growth categories in the Food & Beverage industry; I was committed to bringing an innovative brand to the market place. So Devotion was born… a combination of a gluten-free, sugar-free and Made in America made perfect sense.
100% Made in America is huge for us, and it's something I was very passionate about because I see so many Internationally-based vodka brands on the shelves in the U.S. Not only are we offering a premium product, but we've figured out how to manufacture it here in the USA at a competitive price.
Did you have any challenges in the beginning?
Everything in business is how to take a buck and stretch it… if you throw money at things as a start up… it will run out quickly. Challenges was take the budget, stretch it,. In the beginning is was tenacity and drive and hands on. I don't sit in my tower so you'll find me out in the field. When I am out their people say "wow this guy took the time to come out and speak with me". They get a chance to shake hands with me. One new retailer actually wants me to be at the new product launch vs. our "Devotion Angels" sales team.
How did you develop the packaging?
People always ask why I named the brand Devotion. Well, I wanted the brand to have meaning to everyone… and everyone has a devotion to something. The label design has two hearts prominently on the front, a larger heart with a smaller heart within. Why? Well I call my 23 old daughter an angel… so one heart is mine and one is my daughters.
How is launching a spirits brand different from a food or beverage?
You have to have the balance of foodservice and retail. You asked me if the bar business is the primary generator of business. Unlike foods in restaurants, spirits are branded so you can develop brand loyalty with customers (that should cross over into sales at liquor stores). For example, here in New Jersey, bars down the shore may get 6,000 people over the weekend… that is a great opportunity for brand awareness! Of course the challenge is being in both channels… and that fact that I was on the buying side at Polyesters, this knowledge helped me on the seller side.
As a smaller brand did your New Product Launch Strategy have any innovative aspects to keep in affordable?
When you are battling the market muscle and the deep pockets of the global brands, it is essential to be creative and operate as efficiently as possible. While we certainly can't compete with their budgets, we roll-up our sleeves and make every effort to support our on-premise and off-premise customers on the ground through grassroots initiatives.
Who is your Target Market?
Devotion is geared toward image-conscious men and women who live active lifestyles, but who also enjoy a cocktail. In this day and age, while adults do like to indulge in a cocktail, they are also more aware of calories, and have to account for other dietary restrictions.
Next read how Drew funded his business and the "secret sauce" that makes Devotion Vodka different from the competition.
Interested in starting a food business? See the next page where real food entrepreneurs grabbed the opportunity in the the global gluten-free product market, projected to reach a value of $6 Billion by 2018.