For anyone who clicked on this post and has no idea of who we are or what we’re doing, Swig + Swallow is a beverage startup, launched in 2016 and based in Brooklyn, NY. We produce fresh cocktail mixers for iconic cocktails. We half fill the bottle, so you can add spirits directly to the mixer bottle. When full, each bottle yields ten 3 oz cocktails, and mixers are good for 3 months if refrigerated and unopened. I’ve been posting updates on the evolution of the idea from my previous business model, which I launched and ran in 2015. My last update, "Slow and Steady Wins the Race” provides a longer version of the story.
For those who have been following our progress, apologies as always for the infrequent posting- these past 6 months have been chock-full of learnings, and adaptability has been the name of the game. Swig + Swallow has grown leaps and bounds in every area from route to market strategy, to production, to marketing, media, and more.
Starting with strategic direction, you may remember that since moving to a DTC (direct to consumer) model we’ve been tongue-in-cheek describing ourselves as “The Blue Apron of Cocktails for Lazy People.” I presented Swig + Swallow at a pitch event back in July using this tagline, and afterward one of the mentors said “you actually have something a lot more interesting- you don’t have a service, which is difficult to scale, you have a product, that could live in a handful of different contexts….and could be very successful.”
In terms of strategic direction, this was the most valuable insight we’ve received from an “outside” person to date, and as we’re in the business of making things that work- if we hear good advice, we’re all over it.
Days later we dropped the whole Blue Apron reference, reframed, and now we’re testing out 7 different routes to market simultaneously. We are still shipping nationally, and are determining how to get our costs down to pass those savings to our customers, but we’re also doing great sales in the NYC area for events and parties, and are having conversations with decision makers a range of other channels as well, from hotels to stadiums to airports and more.
Switching gears for a moment (I’ll come back to route to market strategy in a second), I had been holding off of actively “selling” our product because our production was both intensive and inefficient. If you’ve been reading my past posts, you might remember my comment about there being no co-packers who are equipped to make products like ours. We went through 5 potential co packers in the lead up to our Kickstarter fulfillment and last minute ended up deciding to make it ourselves for quality control. In a great stroke of luck, we recently received a personal intro to a co-packer who can’t do all of the production, (we will still keep half of it in house) but can execute certain elements of the production at commercial/industrial scale. I’m projecting this will allow us to fulfill and scale on the order of 50 x more quickly than we would have been able to alone. Besides the production itself, the labeling process has been the single greatest time suck of any part of our operations- each bottle requiring a whopping 1-2 minutes for label application. I know in a few years we might reminisce about the good ol’ days, but this is one thing I will not miss even for a second!
Thankfully, after an insane month of sales in December, I finally had the time to make some necessary label revisions with our designer, and to adapt the application process to one we can mechanize and outsource. In two weeks we will have a faster, better looking, and exponentially more efficient process, which consequently will save us thousands of dollars on freight annually due to a more streamlined supply chain.
In conclusion, here’s what to look out for if you’re interested in following our trajectory: I know it’s cliché, but we’re definitely going big or going home. My sales targets for the next month or two are stadiums, airports, and hotels, spirits partnerships and alcohol delivery. We’re beefing up our photography, social media activity, are launching a youtube miniseries, and more. We’ve already been very fortunate with national press mentions (click here for links) but I’ll be formally pitching us to a range of media.
Thanks everyone for accompanying us on this journey, and happy cocktailing!!
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