babe mike's hard seltzer

ZX Ventures: Tracking tastes in innovation

24 August, 2021

“We have an energy drink called Mawé, which plays in natural and is non-caffeinated; a really fun canned wine called Babe; a premium lower calorie beer we’ve expanded from the US, Michelob Ultra; and some exciting new innovations that you’ll see come out before the end of the year.

“We try to get involved in exciting, high-growth, innovative areas and look to the future and how the beverage landscape is going to change, and how we can play it.”

When analysing the power of a particular brand, Kuppin’s team uses a unique points system it has devised.

“Based on third-party studies and internal benchmarking, we were able to find some key markers at an early stage for later success,” she says.

The team is clearly not operating with the same sort of budget that brands such as Budweiser and Stella Artois benefit from, so the key is to identify the main target consumer at a very early stage.

“We have to figure out who our audience is quite early and then we have to be really smart about how we change our marketing to focus on that audience,” says Kuppin. “If you understand who your consumer is, you can grow the brand in a really meaningful and powerful way.

“People used to describe their audience as male or female and a certain age and affluence level. It doesn’t actually describe a whole lot nowadays, and it’s not really going to give you the information you need.

“We’re diving a lot deeper to understand what our tribe cares about. It’s very easy to run a business and lose sight of who’s actually buying your products. If you don’t know that, you could be using the wrong communications for that audience, and you might not be able to unlock interesting things that might get them excited about new products, and you might be showing up at the wrong events or partnering with the wrong companies on co-branded pieces.”

Kuppin is from Los Angeles, but she began her career as a hedge fund research analyst in New York. She realised she had a much greater passion for food and beverage innovation, so she set up a NYC-based cocktail services start-up called Spice & Spoon. “My goal was to do something that genuinely interested me and learn about an engaging topic,” she says.

She then decided she would prefer to work on products as opposed to services, so she completed an MBA at the world-renowned Massachusetts Institute of Technology before joining ZX Ventures in June 2017.

Kuppin built the wine-based RTD brand Sincerely Sabella from the ground up before moving to London to launch canned wine brand Babe in the UK. She was promoted to director of incubation for Europe in October 2020. 

She believes that Europeans will start to increase the range of occasions on which they consume hard seltzers and RTDs. “There are more occasions in the US, but it’s early days here and I think we’ll break into a lot more occasions. People tend to associate canned drinks with picnics, camping, parks. That’s too small. You need to expand beyond that. I have a ton of confidence for it to grow beyond that. It’s our job to open up those additional occasions, like at home. It is happening, but it takes a little more time.

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