“Real fruit, real flavors, real colors, real taste…how Black Infusions is quickly finding a following amongst leading mixologists by crafting delicious, naturally infused spirits”

Seth:

We’re here with Michael Davidson, CEO of Black Infusions, to look at how his company is drawing passionate, influential fans across the world of fine food and beverage…and winning new drinkers all-along the way.

Michael, thanks so much for joining us!

Michael Davidson:

Hi Seth – Thanks for having me

Seth:

Real fruit, real flavors, real colors, real taste…and nothing artificial. This seems to have always been the mantra for Black Infusions. Can you tell us what motivated you to create a natural, shelf-stable, fruit-infused spirit in the first place – and in doing so, adhere so rigidly to these ingredient standards?

Michael:

It was from going off my experience in winemaking, which I did for many years as a personal hobby. I wanted to create a spirit that captures the same process and standards that are in winemaking. These artisanal spirits, Black Fig Vodka and Gold Apricot Vodka, are really agricultural products. I’m using real dried fruit, with no preservatives, no added sugar or coloring. These are truly all natural spirits.

Seth:

Not surprisingly, then, you call many of the world’s most well-respected chefs and mixologists your customers. Beyond the “right” ingredients, what do you think draw such incredible customers to your Black Fig and Gold Apricot brands?

Michael:

Even though Black Fig and Gold Apricot are classified as vodkas, they’re so much more versatile than the traditional spirit. There’s a creativity that they lend themselves to in cocktail recipes, and when used in the kitchen to flavor certain dishes.

I also think there’s an appreciation for the dedication I have in making these spirits – the way that spirits used to be made. So many products on the current market are made in labs with chemicals and artificial sugars. These products are trying to follow trends, whereas I’m trying to create a trend.

Seth:

Going a step further, what does it mean to Black Infusions to have customers that so many others look to for inspiration in the food and beverage world? And maybe most importantly, how are you able to work against that value to build brand equity and/or drive sell-through in the on and off premise environments?

Michael:

This is probably the biggest challenge in our company’s short history. We’re building the Black Infusions brand organically through grassroots selling. The notion that our products aren’t the same as other flavored vodkas is something we need to regularly educate our customers about.

The on-premise accounts play a crucial role in building the Black Infusions brand – especially with cocktail menu placements. These placements give consumers a chance to taste the product, and that will in turn drive off-premise sales. And this speaks volumes to our tagline, “Just Taste It.”

Seth:

Speaking of your Gold Apricot brand…you shared with me that this innovation was launched as a part of a calculated but largely intuitive (and therefore a little riskier) product launch. Can you tell us about that process and how the brand has been received since launching? 

Michael:

In this industry, just because one product has been successful like our first, Black Fig, does not mean that the next product will be received the same way. We knew that the apricot profile was not common in many spirits, other than in a few liqueurs or brandys.

That said, the only way an apricot flavored vodka was going to work is by using real fruit, as authentically imitating the profile is very hard. Like most entrepreneurs, I had an all in philosophy and purchased 25,000 pounds of dried apricots. I took the next 14 months to make this spirit. There were many trials and tribulations until I had a finished product that I felt would be a success in the marketplace.

Seth:

How does pricing play a role? I know you’ve been able to build large-scale distributor relationships without a flat, consistent price across products (as the price of fruit varies)…Something that’s not so easy to accomplish.

Michael:

Yes – our other obstacle was the decision to not line item price the two products. I took a business approach and priced the Gold Apricot to reflect the cost of the dried fruit, which ended up to be more than Black Fig. The cost of apricots are almost double, and this shows that I’m using natural products to infuse my spirits and not syrups and sugars that result in the same cost.

Seth:

Finally, can you give us three predictions for the future of shelf-stable infusions? These could be about consumer preferences, flavors, market-size/demographics…etc.

Michael:

I truly believe we are just in the early stages of infused spirits hitting the market. This category will truly take off in the next 5 years as consumers seek out all natural products that are not made with artificial sugars or flavors. These natural products will also continue to resonate with the younger generation and the demand will increase with off-premise accounts carrying all natural products.

Finally, I see a revenue boost from the culinary use of spirits like Black Fig and Gold Apricot. Since they are naturally infused and the sugar is from the actual fruit, they become very versatile for chefs to incorporate in their cuisine. Plus, they will also find their way into the homes of consumers, as they are extremely approachable, versatile, and simple to use in cocktails and food pairings. I’m very excited for the future of our infused spirits, and look forward to the challenges that will be presented to me as we grow the Black Infusions brand.

Seth:

Michael, thank you so much for joining us today and for sharing your amazing story. We wish you all the best as this category expands.  For anyone that wants to hear more, we’re excited to announce that Michael will be on stage at eBev later this fall (October 28-30 at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas).

Michael:

Thanks again for having me, Seth. We look forward to eBev and will see you in Las Vegas!

For questions or comments please visit: 

https://www.linkedin.com/posts/seth-hillstrom-70802025_ebev-spirits-marketing-activity-6565245005814988800-CBkr/

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