How do you enter a market saturated with half-billion-dollar, celebrity-driven brands and over 2,000 other options?
If you are Snow Tequila, the answer is simple: You listen to your kids.
The sons of co-creators Katrina Ilonka Johnson and Barbara Sanders were talking one day about two years ago at Johnson’s home in Los Cabos.
“I was talking about how I wanted to launch a tequila company,” Johnson recalled.
She also owns a beverage company, Dr. Juice, that creates specialized wellness and detox beverages in Cabo San Lucas. Her plant manufactures 30 products today.
Her son Moritz, 17, and Sanders’ son Micah, 18, were engaged in a conversation with her.
“I was fascinated with the agave plant, product, and tequila,” she said. “I investigated creating a tequila called Snow, and Micah suggested I talk to his mom, who owns Snow Magazine, and that is where the marriage began.”
The ingredients were easily sourced through Johnson’s connections in Mexico. The agave plants come from mineral-rich volcanic soil where the distillery is located.
Within a year of planning, the first run of Snow Tequila was ready to be bottled. The aged and charcoal-distilled tequila produced 3,000 bottles in the first run in February.
Samplings began at Aspen Film, Aspen Dance, and Ascendigo over the next eight weeks. The smooth, no additive, sweet-like-almond tequila retailing for $139 a bottle made its way into Aspen restaurants such as Aspen X, Casa Tua, Cache Cache, Wild Fig, and Woody Creek Tavern.
Sanders’ lengthy career working in Aspen and other high-end, luxury resort towns helped Snow Tequila’s circuit. From private membership club samplings in Dallas and New Orleans through her network to local Aspen Mountain Club tastings, Snow Tequila was poured about as much as snow has been pounding the mountains.
Snow Tequila’s first 90 days were event-driven, network heavy, and sparkly.
“The fields of agave literally shimmer like the champagne slopes. Our tequila is as smooth as a perfect powder day and pure as the Aspen air,” said Johnson.
She can demonstrate the perfect way to sip a tequila.
“Take the tequila in your right hand and turn to your right and smell. With this, you activate your left brain. What you are going to notice is the sweet almond aftertaste. Then you take it in your left hand, and you turn to your left side and smell. With that you are activating your right brain, and you notice how smooth the tequila is. Now, you are ready to sip it,” she said.
The presentation seems like an easy sell, but how much tequila can one small resort town drink?
An employee at Carl’s Pharmacy said, “We just started hearing about the tequila, and I’m familiar with it. Right now, we carry over two dozen tequila brands. Recently, tequila has really been rising in popularity.”
Aspen Grog Shop Manager Roger Carlsen said, “There are a zillion brands out there, and we have to sift and sort through which we carry. We have about 60-plus tequilas. Our top-selling liquor overall is Casa Amigos.”
There are hundreds of tequila companies with volcanic-soil-grown agave along with a complicated distillation process. Many, with flashier names, more elaborate bottles, and similar price points.
“We know this is a saturated market,” said Sanders. “However, we have a twist and nuances that appeal to our target market.”
Sipping tequila après ski is just starting to trend in America, though it hasn’t quite caught on yet in Europe.
“The tequila trend just started in Germany. They are just now getting excited about tequila,” said Johnson.
It could be that her connections to European ski resorts will solidify the trajectory of the brand.
“In general, tequila’s growth over the last 10 years is pushing over and out-selling vodka, which 20 years ago was the top-selling alcohol,” Carlsen said.
“In Colorado, we’re a tequila state,” said William Reilly, the manager of Aspen Wine & Spirits. “It’s state-state, and we’re tequila. We can’t sell rum. Tequila has just grown in popularity over the years here.”
It’s not only tequila that’s rising in popularity across the nation — it’s canned, seltzer-based tequila beverages, too.
The ladies have dug into that niche.
“By end of summer, we’ll launch ready-to-drink cans called Snow Spirtz. Alpine Spritz can replace the traditional Aperol Spritz,” said Johnson.
“We’ll also have a Skinny with soda water, lime, and Snow Tequila, in addition to the Alpine Spritz, an elderflower tequila seltzer with a touch of sweetness,” said Sanders.
“Tequila-based seltzers such as High Noon and Topo Chico have been selling very well and pretty consistent year-round,” Reilly said.
Currently, pours and availability of Snow Tequila are limited.
“We don’t sell it. Their distributor is small, and they don’t come here often. We haven’t gotten it yet,” said Carlsen.
There are four typical brands of tequila: Blanco, Reposado, Cristalino Reposado, and Añejo. Snow Tequila will be launching their own Blanco and Reposado in the next two years, in addition to their inaugural Cristalino Reposado.
What do the experts say?
The app Tequila Matchmaker, the online authority of tequila reviews and tequila brands, has Snow Tequila as the No. 1 trending tequila.
The licensed, women-owned business also has a little more liquid love.
“We move faster than anyone else,” said Johnson.
Sanders said, “We were speaking and promoting this brand before we even had our bottles in hand. We had a vision.”
Also, fun fact: Snow Tequila’s distillery in Mexico employs an all-women crew for bottling and labeling.