‘Nude’ booze? Meet B.C.’s latest booming liquor industry: vodka soda

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A couple of B.C. companies have created an entirely new category in the liquor stores, with their canned vodka-soda combinations. Aaron McArthur reports – Sep 5, 2018

Editor’s note: A previous version of this story indicated Nutrl Vodka’s year-to-date sales was around one million cases. In fact, that figure was a sales projection. Nutrl says it has sold about 380,000 cases this year.

First, it was wine, then craft beer. Now, another new liquor industry is brewing up big numbers, and taking B.C. by storm.

They’re “naked” vodka sodas, a canned, carbonated alternative to beer and coolers, and one that appears to be catering to a huge, unmet demand in the market.

The big difference? No sugar.

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“We found that the coolers in the market had too much sugar, give you too much of a hangover. Beers make you a little bit bloated if you drink too many of them, so we just wanted to make something that doesn’t have any sugar, any sweetener at all,” said Julius Mackarewicz, CEO of Nude Vodka Soda.

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Nude got in early to a marketplace that’s growing more crowded by the day, and the company says sales have blown up.

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Mackarewicz attributed that to modern “healthy” lifestyle seekers that are increasingly conscious about what they’re putting into their bodies.

“Everybody is looking for something that is better for you,” he said.

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“People make good choices all week — we’ve got green juices and quinoa salads, people are eating chicken with no seasoning on it. And then come the weekend, they just throw everything out the window.”

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Nutrl Vodka Soda, based out of Delta, is having similar success. The company is a distillery first, but said it saw the writing on the wall as interest in craft distilling spread from the U.S. to the U.K. to Canada.

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Paul Meehan, Nutrl’s self-described “marketing guy,” said since the company started selling carbonated drinks with its own spirits, sales of its flagship vodka brand have gone up by 2,000 per cent.

“The convenience is a major factor, the consistency is another factor and the quality,” he said.

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“Because when it comes down to making a cocktail of your own, unless you’re really really into it, ease plays a part.”

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Nude, which sells only in B.C., ploughed through 270,000 cases this year and has been selling so much this summer it’s run out of cans. This number is based on the company’s year-to-date numbers, including its sales from August.

Nutrl, which sells across Canada, says it has sold about 380,000 cases so far this year, 260,000 of them in B.C.

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In fact, the volume is so high, local liquor stores can’t keep the stuff in stock.

“So to get them in and then get them out has just really been a challenge,” said Viviana Zanocco with the BC Liquor Distribution Branch.

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“And [the] suppliers, you know you kind of plan for the best and make a lot, but I don’t think they expected to see the demand we’re seeing this year.”

While that no doubt creates logistical headaches for producers, it’s a nice problem to have — and a positive development for an already booming B.C. liquor industry that generates billions of dollars a year and thousands of jobs for the province’s economy.