• Kennedy Shields

AVEC

Have you ever gone to a bar, desperate to find a drink with some inkling of flavor and resigned to ordering a vodka/tequila soda with a splash of pineapple?


Have you ever sat at a table in a club, curious as to why you paid upwards of $100 per bottle of alcohol only to mask it with carafes of orange or cranberry juice?


Have you ever entertained your friends at your home and wanted to enjoy a nice cocktail without overindulging in a caloric beverage and waking up with the inevitable sugar-induced hangover?


Enter AVEC, a premium drink mixer that is “changing what you mix with your spirit.”



About AVEC


AVEC was created to address a void in the mix-with-alcohol market: mixers for the modern drinker who value their health.


After years of living in metropolitan cities, AVEC co-founders Alex Doman and Denetrias (“Dee”) Charlemagne, came to the realization that the current product selection of drink mixers, simply put, “sucked!” In today’s health conscious environment, people rarely reach for a soda or a juice to drink, except when used to mask the taste of alcohol. In a world where oat milk is the new dairy and Sweetgreen salads are the new deli sandwich, why do all these health conscious decisions go out the door the minute we walk into a bar or pour ourselves a cocktail?


Alex and Dee are “two friends on a quest to drink better” and rethink the mixer category by making it healthier, tastier and more sustainable.


AVEC comes in five delicious flavors including:

  • Hibiscus & Pomegranate (mix with tequila, vodka, rum)

  • Ginger (mix with vodka, whiskey, tequila, rum)

  • Jalapeño & Blood Orange (mix with tequila, mezcal, vodka)

  • Grapefruit & Pomelo (mix with vodka, tequila, rum)

  • Yuzu & Lime (mix with vodka, tequila, gin)


Each flavor is meant to substitute an existing drink mixer (i.e. Ginger replaces ginger beer, Jalapeño & Blood Orange replaces margarita mix) while drastically cutting down on sugar and calorie count.


The products are crafted with 100% real ingredients, no artificial sweeteners and 80-90% less sugar than other mixers. The co-founders are highly discerning when it comes to sourcing ingredients, driven by their ambition to work as closely with the supply chain as possible, and strive to form relationships with their farmers and suppliers.


Additionally, as part of the ‘1% for the Planet’, they are committed to helping the environment by using recycled aluminum cans to reduce waste and supply chain miles.



Positioning


AVEC was originally positioned for three types of consumers:

  • Spirit Lover: has a favorite spirit and wants to pair it with a high quality and tasty mixer

  • ‘Social Savant’: loves food & drink and hosting parties. AVEC’s flavors get them excited and they use it as a ‘trick’ for at home dinner parties

  • Health Focused: tries to find the healthiest thing to drink or mix with at the bar


AVEC was created as something to be mixed with, as opposed to playing in the flavored seltzer water category, but is still very delicious on its own. Other seltzers such as La Croix or Spindrift were not made for mixing—and who wants to drink the same thing at lunch as they do on a special occasion? Yet, approximately 50% of current customers enjoy AVEC without mixing in alcohol.


The co-founders wanted a name and a brand that was simple and stood out at the bar. AVEC is French for “with”, so customers can go to a bar and say “I want a vodka AVEC [insert flavor here].”


The Founders


I had the pleasure of interviewing Alex to learn more about his background and the inspiration behind AVEC. Alex has always had a passion for food and beverage—he jokes about how his mom called him “Chef Truffles” growing up. Alex’s professional background is in management consulting, where he specialized in the hospitality industry with a focus in bars and restaurants in the U.K.


Alex moved to New York from London with the idea for AVEC already brewing in his head. With a clear aspiration for entrepreneurship, he maintained a spreadsheet of ideas and would rank them against each other. After meeting Dee on their first day at Columbia Business School, where they were cluster-mates in the class of 2020, he instantly knew he found his business partner.


Alex jokes that he “tricked” Dee, a New York native and former advertising executive, into working with him by creating entrepreneurial get togethers, where fellow classmates interested in entrepreneurship or venture capital would pitch their ideas. Through these meet-ups, Alex and Dee discovered their shared belief that the world is a better place when people from diverse backgrounds can connect over a drink. But as better-for-you choices were exploding across almost every category, drink mixes were left behind. They immediately got to work on AVEC to create a community in which we can all “drink better.”


The co-founders are strong believers that “diverse teams are smarter” and are proud of the fact that they come from diverse backgrounds. As they cater to customers with a wide range of flavor preferences, they strive to include flavors from around the world to ensure diversity is a key ingredient in AVEC.


The pair experimented with recipes at home for six months before going to a formulator—they were motivated to find a way to make a tasty drink mix with real, natural ingredients. Having worked together for nearly two years on the formula, branding, naming and go-to-market strategy, AVEC launched in June 2020 (yes, a mere three months after the world shut down due to COVID-19). While some advised them it was not the right time to launch a brand, the duo saw a rise in at-home drinking and noticed people desperately searching for human connection and experiences, so they decided to soldier on.



Growth and Funding


AVEC raised $1.2M in October 2021 in a pre-seed round led by Gather Ventures with participation from other notable investors including Five Four Ventures, SKU’D Ventures, Red Bike Capital, XRC Labs, The Seed Project, Angel Group, Amplifyher Ventures and Columbia University Endowment.


Alex and Dee chose not to do a large VC fundraise initially to focus more on organic growth, which has proven successful thus far. AVEC has partnered with well-known spirit brands to create cocktails and also hosted events to cater to their consumers. For example, they hosted a ‘6-Feet Apart Bar’ with outdoor cocktail tasting in the height of COVID. Currently, about ⅔ of their business is online, but they are rapidly growing in specialty grocers.


The company has realized good revenue growth and gross margin for a new DTC product, which they attribute to their great storytelling. By bringing a new way of thinking into the industry, AVEC was fortunate to get early press hits (NYT), and their growth has continued to thrive via partnerships and organic word of mouth.


AVEC will look to raise a $2-3M seed round in the next 10 months. Packaged beverage production is a capital intensive business and, while Alex and Dee are very cognizant of keeping their cash burn low, the new round of capital will further spur their growth. They hope their existing investors will assist in raising the seed round and will look to partner with new funds with expertise in the beverage space.



I took it upon myself to do a taste test before publishing this article and can attest that the product is absolutely delicious—my personal favorite is the Yuzu & Lime! As someone who struggles to find a healthy, but tasty, beverage option, I very much look forward to seeing how AVEC continues to disrupt the market and hope to be ordering it at a bar in the near future.

 

Want to try AVEC for yourself?

Visit their website: https://avecdrinks.com/

Try a Party Pack to get a sampler of each flavor!


AVEC is also sold in stores. Locations can be found here: https://avecdrinks.com/pages/contact


Instagram @avecdrinks

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