The ChocoVine Phenomenon, or What Separates a Breakout Brand from an Also-Ran

For those of you unfamiliar with the brand, (and therefore probably snickering), ChocoVine is one of those unique new product successes we see so rarely in the industry. Not just a breakout brand, but one that flies counter to what the pundits would tell you will work. In point of fact, ChocoVine was mentioned by every panelist in our wholesaler session at the U.S. Drinks Conference last October as an example of an opportunity missed. All the folks on our wholesaler panel scoffed at the idea initially and were astounded at the brand’s success.

We’ve been watching the ChocoVine phenomenon from its early stages and while I can describe what’s been happening, I can’t explain the phenomenon. But I sure would like to be able to.

ChocoVine is a chocolate cream product but instead of a spirits alcohol base it’s made with red wine “The taste of dutch chocolate and fine red wine.” So when you first hear the name. the concepts of chocolate and wine seem at odds…a very difficult pairing in the fine wine world. The label and package are often referred to as “hokey” or “downscale”. But that’s where the criticism has to end, because this stuff is flying off the shelves. In its third year on the market the brand is on track to hit a million cases.

There’s something about the DNA of this brand that’s really resonating with consumers. As an anecdotal example of that, I was in one store where the delivery guy had just placed a case on the check out shelf for a moment, and customers came over and literally grabbed bottles out of the reshipper…they never even made it to the shelf! And just yesterday in a bar in Brooklyn the bartender mentioned the brand, the Southern on premise rep just happened to have the “Holy Trinity of ChocoVine” (Original, Raspberry, Espresso) with him. So what began as an off premise brand, is cracking on premise as well.

We spoke to Steve Katz of Clever Imports in Florida who is the brains behind the brand. He told us the idea was pretty simple. Instead of putting chocolate into the alcohol, they put the alcohol into the chocolate. And by using wine as the alcohol base, the product can be sold in a much wider set of retail stores than a spirits product. Additionally, the lower tax rate on wines means it can be priced at $10-$12 compared to market leader Bailey’s $19.99 price point and still deliver significant margin.

As the Brits say, “Brilliant!”

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