Big interview: Davin Nugent, White Claw

White Claw officially launches in the UK today and the brand’s creator Mark Anthony Brands International, is on a mission to replicate the success it has seen in the US.

White Claw has a 60% share of the US hard seltzer category, which last year was worth more than £2.5 billion.

To find out more, DRN caught up with Davin Nugent, chief executive of brand owner Mark Anthony Brands International. He talks about White Claw, the hard seltzer category, and the company’s plans for the UK.

Nugent says: “Mark Anthony Brands is Dublin-based. It is an innovation, brand distribution and brand development company. Our objective is to create mutually-owned brands - as well as develop our existing portfolio - across all alcohol beverage sectors. We have a good track record within that, ranging from spirits to RTDs and now to hard seltzers.

“We created White Claw back in 2016 and it was off the back of doing extensive research in understanding the better-for-you, healthier and active lifestyle consumer behaviours that were occurring predominantly in America. We decided to test this in America first where we had distribution for our other brands and it was also where we had seen huge growth in non-alcoholic seltzers.”

The success of White Claw and hard seltzers:
The growth of seltzers, or sparkling water drinks, in the US, helped drive Mark Anthony Brands to carry out research to assess what learnings the company could take from this category into an alcohol perspective.

Nugent says: “After this, White Claw was born. We launched into the US market in 2016 and sales have grown exponentially since then. From an alcohol perspective, hard seltzer is arguably the most successful new alcohol category and White Claw is the most successful new alcohol brand in a generation in the US.

“White Claw now has just under 60% of a category worth more than £2.5 billion last year and that category did not exist five years ago.”

Nugent confirms that all of the big drinks companies now have a brand in this seltzer space in the US, including Anheuser Busch, Diageo, Constellation Brands and Molson Coors.

“Why is everyone in it? Because it is the first time a meaningful new category has taken off in the market. It is meaningfully adding to people’s repertoire in a way that hasn’t happened before. 

“And what sets White Claw apart is that it is the one that is gender neutral in focus. We were very conscious that the brand wasn’t going to be just about men or pushed towards women. And so with that in mind that is how we developed the brand. It is one that has a great deal of personality and one that is attractive to both men and women.

“Last year White Claw was the only brand in the top ten seltzers in the US that was growing market share. All of the top ten were growing triple digits but they were also losing market share, apart from White Claw. But the category is still in good health in the US.”

White Claw in the UK:
Nugent says the UK retail trade has been open and supportive of this emerging category.

He says: “There is a genuine level of excitement in terms of trying this and seeing if this category can be developed in the UK. We know this isn’t just plug and play, the idea that just because this works in America means it will work in the UK – that would be the worst way to approach this because it simply is not the case. We can’t assume plug and play.

“We know we have to do significant work with consumers to make them aware of what this is about. So the fact that the retailers are really supportive of this too is really great. They are not just saying they will stick it on the shelf they are saying that they will meaningfully get behind it and that has been terrific.”

Nugent notes also that there has to be an education piece and with the on-trade currently closed, social media will play an even bigger part than originally planned.

“What sets us apart is our liquid. We don’t have the budgets of the bigger players.

"In the US the bigger players are making the noise and growing the category, but we know we have worked to get the liquid to be the best it can be and consumers are confirming that they like it. So we have to just continue to develop our marketing to deliver that message.

“We are really excited to see what happens and to build a new category of alcohol.”

Related articles: