Industry stalwart Reich Westerlund has joined RTD specialist Basic Babe as a co-owner and head of Sales & Marketing.
Westerlund has extensive experience in the drinks industry, including roles as Head of Liquor at Soul Fresh, Marketing & Sales Manager of Samoa Beverage Company, General Manager of Copack Beverages (now Campari) and National Marketing Manager at Asahi.
He was draw to Brisbane-based Basic Babe, which produces the Basic Babe RTD range and has just released the new Cocktails By Basic Babe range, by its philosophy of “keeping RTD’s simple” and its focus on “better drinking”.
“It aligns with my views on where RTD’s are transitioning to, quickly,” he explained. “Go early to where the growth is.
“The last 15 years, I’ve been involved in everything beverages – working on NPD, graphics developing brands, building breweries, brewing kombucha and understanding this craze, operations working on the lines, logistics, procurement and supply management (closely collaborating with various flavour houses and contract packers). I guess I’ve become more cross functional and being able to influence speed to market and really understanding how products are made to realise the importance of great and strong supply partners.
“To be back in the midst of RTD’s, the landscape has not changed that much, however consumer preferences have shifted driving premiumisation growth and drinking experience seeking to a new level. The resurgence of RTDs and spirits is evident.
“The guys at Basic Babe [co-founders Mark Collins and Matthew Hanks] are developing some exciting product initiatives which will be launched into the trade later this year. Really excited to be back in RTD world. We are 100% aligned in the products we want to champion and believe the gate keepers – buyers – will be pleasantly surprised. What sealed the move was the founders’ ability to grasp the true nature of RTDs so quickly! It is fast moving, it is not precious and very experimental. ‘Better drinking’ products don’t have to taste boring and watered down. We can deliver on taste and still be kind to the hips.”
Westerlund is excited about the recent release of Cocktails by Basic Babe – Australia’s first, ready-to-drink, sparkling cocktail in a can. It has debuted in two flavours – Raspberry & Lime Margarita and Mojito – uses real juce and is 99% sugar free.
“This is not a seltzer, although consumers will perceive that anything with low calories has to be watered down flavours,” he said. “Cocktails have traditionally been a female domain, and we want to change that narrative. With our new packaging formats opening up more occasions coupled with our exciting range, I think the pick up with genuinely surprise the staunch cocktail drinkers but also attract the gin & tonic drinkers who want a refreshing drink. We are also looking at extending the cocktails experience into another format … watch this space … that will be a game changer on sessions and occasions.”
Westerlund revealed that Basic Babe is working on an additional five flavours that will debut as summer approaches. He’s also keen to add Cocktail Martinis to the range.
“Cocktails are about variety and choice, so we are very busy concocting an array of delicious flavours that all taste different but all deliver that bar experience flavoursome full hit taste,” he said. “The objective is to have 12 flavours out by mid next year in the market, making the concept accessible to all consumers who are curious about cocktails and now can try them in a familiar trusted format.
Westerlund said the RTD category has been his passion for many years. His experience includes being involved in the creation of Vodka Cruiser from its concept artwork stage through to production and initial trade activation. He is looking forward to nurturing the expanding product range for Basic Brands.
“The RTD brands that I have helped develop, shape and launch is still in the market today and doing extremely well,” he said. “I’m really looking forward to working with the guys to launch some fun, relevant and exciting alcoholic RTD/premix products/brands in the better and conscious drinking space. There is so much room and scope to explore and innovate.
“There is a definite shift in drinking preferences in favour or RTD/premix drinks, and I think this is driven by a few trends. Number one is moderation – we always want to moderate our alcohol intake by drinking less and drinking better. The mid-strength segment continues to grow as this appeals to consumers wanting to take more control. RTD’s that are around the one standard drinks will have a certain appeal, compared to the 2000s where it was high octane fuel guzzling culture!
“Number two is sessionability – we want our sessions to last longer and not switch too quickly! That means low to no sugar, mid-strength alcohol alternatives that aren’t sickly sweet and don’t cause bloating for the choosy healthy conscious drinkers.
“Number three is occasions – sessionability and moderation are opening up more drinking occasions. People want longer and quality sessions with good product.
“And, finally, premiumisation. Premium offering comes at cost, and consumers are willing to pay for new drinking experiences that includes a rich story, rich taste profile novelty or not. Both the older and younger Millennials and Gen Z will make up over 50% of the drinking population over the next three to five years. And pre-mixes will play a very big part in their drinking and selection repertoire.”
Basic Babe and Cocktails by Basic Babe are available now through ALM and Vintage House.
Pictured main: Mark Collins, Reich Westerlund and Matthew Hanks.