It’s been a huge first year for Australian seltzer start-up FELLR, which is predicting growth of 500% in FY2022. Despite a swag of new brands entering the category every month, the co-founders of FELLR believe their focus on prioritising flavour and authenticity means they will continue to stand out from the crowd.
Seasoned drinks marketers Andy Skora and Will Morgan launched FELLR out of their garages on the beaches of Sydney in July 2020. This month, the brand goes national at Dan Murphy’s and BWS chains and has also expanded its ranging with Coles across the East Coast.
The brand has also announced the release of a new cocktail seltzer range. After a hugely successful launch at this year’s GABS Craft Beer Festival – and an overwhelming number of requests – FELLR has canned its Watermelon Margarita. The cocktail seltzer will be available nationwide through Boozebud, First Choice Liquor stores and select independents from Friday, October 8, with Passionfruit Martini on the way as the weather warms up.
Drinks Digest spoke to Skora and Morgan (above) about the future for seltzer in Australia and what they see as the keys to success category.
What sparked the decision to move into cocktail seltzer?
At FELLR we’re huge on innovation, and have always been looking at where we can take FELLR next. Both coming from a spirits background, cocktail culture and mixology has always been a passion of ours, so we’ve always been excited how we could combine the two spaces.
Traditionally cocktails have been heavily laden with sugar and calories, at FELLR we decided to take our experience of great tasting, low calorie beverages, and create a range of delicious and smashable cocktails that have next to no sugar and have
half the calories of the traditional shaken cocktails.
What do you think differentiates the seltzer market in Australia from the US? In the US seltzer is taking market
share from beer – do you see that happening in Australia?
The main difference between the two markets was that Australia already had a relatively mature premix market before seltzers arrived, so Australia drinkers weren’t new to the pre-mix space. The space had just grown stale due to the same big brands dominating the space with heavily sugar-laden drinks stacking the shelves.
So, with consumers already having the taste for pre-mixes, when the low sugar/calorie trend arrived, it was an easy transition to the new category, though at a premium price-point, rather than mainstream as it is in the US. So, we weren’t really surprised with the speed the category grew and how quickly people flocked to the space.
We perhaps see seltzers taking a little share from beer, but we see a market and a consumer demand for both products really. To be honest seltzers take share from a broad range of categories as the drinking demographics we’re seeing is so broad and diverse. We’ve probably seen more share come from cider and alcoholic kombucha, but also from a lot of whisky pre-mix too. Consumers overall are becoming more health conscious and are looking for alternatives to beer, cider and traditional RTD’s, which are high in sugar, carbs and calories.
Also, the occasions that seltzers target also benefit a more sessionable and mid strength drink, which is why some share comes from wine too.
What do you think differentiates FELLR from the huge number of seltzers on shelf in Australia?
From the outset we knew it would be an extremely cluttered market, with many suppliers looking to the US and their successful products for inspiration. So, we decided to steer well clear of this, and it’s worked in our favour. It really is a sea of the same out there, everyone’s got a sleek can, claiming low calories and very low sugar, so there’s really no unique point of difference between them. For us from the outset we wanted to create a unique lifestyle brand that was born from, and inspired by, the sunburnt country we live in, Australia. Making sure we prioritised flavour too was hugely important. We didn’t spare any expense on getting the best flavours and creating a smooth a crisp base that was fresh and delicious. So, creating an authentic, local brand, with a delicious liquid that our drinkers were proud to share with their friends was our key focus to stand out from the pack.
Who is the typical FELLR drinker?
It’s really broad! We initially thought, male and females from 25-35, but the brand is really resonating with a much wider audience than we expected. We’re seeing 18–45 year olds from all walks of life enjoying FELLR in picnics all over Sydney, which has been awesome to see. We think the low-calorie cues speaks to a broad audience, but the lower 4% ABV and the sessionability of the product really speaks to that broader audience who are looking for something a little easier to drink than a hoppy beer, or a higher alcohol wine for those hot picnic occasions.
You’re expecting 500% growth in 2022, what are you basing that on and what will you be doing to propel the brand to those heights?
We’re currently tracking a ahead of forecast, though we expect to more than quadruple our overall revenue from this year. This is off the back of expanding out nationally with Endeavour Group into BWS and Dan Murphy’s stores around the country, as well as expanding our national footprint with Coles Liquor too.
We are also in the process of on boarding our national sales team which will consist of four new members based in NSW, VIC, QLD, and WA which will be focused on growing our distribution within independent retail and on premise. We’ve also brought through some new innovation to help boost our numbers, with Passionfruit already flying off shelves around the country and soon to be through on-tap. We also have our mixed 12-packs hitting stores in the coming weeks, plus a new exciting innovation launching in October too.
Do you see draft seltzer as a big growth area moving forward?
To the point before, we’re expecting strong growth this year too of our on-tap business. It’s been a shaky start to the year for kegs, but we expect it to bounce back strongly once everything is opened up in October. Also knowing the response and rate of sale we saw last year with our product on tap, we’re expecting a bumper year here. We were lucky enough to have some really great local venues get behind us and trial the product, and I think even they were blown away with how well it sold, a lot of the time being their no.3 best-selling tap. So while last year was a bit of a trial in the tap space, we’ve now scaled up our team, and our offering to really hit the ground running nationally with our on-tap strategy and have already had a ton of requests to get this in.
You’re about to be in 1000 stores nationally – what is it about the brand that appeals to retailers?
Similar to our early point, I think retailers are excited to support a truly local, independent brand that has a unique and authentic story that consumers can really get behind and champion. As mentioned we’re all about doing things differently to the competition, and creating a product that our fans are proud to serve was paramount. We’re already seeing the brand seed well in markets all around Australia, with many different demographics getting behind the brand, so we’re excited to see where this summer goes for hard seltzer and for FELLR!
What’s next for the brand?
We will continue the national rollout of the brand, scaling up our teams considerably in these markets to keep up with demand which will be really exciting. The response from states like QLD, WA and VIC has been overwhelming, with huge demand for FELLR already, so we’re excited for the borders to open so we can see FELLR pouring through a local tap there soon.
As we mentioned, innovation is at our core too, so we will continue to drive premium innovation in the space. We will continue bring new flavours and product to markets.”