May I Quote You? Vol. 25 No. 02

A Conversation with Alix Peabody

The woman who founded Bev, the zero-sugar canned wine for women, just cut a big deal with Gallo. So, life is great, right? Yes, but - "A girl can dream, can't she?"

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It’s Thursday afternoon, and Alix Peabody feels like she has just hit a wall and is also running a bit of a temp. “Can we postpone our upcoming Zoom call?” “No problem,” I say, “maybe next Monday?” “No,” comes the reply, “everything will be fine in the morning.”

And the next morning it is, and she is. At 10 a.m. Utah time, Alix is there on the screen, maybe a bit sleepy, but with a big smile. “It’s been a rough week,” she says, “and I just needed some rest.” No wonder. Even at a youngish 30, Peabody has been on a tear recently with Bev, the canned-wine-for-women company she founded in 2017 from a personal retirement account she had forgotten about. She then raised millions in pre-seed and seed money to quickly expand her young business. Her next big step pulled off three days before our call was to sign a deal with industry giant Gallo to distribute Bev in the U.S.

The Bev line – “a digitally native brand,” as the company calls it – has lots of online, direct-to-consumer sales and currently consists of Bev Rosé, Blanc, Gris, Noir, and Glitz (sparkling), all made from California grapes. The retail price for a four-pack of 250 ml cans is between $14.99 and $16.99. Do the math, and that comes out to about a $12 price tag if you were buying a standard bottle.

From Bev’s Website

“You’re the first canned wine to get government approval to say ‘zero sugar’ on your label,” I begin once the pleasantries have been filed away. “Does that mean no added sugar or that you ferment to dryness?” “No sugar at all,” she says, “and we do ferment to dryness. We also are non-vintage, as we blend from more than one year.”

“You’ve grown Bev quickly to become a big business. How involved are you with the winemaking?” Peabody smiles. “Not as much as I was at first. I knew the kind of wine I wanted to drink, so I was very involved in the beginning. And my friends and I had several what you could call focus groups – parties – tasting different wines.”

As we chat, it’s apparent that Peabody is somewhat the embodiment of her brand – a lot of laughter, a good sense of humor, but also a ton of business acumen. “I poured my heart and soul into that brand,” she says, and I laugh at her unintended metaphor of her heart being poured into a wine glass. “But I did!” she insists. “When I tasted those first wines, it was liked they were pulled from my chest and took on a life of their own!”

She replies when asked that she is not ready to expand her line into bottles or high-end wines. “For the moment, no. We are very brand-focused and mission-focused. That doesn’t mean that I don’t enjoy classic wines,” Peabody continues. “I love a great Barolo or Barbaresco, but there’s a time and place for everything.” Nor is she thinking about the export market, which is currently fraught with tariffs and other difficulties. “But my mom is French – from Brittany,” Peabody volunteers.

“The Gallo agreement is great because we want to touch our consumers wherever they are,” she says, adding that she and Stephanie Gallo, who heads the family company’s marketing, hit it off from their first meeting.

Before the Covid pandemic, Peabody says that Bev did many consumer events at the company’s “bright and pink” headquarters in Venice, California. “Now we do a lot of events on Instagram, and we have a large email list.” Plus, the company features a large “merch” offering of Bev-products such as T-shirts, flip flops, even baby gear, most emblazoned with brand slogans such as “Made by Chicks” and “She Cute.”

“You’ve focused very hard on targeting the women’s wine market. What does your research tell you about your customers?” I ask. “About 95% of the purchasers of Bev wines are women,” Peabody says. “But that doesn’t mean that men – we call them ‘good dudes’ – don’t drink our wine. There are all these stories about women putting Bev cans in their fridge and then finding they disappear.”

By now, I feel comfortable enough to ask, “In your photos – and now in our conversation – you always are pictured as being super-cheerful. How much of that is you, and how much is representing the brand?” A slight peal of laughter. “That’s 100% me. My staff calls me ‘Momma Bev,’ and I have a sign in my office that says, ‘You are Bev.’”

Okay, a final question, a serious one. “Most highly successful beverage companies like yours – craft beers, craft spirits – launch an IPO and go public or else get bought out in a few years by big conglomerates. Is that your plan?”

“Not something I’ve planned,” Peabody says, but then mischievously adds, “A girl can dream, can’t she?”

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