“Chewie, Punch It!” Star Wars Space Punch Launches in U.S.

The galactic civil war is blasting into more than 10,000 convenience stores and 2,500 grocery stores this month as Star Wars Space Punch rolls out nationwide.

The branded line of sparkling, erythritol-sweetened “vitamin drinks” in 12 oz. cans will launch with in-store displays and social media backing from Star Wars trademark holder The Walt Disney Company, following a successful debut in Europe last year. Produced in Germany by Drink Department One (DDO) and imported to the U.S. via Coast Brands Group, the stateside launch comes in preparation for the Dec. 15 release of the newest film in the franchise, Star Wars: The Last Jedi. But the line is more than just a one-off movie tie-in.

Founded in 2015 by Sebastian Hofmann, DDO, in collaboration with ingredient supplier The Dohler Group, produces a variety of Disney-branded beverages. In addition to Star Wars, the company has released other products based around properties such as The Avengers, Frozen, and Cars 3. Star Wars Space Punch is the first to make the transition to the U.S. market with nearly 1 million cases produced in preparation for launch. Of that, more than 850,000 cases have been pre-sold to grocery, gas stations, and c-stores since February.

While Disney tends to partner with established corporations for its branded product tie-ins, DDO is a startup with only 12 employees, Hofmann noted.

“It was just me from the very beginning,” Hofmann told BevNET. “The interesting story is that I steered the first production run, I’ve taken care of delivery and invoices, I’ve taken care of payments. I did everything myself for the first six to eight months.”

According to Coast Brands Group owner Bob Groux, the line has received considerable early buzz from retailers and has gathered positive feedback at trade shows throughout the year. A big part of the brand’s strength, he said, is its packaging.

At launch, Star Wars Space Punch will include 20 different collectable cans which feature different characters from across the Star Wars canon. Divided into 10 “light side” and 10 “dark side” cans, characters in the first batch of what is being called “The Classic Edition” include fan favorites such as Chewbacca, Han Solo, and Darth Vader, as well as characters from more recent films such as Star Wars: The Force Awakens. According to Hofmann, as many as 40 additional designs could be added in the future.

In Germany, the line also added limited edition tie-in cans for Star Wars: Rogue One, which was released in theaters last December. Future movie-specific tie-ins are planned, including cans for the upcoming Han Solo prequel film due in 2018.

Despite the packaging variations, Star Wars Space Punch currently only comes in one flavor, a blend of blackberry, blueberry, carrot, grapefruit, orange, pear, and raspberry juices from concentrate. The drink contains 20 calories per 12 oz. can and is sweetened with 3 g of sugar and 12 g of erythritol. In convenience and gas, the drink comes with an SRP of $2.99 while in grocery the SRP runs between $2.49 and $2.59.

“For us, it was important that we are starting at premium retail chains since the products have a premium price level,” Hofmann said. “That was part of the concept. We don’t want to be the off-market kings or a volume brand, we are very focused on premium partners and that is the strategy in the U.S.”

Disney Digital Media services will be working to promote the beverage for its U.S. launch, Groux said, tapping into the more than 30 million followers of Star Wars social media profiles across platforms.

“The Star Wars fanbase is so multi-generational,” Groux said. “My son has been taking product to his high school every day and is being mobbed by 16 to 18 year-olds wanting every edition. It’s a really exciting brand to sell.”