Moonshine Sweet Tea Expands into Target

Armed with a 70-year-old recipe and porch-rocking, Southern hospitality aesthetic, Moonshine Sweet Tea has rapidly expanded its distribution since launching at the tail end of 2015. Within a year, the beverage was available in more than 6,000 outlets. Now, after signing its largest single distribution gain yet, it’s poised to be available in more than 11,000 stores nationwide by the end of the second quarter.

The Austin, Texas company announced this week that its entire six-flavor line will be available in 1,472 Target stores nationwide. The rollout is in process and expected to be completed by the first week of May. Speaking to BevNET, CEO Remmy Castillo said the deal introduces Moonshine Sweet Tea to major markets in the Midwest and on the East Coast, including Chicago, Miami, Minneapolis, and New York City.

“Target is a household name,” Castillo said. “It’s an exciting opportunity that I think with a company as young as we are — and we have big aspirations — we didn’t expect these bigger opportunities to come on so quickly.”

The Bullseye Design, Target and Expect More. Pay Less. are registered trademarks of Target Brands, Inc.

Based on a recipe formulated in 1946 in Texas Hill Country, the drinks are brewed with loose leaf tea and is sweetened with cane sugar. Moonshine began as a company in earnest in 2013 after a discovery at a local farmer’s market. According to Castillo, a partnership formed and after two years of preparation and market research the brand launched in quarter four of 2015 with six flavors: Original, Sweet Peach, Mint & Honey, Mango, Lemon, and Unsweet.

Initial grocery presence began in Texas grocery chain H-E-B before landing its first national account with Sprouts. The brand has also picked up distribution through select Whole Foods, Harris Teeter, Circle K, Maverick, and Kroger. Most recently, the company entered the e-commerce realm by selling through Amazon. Currently, the company is in negotiations to release club packs with Sam’s Club.

With the distribution gains, the company is adding an additional co-packing facility to meet the demand of larger chains.

Earlier this year, Moonshine transitioned from glass bottles to plastic in order to facilitate its distribution growth, Castillo said. In addition to meeting the needs of some customers, including C-stores and resorts. Castillo hopes the plastic bottles also open opportunities for better shelf placement in stores. The new bottles are more efficient and have also brought the per-unit price point to a more competitive level, Castillo said.

The teas retail for $1.69 to $2.29 per unit depending on the market and channel.

With a serious national presence, Castillo said Moonshine is also now working on new innovation, with a low-calorie offering and new flavors in the works for later this year.

“I think 2017 is going to allow us to do a lot of the block and tackling with our main six flavors, and as we get prepared for 2018 get ready to produce some of these lower calorie versions and other SKUs,” Castillo said. “One of things we wanted to make sure we did this year is really focus on our core six, and not get too diluted and start chasing a bunch of different SKUs. We wanted to make sure we really had a good handle on the six flavors and figure out which are selling the best.”

As Moonshine enters more mainstream outlets, Castillo said the company is upping its in-store consumer engagement efforts. A large coupon push is planned alongside demos. Much of the brand’s current income, he said, is going back into marketing to sow brand recognition. Moonshine is also sponsoring outdoor events, including 5K races, and implemented a guerilla sampling strategy at this past South by Southwest festival.

“It takes a village to make this happen and we’ve got a very passionate group of people here at our corporate office and people who are in the streets, who are just on fire for the brand,” Castillo said.