Interview with Matt O’Brien, from Krome Vodka

Interview with Matt O’Brien, from Krome Vodka

Interview with Matt O’Brien, from Krome Vodka

What inspired you to build your beverage company

Inspiration came in the form of a belief that we could create a vodka superior to the clean, yet medicinal tasting “brands” that populate TV and the airwaves. Enter Krome Vodka.

How did you come up with the idea?

We sampled vodkas from all over the world and found that the best vodka was being distilled right here in the United States at Bendistillery in Bend, Oregon. At that point, we decided that we could collaborate with Jim Bendis, master distiller at Bendistillery, and create a world-class spirit. However, the idea for the packaging came in the form of the American Express Centurion Card, a card that has come to epitomize the finer aspects of life.

What are yours and your partner’s backgrounds?

Stephen worked on a Wall Street trading desk for 14 years. Matt worked in the food and beverage industry from nearly every angle – restaurant owner, distributor sales rep, National and International Sales, New Brand Development, etc. – since he graduated from culinary school nearly thirty years ago.

When did you create the company?

December 2006

What makes your product unique in the market?

1- Unique packaging – there were no black vodka bottles on the market when Krome Vodka was conceived. As previously stated, the American Express Centurion Card is the inspiration for the packaging.
2- It is hard to be “one of a kind” in a market saturated with over 450 different vodka brands, but in a nutshell Krome is a “naturally gluten-free, ultra-premium American craft spirit”.
3- Krome’s water source, Cascade Mountain water, is amongst the cleanest in North America.

What is your ideal target consumer?

Our ideal consumer is sophisticated, independent thinker who lets his or her palate decide which product is best, not some marketing campaign. Krome also is a favorite with bartenders and mixologists as this is a very versatile spirit and mixes well with any flavor combination.

Who best identifies your consumer?

Because of the packaging, Krome can represent different aspects of life to a wide spectrum of consumers. As a result, I don’t know if there is any one person who best identifies Krome’s consumer. For example, the black bottle with the old English chrome “K” could have appeal to the biker crowd. The black bottle is masculine, yet since it is also opaque women may find it mysterious. The overall package is designed to appeal to high-end consumer who enjoys the finer elements of life.

Where is your product available?

Krome is available in 22 states and Canada and we expect to be in 35 states and aggressively opening up new international markets. We are currently in negotiations to move Krome into China.

What are your distribution channels?

By law in the USA, Krome has to be distributed by a state licensed wholesaler (or a state-sponsored agency). We work with both small boutique distributors all the way up to billion dollar wholesalers like Young’s Market and Wirtz Beverage. On the export front, we work with brokers and sales agencies to assist us getting into specific countries.

How do you promote/market your beverage?

We prefer to promote it at the store level with in-store tastings/demos – building it one consumer at a time. This way we get a bottle into the consumers’ hands and they can become Krome’s biggest brand ambassadors. Print ads and billboards are expensive media for existing brands to stay relevant and not part of the philosophy at Krome Vodka.

Where would you like your beverage company to be in three years?

We would like to extend Krome’s reach and be a relevant brand in the international vodka marketplace.

If you had the opportunity to build another beverage company what would you do differently?

We would focus our efforts in a smaller number of markets and build out from there. Because of some early success in procuring national accounts for Krome we were forced to go far and wide which sometimes spread us a bit too thin.

What advice could you give entrepreneurs starting their own beverage company?

Unless you have $100 million per annum budget, there are no overnight success stories in the spirits industry. Don’t hire nine regional directors to promote your brand from the word “go”. Test your product in one market to see if it has the potential of making it as a relevant brand. If the potential exists, then branch out into new markets.

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