For Episode Two of Uncommonly Candid, we were lucky enough to sit down with Michael Tutty, the creator of Alba - a tequila brand with a range of canned cocktails. They’ve well and truly taken NZ by storm since launching their Sparkling Margarita in a can at the end of summer 2022… and are continuing to make waves in the RTD world.
Michael shares their journey so far, challenges they’ve faced and favourite moment to enjoy a cocktail...
This is juicy stuff. Almost as juicy as our grapes. So, grab an Uncommon (or Alba!), settle in, and prepare for the can to be let out of the picnic bag.
What made you want to create products and a brand like Alba?
If you were like me, lock down was probably spent having one too many cocktails. 2pm felt like a good time some days, especially juggling kids and working from home. My go to at home was a Coconut Margarita - my wife and I couldn’t get enough!
The last few years have seen the explosion of RTD’s again, as consumers resonate with the convenience they offer. They aren’t just for uni students anymore either, there is a broad age range buying into them. However, the market in NZ is pretty simple. 80% is either Vodka or Bourbon, with a lot of duplication and lack of innovation with mixer options. In some cases they are not even made with real spirits but food grade ethanol (shout out to the few who do, like Scapegrace).
We didn’t want to be a “me too” brand when entering the RTD category. So, with a love of margarita and being up for the challenge, we set about to do what no one else was…. making a Sparkling Margarita in a can, using real tequila, and real ingredients.
What differentiates your products from other canned beverages in the market?
We’re the only Tequila RTD on the market, which gives us our unique proposition. We’re proud to be authentically Mexican, since always.
Our commitment to being authentic sees us import Tequila from Jalisco ourselves, along with Agave syrup and lime juice (which also comes from Mexico).
Tequila is such an amazing spirit, with so much care and traceability invested into each Agave Plant. We love that each can of Alba takes about 8 years to make, which is something no other RTD can really say.
What's the biggest challenge you’ve come across in the industry?
The biggest is just getting your hands on Tequila and being allowed to use it in a drink. Rightly so, Tequila is protected in the same way Champagne is. We spent a very long time getting our brand registered, then seeking approval from the Mexican government to be able to produce a product with Tequila in it.
Once we finally got all our approvals and certificates, shipping the Tequila to New Zealand was a challenge as demand started to spike for Alba. Early mornings were often spent on phone calls to Mexico, Google Translate and WhatsApp ensuring our tequila was getting on a boat from our distillery.
While getting approval to use Tequila is challenging, it’s also super reassuring to know that there is so much care given to how Tequila is made and sold – which should give consumers a lot of confidence when drinking it.
And what about the most rewarding - a highlight or a big a-ha moment along the way?
We’re now ranged in over 700 outlets across the country which we’re very grateful for. We’re so lucky to have customers that can see the potential Tequila has to break up a boring RTD market and drive category growth.
For me personally going to Mexico and meeting our suppliers and the distillery where we source our Tequila from was so cool. Learning more about the process of making Tequila and visiting the Tequila Regulatory Council (CRT) to see the level of traceability that Tequila has, was mind-blowing.
The CRT do such a great job for the industry, providing reassurance on the authenticity and quality of every litre produced.
What’s next for Alba?
We’re still relatively young, so we are just as focused on the “now” as much as what’s “next”.
“Now” starts by ensuring we’re everywhere someone want’s us, communicating what makes Alba great and of course engaging with some super passionate fans.
“Next” really isn’t too much of a deviation for what we are doing now. We want to keep talking about Alba in an authentic way, be anywhere someone wants us, and support our customers through a busy hot summer!
What advice would you give for launching a new product and concept to market?
Find clear space. Don’t just follow. Remain focused.
What’s one thing you can’t live without?
A Coconut Margarita with a chilli & lime salted rim.
Favourite Moment to enjoy a vino (or margarita!)?
There’s never a bad time for a margarita! But if I had to pick one - by the pool with some corn chips would be up there!
We hope you’ve enjoyed Episode Two of our Uncommonly Candid mini-series. Keep following along as we have some great episodes to come as we sit down with more of our favourite artists, business leaders and cultural creators to find out what really makes them fizz.