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Shark Tank alums think outside the (beat) box with new low-ABV offerings

Beatbox zero-sugar.jpg
After scoring $1 million from “Shark Tank” guru Mark Cuban, the trio behind BeatBox Beverages gets their products in more than 40,000 retail stores nationwide—and creates a new line of zero-sugar, low-calorie, boxed cocktails. We find out how they did it from co-founder/COO Aimy Steadman.

In 2013, Aimy Steadman and business partners Justin Fenchel and Brad Schultz talked famed serial entrepreneur Mark Cuban into investing in their then-fledgling company. Now, after a $1 million investment from Cuban on “Shark Tank,” ABC’s reality series in which ambitious entrepreneurs present original business concepts to five multimillionaire tycoons, BeatBox Beverages is in 48 states in more than 40,000 retail outlets. 

The fermented fruit beverage concept in a box, now under the trio’s Future Proof Brands LLC that includes a host of additional trendy alcoholic products, was born in 2012 when the founders bridged their music obsession with the flavored alcoholic drink trend. Steadman calls blue “razzberry” lemonade—the one that persuaded Cuban to invest in the Austin, Texas-based company—as well as fresh watermelon, peach punch, pink lemonade and others “party punches” that have easily won over Millennials and Gen Zers for their throwback appeal.  

“We call them classic flavors with a kick,” Steadman, who also serves as COO of the company, said. “When we work with our formula developers, we are always trying to target those nostalgic flavors, but with that boozy kick.” 

There's a steady rhythm to BeatBox's low-ABV formulation

BeatBox’s alcohol content consists of orange wine made from fermented orange peels. Steadman said it arrives to them clear like vodka with a neutral flavor, not orange, which allows the formulation team to experiment with various flavor profiles.  

“That’s why we can add that booziness without changing the flavors too much,” she said, “and they still stay true to that nostalgic flavor that you’re used to.” 

Though the original line of products is 11.1% ABV (alcohol by volume), she continued, they’re still considered a low-sugar product at 100 calories with each 5-ounce serving. Nevertheless, in 2021, the group decided to launch a zero-sugar line of BeatBox beverages. They’re 50 calories (with each 5-ounce serving) with a low-ABV of 6%. They also utilize the same original flavors, yet for the sweetness component, stevia replaces cane sugar.  

“These are great options for those who are trying to watch their sugar intake,” Steadman explained. “I always joke that we started the company when I was 23 years old, and now that I’m 34, [I needed] a low-sugar, low-ABV version for those of us who still want to have a good time.” 

As fun as Steadman makes the beverage biz appear, her team still faced several challenges during the formulation of these low-ABV products. 

“Anyone who is familiar with formula development knows that it’s definitely a trial-and-error process to make sure that it tastes right,” she admitted. “When you’re using completely different ingredients, sometimes you just need to [experiment] until you get it right. We wanted it to match [our original formulation], but the most important thing is that it’s extremely delicious. If it doesn’t match 100%, that’s OK with us as long as we still feel like the consumer would enjoy it.” 

On average, Steadman shared, the formula development piece can go quickly. That’s typically a couple of months as opposed to years “to make sure it’s solid,” she said.  

“We have great flavor partners and things to help us to work on those formulas, but we also have two people internally who are formula scientists and beverage developers,” she added. “This is their special talent, so we definitely want to credit them with all of the great work that went into [these products].” 

Low-ABV, eco-friendly packaging & more keep BeatBox relevant

Though the founders created BeatBox to appeal to Millennials and Gen Zers moving away from traditional wine and beer and toward more flavored products, they also want their concept to make a statement. They're gluten free, making them ideal for those with celiac disease. They’re also caffeine free, vegan as well as eco-friendly, with packaging that’s recyclable (Steadman is a founding board member of Naturally Austin). And the founders understand savvy consumers have high expectations for their products.

“I think that for this next generation of consumers, it’s not just about what’s the latest trend,” Steadman said. “[They] have really high expectations now. I think making sure we’re taking care of folks and their expectations is the new standard.” 

Aimy Steadman is participating in the Basics of Food & Beverage Product Development education session at SupplySide West at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. It takes place 9-11 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 3 in the Islander Ballroom H. Here, several of the industry’s top experts will present a broad overview of the to-do list for new product development for food and beverage brands.  

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