Launched 18 months ago with liquor-industry veteran David Kanbar while she was still co-starring in The Real Housewives of New York City, Frankel's Skinnygirl Margarita -- a bottled cocktail that contains only 100 calories per four-ounce serving -- had only limited distribution (mostly in New York, New Jersey and Florida) at the time of its sale but was in such high demand that the company had been unable to keep up.
"One month you would get 3,000 cases ordered and you're dealing with that revenue. Then the next month you all of sudden get 30,000 cases ordered," Frankel's agent Brian Dow told The Reporter.
"Trucks would come from our bottler in Montreal, and there was no point in sending them to California, the No. 1 margarita market, when we couldn't even satisfy the demand in New England."
However the impressive sales growth isn't believed to be the only reason Beam Global reportedly paid $120 million -- which is reportedly a spirits industry record for a brand founded by a single celebrity -- for Frankel's Skinnygirl spirits brand.
"Could they have developed this cocktail on their own? Absolutely. The recipe is not the hard part. They paid for the marketing," spirits writer and consultant Jack Robertiello told The Reporter, noting Frankel signed a multi-year agreement to remain closely involved with the brand despite the sale.
"No one knows the brand better than Bethenny, and we don't want to break something we just bought," Beam Global executive Pryce Greenow told The Reporter. "Plus, she gives us access to consumer feedback with just one tweet that would take us three months of focus groups to compile."
In addition, Beam Global views Skinnygirl -- which it plans to expand to other drinks, including a white sangria -- as a key entry into a large, new sub-category of convenient, low-calorie cocktails targeted at health-conscious women.
"This isn't a typical acquisition," Greenow said. "It's more of a venture capital investment for us: high growth, early investment."
Ironically, Frankel told The Reporter she only decided to begin marketing the low-calorie margarita on her own after her attempts to pitch it to companies in the male-dominated liquor industry were unsuccessful.
"No one was interested... [but] instead of giving up, I said, 'I want this, and I know other women will want this, so I'm going to make it,'" she said.
"Now, every company I pitched this idea to has either tried to buy Skinnygirl or has copied it... I created a sub-category that never existed. I wasn't an expert -- I was just another person bothered by a 700-calorie margarita."
While she no longer owns Skinnygirl's spirits line, Frankel still plans to continue to attempt to expand the Skinnygirl brand -- which she retains and also includes books and a lingerie line -- to additional products.
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