StickerGiant Chats Ginger Beer and Growing a New Brand in Colorado
In this Stickers on the Mic episode, Megan sits down with John Kure of Kure's Ginger Beer to talk about this growing brand of ginger beer getting their start in Colorado.
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[00:00:04] Announcer: Welcome to the Stickers on the Mic podcast brought to you by stickergiant.com. If you're joining us for the first time, welcome. If you're a regular listener, thanks for tuning in as we talk about business, marketing, and growth with our customers.
[00:00:16] Megan: This month, we sat down with John Kure of Kure's Ginger Beer to talk about their new brand and building a new ginger beer in Colorado as well as some of their new seasonal flavors that they're introducing. Without further ado, this is our interview with John.
Welcome to the show, John. It's really great to have you on this month. We've got John with Kure's Ginger Beer. We heard a little bit about Kure's Ginger Beer in our video story that we filmed with you, but why don’t you take it away, tell us a little bit about yourself and Kure's Ginger Beer?
[00:00:52] John Kure: Well, thank you for having me. Really appreciate for having me down and let me tell the story of Kure's Ginger Beer. My background with things, I actually moved out to Colorado in January of 2010. I was doing an internship at the airport in Greeley. I've always been into craft beer and decided to start trying out home brewing and really got into home brewing my own beer and decided I might want to change the course of my career path and decided to try to get a job at a brewery.
That eventually led me actually down here to Longmont where I got a job for Left Hand Brewing and started working for them as a barback in their tasting room. Worked in the tasting room for a couple of years and then transitioned into Northern Colorado sales position with Left Hand and end up working there for five years prior to starting my own company with ginger beer. With that, my goal was to start a brewery in Colorado at some point. As you may know, there's a lot of breweries in Colorado.
[00:01:59] Megan: Oh yes.
[00:02:00] John: It kind of came to me. I've been making ginger beer at home and realize that a lot of the ginger beers out there just didn't meet my standards. A lot of corn syrup, natural, artificial flavorings. We wanted to make a ginger beer with real ingredients.
[00:02:17] Megan: Where can actually taste the ginger with the corn syrup?
[00:02:20] John: Absolutely. That was the big thing with ours. It's almost like cane syrup. They're just so, so sweet.
[00:02:28] Megan: That's great. Well, from what we heard a little bit in the story too is your family was really involved in coming up with the brand and very supportive of your venture into the world of starting a ginger beer company. How are they still involved and how did that influence the brand while you were getting started?
[00:02:49] John: My entire family is pretty involved. As far as employees, it's my father, John, also John, myself and one of my good friends Blake. The three of us pretty much do everything with it. Now, my father is representing us in the Chicago-land area, which is a new market that we just got into this past summer. My mom was very involved with helping get Bailey, who is the dog that you see on the can. That's my old family dog. We got her when I was about 10 years old and so she helped with that. My wife Ashley, who was my fiancée at the time, she's who actually developed our can label and designed that whole aspect of things. It really got everyone involved with it.
[00:03:39] Megan: That's a great way to start a business too. You need all the help you can get when you're brand new and jumping into something. It sounds like you've got some seasonal flavors in the mix. You just had one this fall come out with raspberry. Now, we've got cranberry that you've just introduced.
[00:04:01] John: Absolutely, yes. We wanted to spice things up, if you will, with something outside of just our normal ginger beer. We realize that getting some feedback out there, a lot of people like putting different fruits or different flavors into their mule cocktails. A lot of people didn't want to buy the cheap vodka with just a flavoring in it. We decided, let's continue on our path of using really great ingredients. We started with the raspberry. We're using this really nice raspberry puree from Oregon Fruit.
I’m really happy with the flavor profile of that one. We were hoping to initially launch that sometime in the summer, but things got a little bit busier on our front with just our regular ginger beer. We kept pushing it back a little bit, but we were able to get it in for the fall. I now have the cranberry out for the holiday season. Again, with the cranberry, we're using cranberry puree from Oregon Fruit. No flavorings or anything like that, just actual cranberries going into that one.
[00:05:05] Megan: Sounds delicious and I know you source the ginger from Peru. How have you guys gone about finding the right ingredients and what are some of the quality standards you look for in addition to natural ingredients?
[00:05:18] John: Our big thing with it was we wanted to have the best ginger available. I'll throw that back to my days at Left Hand with their beer, Good Juju. We kind of always realize that that was some of the best ginger around, so that's how I actually was able to tap into the source of this ginger. The ginger is all organically grown in Peru. It's some of the best quality stuff. When you open it up, it's this bright yellow inside of it.
It just produces this really, really bright yellow juice. Another cool thing is within the last couple of months, we started actually juicing the ginger at our facility, whereas we were actually getting the juice for us here in Longmont and picking it up. Now, everything's done in-house, which to me just adds another element of our control over the process. I honestly think our flavor profile is a little bit better just having that much fresher with it.
[00:06:12] Megan: Makes sense. Especially with ginger, it's one of those that you can really taste the freshness.
[00:06:17] John: There's a lot of ginger out there. It's grown all over the world. Finding that quality, you can-- and something that we're going to actually juice. You want to have something that's going to contain more juice and not just be very fibrous root where it doesn't juice well. The root we're using is a little bit on the younger side. Smaller roots, not some of that big stuff that you just see at the standard grocery stores. You'd see some similar stuff too like ours like Wholefoods or something like that. A really nice ginger going into it.
[00:06:52] Megan: Nice. With these amazing new seasonal flavors and just the fantastic way that ginger beer has always paired with the mixed cocktail world, what about some of your favorite mixed drinks? Are there any holiday cocktails that you love to recommend to people or just love to drink yourself?
[00:07:14] John: Yes, absolutely. I always enjoy drinking our ginger beer, whether the flavored ones or just the regular one over ice, on its own, it has a nice non-alcoholic beverage. I will tell you. This whole company was founded upon a cocktail of rye whiskey and ginger beer. That was a drink of choice. Some of my co-workers that were on the sales team at Left Hand when we were doing team building events, we would like to enjoy that. We always started with the cheap ginger beer first.
That's where I started making my own to bring to that. With that, rye whiskey and ginger beer is my classic go-to. Just subbing out from the classic mule recipe, summing up that rye whiskey over vodka. We're always trying to create some new recipes for the season. We had an orange cinnamon, whiskey smash recipe for the fall. We've got our holiday mule, Kure's holiday mule recipe for the Thanksgiving, holiday season into December as well.
That one, we do our cranberry ginger beer. We do one-and-a-half ounces of some vodka or gin. If you've frozen sugared cranberries as a garnish and then a little bit of rosemary sprigs, some lime and some ice and you're going to mix all the-- Excuse me. Squeeze that lime into the cup, get your ice in there, pour in that vodka or gin, pour in your ginger beer, and then just garnish it with those frozen cranberries and that rosemary. You'll have an awesome, awesome holiday cocktail.
[00:08:49] Megan: Sounds delicious and it also sounds eye-catching. Something that would be fun to carry around at a party or a holiday gathering of any kind.
[00:08:57] John: Oh yes. Those sugared cranberries are a nice, little treat while you're enjoying your cocktail too and they look great, yes.
[00:09:05] Megan: Well, we'll have to be sure to actually put a copy of that recipe on our podcast page with this as well.
[00:09:12] John: Sounds great.
[00:09:13] Megan: Everyone can come and find it and make their own version of the Kure's holiday mule. Given that it is a non-alcoholic beverage, that's a nice spot for you to be in because you can appeal to a wider range of ages and audiences because not everyone likes to drink even during the holidays. Other than drinking it just out on its own, which is delicious as its own beverage as well, is there anything that you see people mixing it with or juices or any ways that you might find kids drinking it more than anything?
[00:09:48] John: Yes. As far as our own promotions go, the vast majority of our accounts currently in Colorado are bars and restaurants and then liquor stores. We set up and do little hand sale tastings. I think the youngest we've ever given a sample to is probably like a year-and-a-half old. It's funny seeing the reactions on kids' faces. I remember when I was doing a tasting down in Boulder and the little girl was actually just probably three years old and she's like, "Hmm, spicy."
[00:10:19] John: It's kind of funny. I come from the beer world, so I'm not used to being able to provide a sample to someone on the younger side of things.
[00:10:26] Megan: Right.
[00:10:27] John: It's great because we're half the sugar of the mass-produced ginger beers out there. That and we're using cane sugar over corn syrup. It's soda, but it's going to be a healthier alternative to some of the sodas that are out there. Real ingredients in ours. Someone that's more on the health-conscious side, that's going to win them over. Providing a nice, healthier soda, if you will, for kids and then also for people that don't drink. You can have a mocktail with it. You can do these cranberries over ice and have yourself a nice, tasty beverage while you're at a party even if you don't want to be drinking alcohol too. I think that's a nice, important side of it as well.
[00:11:15] Megan: That's a great quality to have and it's a great way for you to be able to spread your distribution centers as well, I imagine, because you don't have to only sell in a liquor store or a bar. You can also sell in places like boutique food markets and places like that.
[00:11:30] John: Absolutely. Some of our current accounts right now are those boutique grocery stores. It's a nice thing in Colorado that we have a lot of local mom-and-pop-run businesses. That allows someone like me with a smaller company to go in and talk to someone that's directly involved with the buying and get those placements in stores like that. It's been a great thing for us to help grow our brand over this last year.
[00:11:56] Megan: That is great. Nice connections there. Speaking of growing your brand over the last year or so, let's pivot a little bit to marketing and advertising. What are some of your strongest channels for getting the word out and building awareness for Kure's? I know you do tastings. How does that work into the mix as well?
[00:12:17] John: A big aspect of our whole thing is just getting out there and pouring samples for people. That is the benefit of being non-alcoholic. We don't have to rely on set tasting hours that liquor enforcement would give a store in order to taste beer or wine or spirits. Anytime we're at a store, we can pour samples of it because it's non-alcoholic, so that's a great thing. There's nothing like someone tasting our products and they're enjoying it to be able to sell it.
If you were just at the store promoting it but you couldn't give someone a sample, now you're relying on their hope that it is a good product and then to take a chance and buy it. This way, they at least get to try it out first. That's been a very important thing for us. To me, our product, the taste does sell it, I think. It's unique on the market as far as flavor profile. To me, that's because it tastes like real ginger and fresh ginger as opposed to syrup and different spices or artificial and natural flavors
[00:13:22] Megan: It really does. You can taste the ginger in there, but it still has a very good sweetness to it. It's a perfect blend at least in my opinion. I'm a ginger beer drinker as well.
[00:13:32] John: Well, thank you. I appreciate that.
[00:13:34] Megan: We know you use some stickers and they've got a great design. How have those helped in the initial branding and building up Kure's Ginger Beer?
[00:13:45] John: Everyone loves stickers. It's the bottom line. You see stickers on at least 50 to 60% of the cars in Colorado, I would say. To me, it was a no-brainer. As a sales rep for Left Hand, I would always pass out our stickers when I was doing events or tastings. It's a great way to engage people by giving them a sticker. It's a little bit of an icebreaker right there. When we're doing tastings or events like that, we always leave some stickers on the table for people to grab.
It's something that keeps them at your table for maybe five seconds longer while they're contemplating that decision to actually buy your product and then help you make that sale. Not only that, but then they're going to go home and put that sticker on their car or toolbox or beer fridge or whatever. You're giving them a lasting impression of your brand to not only them but everyone else that sees it.
[00:14:45] Megan: I have to say, one of the things that I've always noticed about the Kure's Ginger Beer sticker is how it is shaped like the can of ginger beer. What made you choose that as a custom shape and has that helped in your mind of helping to build up the sales or brand awareness for your product?
[00:15:04] John: Yes. For us, we wanted the sticker to look like the product we're selling. Our product is strictly sold in a 12-ounce can. We figured why not just make the sticker look exactly like what we're selling so you have product recognition right away when people see it? We started originally before we even had cans or anything, which is the standard round stickers. Those were awesome and they definitely serve their purpose. To me, we might as well have that brand correlation or recognition of our stickers to exactly what our can looks like that we're selling.
[00:15:41] Megan: It helps build an image for people to recognize it in the store too, I imagine.
[00:15:45] John: Absolutely, yes.
[00:45:47] Megan: I have to say the logo, which you mentioned, was your family dog Bailey is also a really great part of that sticker because it brings personality and a different type of imagery that people will probably connect with in addition to seeing it as a can of ginger beer.
[00:16:05] John: Yes. Again, like everyone loves stickers, most people love dogs. People come up to me at a tasting and say they were going to buy it anyway just because of the logo. That's awesome. Bailey was a sweetheart. She'd get the paper for you every morning. It's awesome that she lives on now as our logo and represents our brand.
[00:16:24] Megan: It's a greatfamily member to have to represent your brand. Let's see. In addition to all of these amazing flavors that you've got coming out, we've got cranberry that you just introduced and you got that seasonal for spring and summer that you're going to be coming out with as well?
[00:16:43] John: Yes. Most likely, we're going to be producing a blood orange ginger beer for the springtime and then we're going to roll back into the raspberry for the summertime then.
[00:16:53] Megan: Nice. What else do you have planned for Kure's Ginger Beer? Any events that you're going to be at, people can come find you at or big moves?
[00:17:04] John: Our current goals for the holiday season and all that is to be the holiday ginger beer. We want people to be making these awesome, nice cocktails, whether they're flavored, whether they're just straight-up, the Moscow mule style. For the goals for the future, we're going to look at expanding our distribution footprint. We love Colorado, but we want to grow outside of it as well. With that, we launched into the Chicago-land area, which is actually where I grew up, suburbs of Chicago.
It just made sense for that to be where we really pursued next. We'd like to be in Wyoming. We'd like to fill in some of the states that are around Colorado as well as filling in some around the Midwest by Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, all that. Moscow mules, they're very popular around the country right now. We think we can one-up what people are currently drinking with a better ginger beer for them.
[00:18:05] Megan: When it comes down to a good cocktail or a mocktail, it's really about the ingredients. When you start with quality ingredients, you're probably just going to enjoy your drink that much more. I think that's great. More states need to experience what good ginger beer is.
Well, why don't we have you give everyone information on how to find you? If there's any social channels that you want people to come and check you out on, where's your website? How do they find you?
Our website is kuresgingerbeer.com. We've got a little ginger beer finder around there that basically maps out all of our accounts throughout Illinois and Colorado currently. Go on there. Our website is kuresgingerbeer.com. We've got a little ginger beer finder around there that basically maps out all of our accounts throughout Illinois and Colorado currently. Go on there. We've got recipes on there. You'll also find links to our Instagram and our Facebook pages. We like to run little giveaways on Facebook every once in a while, whether we're giving away some copper mugs or shirts and stuff, so always look out for that. The other thing is if your favorite store doesn't carry us, please ask them to. That really helps get that sale that much quicker when the customers are actually asking for it too. Don't be afraid to ask your store to carry us if they don't have it.
[00:19:23] Megan: That is a great tip too because you won't always know what stores you should be in too unless you've got people letting you know that they want you in their area.
[00:19:31] John: Absolutely.
[00:19:32] Megan: All right. Is there anything else that you would love for the audience to know?
[00:19:38] John: Yes. Actually, one thing. We say it on our can a couple of times, but our ginger beers are unfiltered. We're using real ingredients in there and ginger likes to settle out over time. Our slogan is, "Invert & Enjoy." Just give that can a quick flip upside down before you open it up. It gets all that beautiful ginger into solution and you'll be ready to rock and roll with your cocktails.
[00:20:00] Megan: All right. That perfect tip is going to make sure you're drinking the Kure's Ginger Beer the right way, so you get all of those delicious flavors from start to finish. All right. Well, thank you, everyone, for listening. We hope you go out and find yourself some Kure's Ginger Beer. Try it in your favorite cocktail or mocktail this season and thank you for listening.
[00:20:24] Announcer: That wraps up this episode of Stickers on the Mic brought to you by stickergiant.com. You can download us on iTunes, Google Play, SoundCloud or wherever you get your podcast. If you enjoy what you're hearing, please leave us a review. It helps us reach new listeners and share our customer sticker stories.
[00:21:59] Announcer: Thank you for listening to the Stickers on the Mic podcast brought to you by stickergiant.com. You can download us on iTunes, Google Play, SoundCloud or wherever you get your podcast. If you enjoy what you're hearing, please leave us a review. It helps us reach new listeners and share our customer sticker stories.