Innovators Start Here
Dec 7, 2021
What started in New York as two brothers-in-law attempting to create the perfect ginger beer to include in their favorite drink, The Moscow Mule, has turned into a very successful premium, award-winning cocktail mixer brand, Owen’s Craft Mixers. These non-alcoholic, gluten-free mixers are made with real ingredients and come in a variety of flavors for you to mix with the spirit of your choice and create refreshing cocktails. And best of all, these premium mixers are now available on the private charters XO offers from New York to South Florida and back. To kick off XO’s “Innovators Start Here” series, we recently sat down with entrepreneur/co-founder, Josh Miller, to discuss their unique positioning, who they see as their target audience, and how the brand’s relationship with XO began.
XO: Tell us about how you got connected with XO and a bit of the backstory.
Josh: I got connected with XO because there were two opportunities at hand. During the pandemic early on, I asked to get connected to XO because I felt like private aviation was going to totally explode in a good way during that period. I wrote an email at the end of March of 2020 to one of XO’s VPs, and I said, “We should explore partnership opportunities.” My philosophy is that you know you're going to have more people wanting to book due to safety, but they're going to want to have the luxuries of their experiences that they're used to having in a first-class cabin. These are the types of people that are eating at restaurants that already gets served Owens constantly.
I thought, what if we were able to bring a higher-end mixology program to the jets and, right away, they gravitated towards this idea of “Wow, we can actually do something really unique!” What XO was also really attracted to Owens about is our ties to high-end golf resorts. Owens is served in over 1,000 golf courses nationwide, and of the top 100 courses that Golf Digest names every year, we're in like 41 of them. So you've got Bethpage, Pinehurst, Congressional, Streamsong, Riviera Country Club, all of these great golf courses serve Owens. And what they found is they've seen a giant increase in cocktail sales on-course because people are like, “I can actually have a cocktail that I would normally have behind the bar from the beverage cart attendant.”
So if you were able to marry those two and put that onto your planes, you're creating an obvious connection to high-end golf courses, guys’ golf trips or women's golf trips, and then destination-type experiences. And so the partnership really grew organically from there to where they wanted to do something for margaritas and mules. We have a ginger beer, and we have a margarita mix, so there was just such an obvious fit with it.
XO: Right. And now you’re served on most of the flights. How is that working?
Josh: What they've started doing is the flights from New York to Miami, the shuttle services, and then the plan is to do an expansion on all flights. The tricky part is figuring out when. What we're growing towards is creating actual packages that they can pre-sell into the charter flights. So let's say you were to book a trip that you wanted to go, Santa Fe, New Mexico, and you think, “You know, I'm going to eat a lot of Mexican food, so I want to pull up the Mexican margarita package—building it out, so there's a certain amount of cans on the plane for you and your guests, a recipe card that comes with it, how to make the drinks, and more information on the brand. I think all of it wrapped up is a curated experience, which XO is already supplying within the aviation world, so then what’s better than to finish it with FnB (Food and Beverage) as well?
XO: How is the mixer category doing? Is it growing rapidly?
Josh: Yes. During the pandemic, it was pretty out of control in comparison to over the last two years. The overall mixer category’s up 24.4%, and Owens is up 605%. So we're outpacing the entire category quite a bit as the new incumbent mixer in the category. Of course, for growing rapidly, we're taking a different approach to what I'd say is a rather stagnant category that not a lot of people talk about.
XO: So there's not a lot of innovation, unlike bitters, which has a million artisanal brands. This is a more legacy-driven, mature category that you are trying to disrupt?
Josh: Totally. It's kind of like if you're there first, you reap the benefits of shelf placement and thousands and thousands of stores or bars using it. We're the first to really say, “Hey, what you've been using actually could be better and it could be easier to use, and there could be marketing around it.” I would say our success is driven by the actual quality of the taste. But then the way that we activate the brand is just so uniquely positioned that people kind of say to themselves, “Mixtures are a big thing.”
XO: You're focused on mixology as opposed to “Just give me a gin and tonic.”
Josh: We're bridging mixology for the modern consumer in two simple steps: Add your spirit to Owens over ice; cocktails made perfectly. No frills, no extra steps. We're in a fortunate position where the brand is truly scaled to the point where I'd say we're outpacing category growth because of our route to market, and we have a distinctly different product offering. I think the advantage that we have is that as we continue to do what we're doing, we're seeing the success in year five that most brands don't see until year 20.
And we produce all across the country in three different states. The whole philosophy is to source within the United States, produce within the United States, and remain American-made. We take it to heart that a lot of our competitor brands are either made overseas or just don’t have an actual American-made branding behind them. So that's what we focus on, as well.
XO: Absolutely. And as far as in-flight service goes, what do you see happening in the near future?
Josh: For private aviation, we're just focused on XO right now.
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