Tolago Hard Seltzer



Manufacturer: Tolago Hard Seltzer
Co-Founder & Creative Director: Matthew McCormick
Location: United States
Project Type: Produced
Client: Los Angeles California
Product Launch Location: United States
Packaging Contents: Alcoholic Beverages, Hard Seltzer, CPG
Packaging Substrate / Materials: Aluminium Can
Printing Process: Screen printing

It is not news that the hard seltzer category is on fire, nor that many major beverage brands are adding their logo to a version of the same liquid that made the category explode two years ago. Conversely, Tolago – which has broad and deep roots in The Golden State – is “building from within our communities’ culture,” explains Tolago Hard Seltzer CEO, Nicholas Greeninger. “We took a page out of the hard kombucha playbook when creating the product by using the highest quality, real ingredients,” he says. “To us, every 50-year-old corporate beverage logo on a hard seltzer can is lazy and a bit opportunistic. Until now, not one hard seltzer brand had listened to consumers to push the category in the right direction.”

Tolago is based on all-natural ingredients, including ethically sourced fresh fruit juices, purées, and natural botanicals from Southern California, as well as fair-trade certified 100% organic agave nectar from Mexico. Clean of chemical taste, gluten-free, and 5% ABV, the flavors include Ginger Pear, Guava Mango, Cherry Rose, and Agave Lime. Available only in fully-recyclable printed standard cans from Ball, the seltzers are premium priced and come in 6- and 12-can cartons, with SRPs of $12.99 and $24.99, respectively.

The entire founding group grew up in California and the business is headquartered in Los Angeles. All founders surf regularly and have a strong commitment to sustainability, thus the fully recyclable, 100% plastic-free packaging and alignment with 1% For the Planet.

LA-based co-founder and fine artist Matt McCormick, who developed the packaging, draws inspiration from the gritty reality of downtown LA, as well as the homestead towns, gold rush bonanzas, and 1920s Hollywood glamour that captivate popular imagination. Tolago Board members include Circe Wallace, EVP at Wasserman, and Henny Yegezu, co-CEO and founder of EQT (Equative Thinking), an LA-based music label and management company. The collective of 32 owner advocates behind the brand include LA-based photographer Sandy Kim; Ventura-based pro-skateboarder Curren Caples; and two-time Olympian and X Games Gold Medalist, Encinitas-based snowboarder Elena Hight.

Greeninger, the former branding and marketing power behind Saint Archer Brewing Company, which was acquired by MillerCoors, is the bridge from lifestyle to beverage. Other beverage sales and distribution experts include Doug Gudmundson (36 years in beer, most recently with Karl Strauss Brewing Company); Jason Schwenck (13 years with Red Bull America, and 12 years building numerous successful startup beverage companies); and Matthew Mitchell (25 years in wine & spirits, most recently with Jackson Family Wine Company).

In California, Tolago Hard Seltzer will be distributed by Young’s Market and reach retail shelves late September, still in time for the start of California’s true summer. Initial retail response has been positive – with particular enthusiasm for the better-for-you brand proposition, industry veterans, and high-profile advocates – and pre-orders from chain and independent accounts are underway. Tolago will also be sold via, Drizly, Postmates, Uber Eats, and Cloud retail.

The brand’s robust marketing campaign includes in-store retail programming, point of sale materials, digital and out-of-home advertising, as well as an annual commitment to 1% for the Planet. Bryan Boeck, Senior Vice President of Young’s Market, enthuses: “We can’t wait to launch Tolago. The hard seltzer category is on fire, and we want only the best for our book of business. We don’t see many wine and spirits distributors going into the category, which excites us.” The Tolago executive team is in talks with other select distributors nationwide.

“Tolago is the only drink I keep at my house AND the studio. It’s a secret weapon for a pool day or late night recording. I never get caught without a case!” says co-owner and music producer Kenny Beats. Greeninger concludes: “When others settled, we simply would not. Taking real ingredients to create a better-tasting, better-for-you hard seltzer captures the spirit of this business and all those involved.”

What’s Unique?
The most unique part of this process was working with in the constraints of screen printing with Ball (the largest can manufacturer in the world) and still capturing the hand drawn charcoal sketching that Matt McCormick is so well know for. This was a challenge and we were faced with two different ways to bring this to life during the trapping phase prior to production. We used one process for the charcoal color on the top and a different process around the black charcoal drawings. This made all the difference in capturing the full color we were after on the top, while getting the detail we needed to see in the sketches. The product itself is different in our use of ethically sourced real ingredients to create a high end hard seltzer much different from the category leaders.