Solving New Product Release Challenges During COVID

Bootstrap Brewing had to shut its taproom down for 11 weeks during the heat of the pandemic, surviving on pre order to-go sales and wholesale before reopening. 

The Longmont, Colorado brewery has had to morph into a restaurant-style model with table service, which was brand new. Capacity is limited to 50% inside, but they have been able to expand into the parking lot to make the patio area larger. Wholesale sales have been steady while people are opting to buy from stores and drink at home rather than go out.

Before the taproom initially closed, Bootstrap released its first lineup of hard seltzers, Sparkalicious, using real fruit instead of concentrates that other breweries sometimes go for.

“When we decided to make [Sparkalicious], we wanted to make a product that we wanted to drink,” said Leslie Kaczeus, co-owner of Bootstrap. “I’m not a fan of the artificial flavors that come from the extracts and essential oils. I love to drink Salty Dogs, which is why we went with the Greyhounds, and Steve [Kaczeus, co-owner] loves Cosmos, so we went with the cranberry and orange from that, and we both love Tequila Sunrises, so that was the cherry and orange.

“You just get a really good-tasting beverage because of the real fruit. But we also have the benefit of having color, which a lot of other products don’t have.”

The Sparkalicious Greyhound, the Sunrise, and the Cosmo were released last year in the taproom with customers voting on their favorites. This past February, they were packaging and sending out the seltzers to be released in 12-packs priced at $17.99.

The seltzers started hitting shelves about a week before the country began shutting down.

“It was a really interesting time to release the new product because customers were not browsing in stores. They were doing a lot of online ordering or curbside pickup,” Kaczeus said. “And then also our distribution partners weren’t pursuing selling new products, so it was just a crazy time to introduce a new product, and we had planned to do a lot of tastings which couldn’t happen because of the shutdown.”

Kaczeus said she’s looking forward to conditions improving so in-store tastings can happen again.

“The festivals have all been cancelled and we aren’t doing hand sales or tastings, and that’s the easiest way to sell our products,” she said.

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