Mark Anthony Group's latest: White Claw Hard Seltzer
Credit: Mark Anthony Group

Mark Anthony Group's latest: White Claw Hard Seltzer

The wine and spirits maker has another international hit on its hands with White Claw alcoholic seltzer

Most times, when a company hits it big with a product, it becomes a household name. Do that twice, and full-blown ubiquity is almost guaranteed. So it’s surprising more BCers don’t know that the creator of arguably the two biggest flavoured alcoholic beverages in history is based in Vancouver.

Our story begins in 1981, when a 31-year-old wine rep named Anthony von Mandl bought a majority stake in a Kelowna vineyard. That property would become the storied Mission Hill Family Estate winery as von Mandl’s business rose to global prominence, winning best Chardonnay at the International Wine and Spirit Competition in 1994 and best Pinot Noir under £15 at the 2013 Decanter World Wine Awards, among other honours. Last year, the World’s Best Vineyards Academy named Mission Hill to its annual top 50.

“Anthony and Mission Hill have been to the B.C. wine industry what NASA is to space,” says Bert Hick, founder and president of Vancouver-based liquor and cannabis licensing firm Rising Tide Consultants. “For me, he’s really put our domestic wine industry on the map.”

Thanks to a lucrative side hustle, von Mandl hasn’t exactly been short of cash to grow his wine empire. His Mark Anthony Group also launched what he’s called the world’s first spirit cooler in 1996.

That was vodka-based Mike’s Hard Lemonade, which more or less took the world by storm when it debuted in the U.S. three years later. Labatt Brewing Co. bought the Canadian rights to Mike’s Hard in 2015 for a reported US$350 million; Mark Anthony still holds the American rights. “He’s very innovative,” notes Hick of von Mandl. “Always seems to be at the leading end of trends.”

Improbably, Mark Anthony pulled it off again in 2016 with the U.S. release of White Claw, an alcoholic seltzer water beverage that quickly caught on with younger consumers. A noncompete clause meant that von Mandl couldn’t distribute the drink in Canada right away, but it made an immediate splash here, too, launching this year to around-the-block lineups and becoming the No. 1 hard seltzer brand in the country.

A recent Bloomberg report states that Mark Anthony, which declined an interview request, posted about US$4 billion in revenue for 2020.