With Boldr, Aquilini Investment Group thinks it can crack the crowded vodka soda market

The drink hopes to offer more flavour than its many contenders.

Boldr comes in four flavours—black cherry, grapefruit, peach and mango

The drink hopes to offer more flavour than its many rivals

Is there a B.C. industry more absolutely stacked to the wall with competition than the flavoured vodka soda market? Maybe, but there’s no denying that the hard-drink-with-low-calories game has more rivals lurking around every corner than a Batman comic.

So why in the world would yet another B.C.-based company risk enter the fray? After all, many of these brands have built incredibly solid relationships with customers over several years.

“It’s so cluttered out there, but it also isn’t a subcategory that you can really ignore,” notes Cam Matches, senior director of sales for Aquilini Brands, a subsidiary of the Vancouver-based Aquilini Investment Group empire that specializes in wine and alcohol products.

“Within B.C. specifically, the RTD [ready-to-drink] market represents 30 percent of spirits sales in Canada, and B.C. over-indexes in the vodka seltzer category, consuming 55 percent of the national gross.”

To put it fittingly, the Aquilinis weren’t willing to watch others dominate on their home turf. As for how they plan to compete in the category, the answer is Boldr, a vodka soda that hit select private liquor stores this month with four flavours (black cherry, grapefruit, mango and peach).

The drink’s “unique proposition,” as Matches puts it, is adding on another 10 calories (Nude clocks in at 100, while Nütrl is 98) to create a more prominent taste than those sodas and others.

“What we discovered through our research is that, while many consumers bought some of these brands that were low-calorie and low-carb, they were unhappy with the taste and flavour the brands delivered,” Matches says. “We hypothesized that for the sake of an extra 10 calories, that consumers would really latch onto a brand that delivered a far better flavour profile.”

Obviously, that’s going to be up to the consumer, but Matches is more than a little confident that Boldr will win out. “I could sit here and talk to you until I’m blue on the lips about what our brand tastes like, but until you taste it, that’s when it’s instantly intuitive,” he says. “In a taste test, I would put Boldr up against any brand on the market right now, because we really feel like it does deliver that taste promise.”

As for the the look of Boldr’s cans, you’ll find a healthy dose of white space, just like with some of the province’s better-known brands. But Boldr also features more colour on the label than customers are used to seeing.

“We wanted to be bolder in every way,” says Matches, who notes the brand is going for an adventurous, outdoorsy vibe with its marketing. “In Vancouver specifically, a lot of people that relate to a brand and an aesthetic like that.”

One can’t be faulted for thinking that a hard beverage created by the Aquilinis will have a natural infrastructure in which to promote and hawk the product—Vancouver Canucks games, for instance. But Matches pushes back on that a bit.

“That’s not a goal of ours,” he insists. Instead, Boldr’s “small but scrappy team,” as he puts it, will fight it out in the marketplace. Also, the beverage is just one of a handful that will bear the Aquilini Brands stamp of approval in the months ahead.

“We’re almost like an idea incubator, and we’re creating brands for next year and the years after that, in spirits and wine as well,” Matches says. “There’s no guarantee it’s a success—the industry is littered with brands that have great ideas and have failed. But I hope that British Columbians will give us a chance and try us against brands they’ve been consuming for the past while.”