Drinking in the Haus: How Funding Helped This Booze Brand Grow 500% During the Pandemic
July 2, 2022
8 Min Read
In lockdown, boundaries don’t exist: time is measured in big and small weekends, pajamas double as work clothes, and the home is the office, gym, and bar. So, cocktail hour can be any hour, really.
And the data proves that the home bar is getting a lot of action. One Nielsen study found that online alcohol sales were up 378 percent the week of April 11 over the same week last year, with spirits and pre-mixed cocktails leading the way.
Which is great news for farm-to-bottle apéritif brand, Haus.
The husband-and-wife duo, Helena Price Hambrecht and Woody Hambrecht, founded Haus in their living room with a bucket of chardonnay, along with lemons and elderflower from their yard.
Tired of spirits with too much alcohol, mystery ingredients, and the hangovers that accompany them, they wanted to produce something with natural, whole ingredients, that could be sipped on easily throughout the night.
“Everything that you find on the shelves is owned by a corporation, with decisions made out of a corner office somewhere. Products are too sugary. The branding is corny. These big brands don’t resonate with our generation,” Helena explains.
They also wanted to change the drinking culture in America—moderation in binge drinking’s stead. There’s a growing movement towards healthier living and conscious consumption, especially among those under the age of 40. And these drinkers aren’t having their needs met by corporate alcohol brands.
Serving stiff competition for big alcohol
Despite consumer trends, distribution is still gate-kept by a handful of companies: Diageo, Pernod, Sazerac, Beam-Suntory, and Campari Group. Historically, the only way to scale as a spirit brand was to get acquired by one of these companies, Helena explains.
That didn’t jive with the couple. They didn’t see their brand being sold in liquor stores and didn’t want to be reduced to a niche ingredient used in cocktail bars, either.
When we moved to Sonoma, I saw how hostile the big corporations were towards independent brands. How no one could succeed unless they were owned by them. And I just couldn’t help myself. It seemed like a problem worth solving.
They wanted to sell directly to their consumers and ink wholesale deals to target their buyers in their natural habitats: coworking spaces, social clubs, and restaurants. This direct-to-consumer distribution strategy was key to the brand’s mission to subvert the American drinking culture and the big corporations that encourage it.
Woody, a third-generation winemaker, discovered that Haus products could be sold direct-to-consumer in most states under the same exceptions that wine producers rely on. In other words, if it was made mostly of grapes, it could be sold like wine.
Since keeping alcohol levels lower than the 40% alcohol by volume (ABV) typical of traditional spirits was their intention from the outset, creating a beverage from wine made perfect sense.
This article originally appeared in the Shopify blog and has been published here with permission.
Steve has entrepreneurship in his DNA. Starting in the early 2000s, Steve achieved eBay Power Seller status which propelled him to become a founding partner of VisionPros.com, a contact lens and eyewear retailer. Four years later through a successful exit from that startup, he embarked on his next journey into digital strategy for direct-to-consumer brands.
Currently, Steve is a Senior Merchant Success Manager at Shopify, where he helps brands to identify, navigate and accelerate growth online and in-store.
To maintain his competitive edge, Steve also hosts the top-rated twice-weekly podcast eCommerce Fastlane. He interviews Shopify Partners and subject matter experts who share the latest marketing strategy, tactics, platforms, and must-have apps, that assist Shopify-powered brands to improve efficiencies, profitably grow revenue and to build lifetime customer loyalty.