Welcome to our Happy Hour Question & Answer series, where we ask questions to interesting people in the alcohol world.
This week’s spotlight is on Osena Spiked Coconut Water co-founders Chris Allen and Vicente Surraco. They met at college while studying business, bonded over the similarities of their Latin American families, and then decided to create a venture that reflected their values. The founders know how culturally important coconut water is in Latin markets, where it is an everyday beverage, and thus knew Osena would resonate with people from these cultures as well.
Hops & Spirits: What pushed you all into the alcohol world?
Chris and Vincente: Vicente worked in the alcohol industry in 2019 during the boom of spiked seltzer — it was widely known as “White Claw Summer.” But he saw that brands responded to the success of White Claw by mimicking what made it successful and innovating on flavor rather than pushing for new and interesting formulations. He believed White Claw’s better-for-you formulation was just the tip of the iceberg in better-for-you alcohol, and he wondered what the next step was. He enlisted Chris, his roommate, who had a family background in alcohol distribution, to help him innovate in the space on the product that later became Osena.
HS: Why go with coconut water?
C&V: Coconut water is renowned for its naturally occurring electrolytes and hydrating properties. It seemed like its natural properties directly addressed the main consumer pain points with alcohol, namely dehydration and hangovers. We felt a properly executed spiked coconut water would be the natural apex for better-for-you alcohol.
HS: How did you all come up with the name? And what does it stand for?
C&V: We worked with a brand naming expert, so it was a highly detailed process that involved hundreds of possible names. We sought out a short, premium-sounding name with tropical vibes. We also needed a name with an open trademark, which in beverages is no easy feat. Osena is a portmanteau, or combination of two words, “Eau,” shortened to O, meaning water in French and “sena,” for senses. In short, water is for the senses.
HS: How important was it for Osena to be zero sugar and have naturally occurring electrolytes?
C&V: First, having naturally occurring electrolytes from coconut water was important since it gave us a huge advantage over other brands as one of the only brands that could claim an electrolyte-rich formulation. Zero sugar was also a differentiator. We found hundreds of interviews with consumers that seltzer brands had trained them to expect low-sugar, low-carb, low-calorie beverages. Yet many seltzers had 2-5g of sugar per can, which adds up when consuming multiple. So to have no sugar is yet another better-for-you bonafide for Osena!
HS: How did you all settle on 5%ABV?
C&V: 5% has become something of a standard in seltzers and canned cocktails. It’s just enough to provide the desired effect to the consumer but not so much that the beverage loses its drinkability.
HS: What flavors do you all have? And how did you land on those?
C&V: Osena is sold in three different packages. Our Pure Original and Exotic Pineapple flavors are sold in single-flavor four packs, and our best-selling product is a variety pack called The Islands Collection, featuring Exotic Pineapple with Ripe Mango, Divine Guava, and Lush Dragon Fruit flavors. We picked flavors that pair well with coconut water and trending tropical flavors, trying to strike a balance between more common flavors like pineapple and mango with rarer flavors like guava and dragon fruit to give the consumer some variety.
HS: While Hispanic Heritage Month has ended, what can you tell others who might be looking to get into the alcohol industry?
C&V: Formulation and brand are the two key differentiators of a winning alcoholic product. At the end of the day, it is a crowded space, so your brand must be really well thought out and must make consumers feel good about being associated with the brand. But also, alcohol is a consumer good, so consumers must love the taste to continue to come back and buy it time and time again. You must get these two parts right to succeed.
HS: Where/how can folks try Osena?
C&V: Osena is available online at DrinkOsena.com and on store shelves in NJ, PA, MD, NY, and most recently, MI. Check the store locator on DrinkOsena.com to find a store near you, or request the product at your local store on our Request in Store tab.
HS: What’s next for you all?
C&V: We are working tirelessly to put the Islands Collection on as many shelves and in as many bars, restaurants, and venues as possible. We are constantly innovating with new flavors and pack sizes for future innovations, so keep a lookout for those!