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    Celebrity-created RTD cocktails hit shelves with new Thomas Ashbourne brand

    • Thomas Ashbourne Craft Spirits, a celebrity-branded ready-to-drink cocktail brand, is launching nationally this summer. The brand features Sarah Jessica Parker’s Perfect Cosmo; John Cena’s Classic Old Fashioned; Ashley Benson, Rosario Dawson and Vanessa Hudgens’ Margalicious Margarita; and PlayboiCarti’s Hardscatto.
    • The brand is named after a legendary Prohibition-era mixologist who was known for his taste, according to the company’s press release. It was founded by Cara Kamanev, the former vice president of consumer engagement at L’Oreal, where she worked for nearly a decade. The release lists the celebrities as founding partners.
    • Thomas Ashbourne Craft Spirits is the latest company to work with celebrities in order to build a brand following. Several other food and beverage companies have used celebrity creators to put their products in the limelight, including Cardi B’s vodka-infused whipped cream Whipshots, Jermaine Dupri’s plant-based ice cream JD’s Vegan, and frozen food brand Martha Stewart Kitchen.

    In general, it takes brands quite some time to get to the point where most consumers recognize them. But when a company partners with celebrities and puts their names on the label, the general rules do not apply. While few may have heard of the name Thomas Ashbourne, consumers have been wanting to sample Sarah Jessica Parker’s perfect cosmopolitan — the signature drink of her iconic “Sex and the City” character Carrie Bradshaw — since the show debuted in the late ’90s.

    The other drinks in the Thomas Ashbourne line are created in the A-list celebrities’ images. WWE superstar and actor John Cena’s Classic Old Fashioned pairs bourbon whiskey with caramel and orange bitters. Real-life friends Ashley Benson, Rosario Dawson and Vanessa Hudgens’ Margalicious Margarita is custom made for a girls’ get-together. And rapper Playboi Carti, known for his rockstar lifestyle, has a wine-style drink blending vodka, muscat blanc grapes, and delicate fruit flavors. 

    In an interview, Kamanev told Bloomberg that all of the celebrities involved with the brand have equity in the company.

    RTD cocktails are one of the fastest-growing areas of the alcohol business. According to data from NielsenIQ cited by Drizly, sales of RTD cocktails for the 52 weeks ending Oct. 2, 2021, grew 126% compared to the prior year. Many of the major alcoholic beverage companies are expanding into the space. In 2020, Beam Suntory bought cocktail maker On the Rocks. A year ago, Diageo announced it would invest $80 million to scale up RTD cocktail production, and the company also bought vodka cocktail brand Loyal 9. Last month, Constellation Brands bought the remaining portion of Austin Cocktails, in which it had initially invested in 2018. And AB InBev and Molson Coors both have distribution agreements with high-profile RTD cocktail brands.

    Aside from its celebrity-directed mixes, Thomas Ashbourne is distinguishing itself with premium ingredients. The company says that it uses fresh and all-natural ingredients with high-proof spirits. The brand’s website lists several awards the cocktails have won in spirits competitions this year.

    “We’re here to dispel the myth that bespoke, high-end cocktails can only be enjoyed in certain settings, by certain people,” Kamanev said in the release. “Our brand will provide consumers a high-quality beverage comparable only to the best bar-made cocktails that can be enjoyed anytime, anywhere.”

    While there are many famous people getting involved in the food and drink space as brand creators, owners and investors, the alcoholic beverage category has a larger share of celebrity-created beverages — and many of them have been noticed by both consumers and bigger companies. George Clooney co-founded super-premium tequila brand Casamigos, which Diageo bought in 2017 for up to $1 billion. Diageo also bought Ryan Reynolds’ Aviation American Gin brand for up to $610 million. And last year, Constellation Brands bought a minority stake in “Breaking Bad” actors Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul’s premium mezcal brand Dos Hombres.

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