During a tasting this month at a Publix in Plantation, Susan Reynolds stopped to taste a cup of Eppa and was impressed with the flavor.
“It’s marvelous,” said Reynolds, who lives in Pembroke Pines and normally favors dry red wines like malbec or pinot noir, but bought a bottle of Eppa. “It has such of punch of fruit, you think the antioxidants are real. It’s something different. I thought it might be healthy for me, too.”
Eppa has ignited the entrepreneurial spirit of the four partners. They had worked together in the Bacardi U.S.A. marketing department, with Marmol as their boss. By 2008, all of them had left the company. Initially they did consulting work, but their real dream was to develop a beverage brand of their own -- the question was what? While most of their experience was in spirits, Marmol had a non-compete agreement so he would have to stay out of that realm for several years.
“We did an awful lot of looking at the playing field to see what potential space would be available,” Marmol said.
During their research, the partners hit on three trends that can help further their success:
• Wellness/Organic: This market has gone mainstream. The organic food and beverage category is a $27 billion industry, according to the Organic Trade Association. “Super” fruits are more in demand as consumers learn about the benefits of antioxidants.
• Sangria: The category is experiencing double digit growth, according to Impact Databank. But while experiencing a surge in popularity in bars and restaurants, the fruity wine has not seen the same growth in retail store sales.
• Wine: The entire wine category in the U.S. has been on a continued growth trend with the amount of product consumed reaching more than a $30 billion retail value. The $10-$12 price point is a growing segment for entry-level premium wine.
“This is not your abuela’s sangria,” Gomez said. “We tried to tap into the mega trends taking place in order to justify a premium price point for sangria that didn’t exist.”
It was Gomez’s then high school-aged daughter who created the name Eppa, which is a Spanish colloquialism for “Hooray” or “How exciting,” similar to the Greek version of “Opa.”
“It was a perfect name for sangria because we’re all about partying and good times,” said Gomez, who in college was nicknamed the Sangria King because of the batches he would concoct in his Igloo cooler. “It was also something with Hispanic roots and easy to say.”
The Eppa formula was created by another former Bacardi executive Jim Goodwin, who was a partner in the venture but died of cancer in summer 2010 and didn’t see the vision come to fruition.
The partners funded the start-up costs for the brand themselves, with some personal bank loans. Marmol estimates that start-up working capital to carry the company through the end of 2013, at which point they hope to break even. The goal is to start generating profits by 2014, Marmol said.
In the first year of sales, Eppa has accomplished what’s often most difficult for a new product: getting shelf space in major retailers.
Eppa is now available in more than 35 states, including Whole Foods and BJ’s stores across the country, at all Publix stores in the Southeast, Fresh Market stores in South Florida and throughout select stores in Florida for Total Wine, ABC Fine Wine & Spirits, Walgreens and Winn-Dixie.