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Hard Rock Energy drink ready to rock the beverage industry

HOLLYWOOD — Ever thirsty to expand its ventures, the Board of Directors introduced its latest Seminole product, Hard Rock Energy drink, Dec. 12 during a kickoff party at the Hard Rock Cafe in Hollywood.

Emblazoned with a colorful electric guitar below the Hard Rock logo, the first sets of cans came off the assembly line Dec. 5 in Miami. By the end of the day, 72,000 cans were filled and ready for distribution.

“Everybody believes this is a home run,” Hollywood Board Rep. Steve Osceola said. “We think we have a winner.”

Hard Rock Energy drink will be targeted at young music lovers through guerilla marketing techniques at music festivals, colleges and sporting events nationwide. Most other energy drinks concentrate their marketing efforts at extreme sports events, said David Drow, CEO of Enterprise Beverage Group, the Tribe’s beverage company.

“I have no doubt it will be well received and capture its share of the edgy drink market,” President Tony Sanchez Jr. said. “Music reaches everybody.”

Red Bull and Monster energy drinks each command about 32 percent of the market, followed by Rock Star with about 8 percent, Drow said. The other brands, including Amp and Full Throttle, have about 2 or 3 percent each.

The Hard Rock Energy drink aims to maintain a 3 percent market share.

With sales in the U.S. of about $8.3 billion in 2012, according to market research company Euromonitor, 3 percent could be worth hundreds of millions of dollars a year.

“Projected annual sales of energy drinks could reach $17 billion by 2015,” Drow said. “It’s the fastest growing category in the beverage business.”

The Board is encouraged by the numbers.

“We hope it does well,” Big Cypress Board Rep. Joe Frank said. “If it does well, we’ll be doing great. It’s just another step in trying to diversify the Tribe’s businesses.”

The Tribe, which is the manufacturer of the drink, worked with a national lab to develop flavor profiles for Hard Rock’s three options: original, fruit punch and sugar-free.

Immokalee Board Liaison Dorothy Scheffler went to the Kentucky lab to help develop the flavors.

“It was a little overwhelming; we had to taste a lot and figure out what people will like,” she said. “Then, it was just an idea; now it’s real. It was a great experience and I stand behind the product.”

Part of developing the flavors included a blind taste test at Seminole Paradise where 400 energy drink consumers judged unidentified drinks. Hard Rock went up against Red Bull, Monster, Rock Star and Full Throttle. It beat every brand except Red Bull.

“We know we have the product,” Drow said. “I’m comfortable with our liquid. The real opportunity is the 15- to 30-year-old demographic that is important to the Hard Rock brand, and one they haven’t captured yet.”

The Board is working closely with Hard Rock International to meet the challenge of bringing a young clientele to the brand and the lifestyle it represents. Because younger people haven’t reached the apex of their earning potential, the objective is to create loyalty to the Hard Rock brand even before they can afford to stay at the hotels or eat at the cafes regularly.

“It’s not about the Rolling Stones or Bon Jovi,” Drow said.

“It’s about Imagine Dragons and Miley Cyrus. We are trying to bring new customers to the Hard Rock brand – we aren’t trying to market to existing customers,” he said.

The customer isn’t the Hard Rock properties either; they’re 7-Eleven, Circle K and other retail stores. The Tribe sells the energy drink to distributors who already have seasoned sales people and relationships with businesses in Miami. They hope to sell about a million cans per month. The drink will be rolled out in other areas in the near future, starting with Chicago in February or March.

“As we grow, we will have other locations nationwide to cut down on shipping costs,” President Sanchez said.

Rep. Osceola has seen the venture evolve since the first meeting took place a couple years ago – before he was involved with the project.

“It’s very exciting for me to help the Board reach this milestone,” he said. “But we still have a lot of work in front of us. People are interested in the product all over the world. We are waiting to get worldwide distribution. It’s a step by step process.”

To make the drink in locations nationwide, the lab sends ingredients for the exclusive formula to bottling companies contracted by the Tribe, who then mix it and can it.

The driving ingredient in energy drinks is no secret: caffeine. The amounts make the brands different. Drow said a 16-ounce can of Hard Rock Energy drink contains 200 mg of caffeine; a 16-ounce can of Red Bull and Monster have about 160 mg; and a 16-ounce cup of Starbucks coffee has about 315 mg of caffeine.

Drow said the rollout marks an exciting time for the Hard Rock Energy drink business but that there is still much work ahead to ensure success. It will take time, he said.

“Once it takes off, it will have exponential growth,” Drow said. “As long as we don’t take a lottery mentality and expect immediate returns, we’ll do better than we can imagine.”

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Beverly Bidney
Beverly Bidney has been a reporter and photographer for The Seminole Tribune since 2012. During her career, she has worked at various newspapers around the country including the Muskogee Phoenix in Oklahoma, Miami Herald, Associated Press, USA Today and other publications nationwide. A NAJA award winning journalist, she has covered just about everything over the years and is an advocate for a strong press. Contact her at beverlybidney@semtribe.com.
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