While the drinking public has shifted its tastes more toward craft beer, it has simultaneously shifted away from beer overall. But just because someone is more interested in a cocktail than a juicy IPA doesn’t mean they don’t want that cocktail to be a craft beverage. According to Mary Pellettieri, cofounder of Top Note Tonic, there’s a significant gap in the craft mixer market that her company is ready to fill.
“The American market is underserved. It needs a homegrown, independent mixer brand to pair with the tremendous growth of the craft spirits industry. Plus, there hasn’t been innovation in the mixer beverage category in more than 50 years,” said Pellettieri. “Top Note mixers are fresh, playful and encourage experimentation. I crafted them for mixability, drinkabilty, quality and versatility to elevate the modern cocktail experience.”
Pellettieri isn’t just some random person with a craft beverage opinion and business plan. She is a 20-year craft beer veteran with a degree in botany who spent eight years at Goose Island and helped launch many of the brewery’s highly regarded labels, including Matilda, Sofie and 312. In 2014, believing that beverage mixers needed a craft brewer’s touch for innovation and flavor balance, Pellettieri and her partner, Noah Swanson, teamed up to launch Top Note. As for market viability, she points to a May 2018 report from Morgan Stanley that identifies the U.S. tonic market as half the size of the U.K. market but with nine times the craft spirit producers.
“Today’s cocktail consumers are seeking modern flavors, healthier options and less fuss in beverage mixers,” explained Pellettieri. “They want to make drinks that sing, and we deliver that with our mixers.”
She applied her experience and knowledge to create Top Note mixers, which have a unique set of flavors and formats that have broad appeal in the cocktail space. The Top Note line features sparkling Indian Tonic Water, Bitter Lemon Tonic and Ginger Beer. Last year, Top Note’s Indian Tonic Water won a coveted Sofi award from the Specialty Food Association as “best new cocktail mixer in the U.S.” Indian Tonic Water showcases Pellettieri’s innovative approach to ingredients since it’s the only craft mixer to combine bitters and quinine. This fall, Top Note is introducing two additional flavors — Grapefruit and Classic Tonic. The company is also debuting 750-ml bottles to better serve holiday gatherings and parties.
So far so good, and Top Note is looking to scale up via a $1 million Fundable.com Equity Round. The funds will support a build out of its sales and marketing team and pipeline new products.
Top Note has previously raised more than $500,000 from a friends and family round. The company is now seeking an equity partner to grow into larger grocery channels. Top Note successfully is already featured at bars and restaurant groups throughout Chicago and is on shelf at Fresh Thyme, Home Goods and Whole Foods regionally, as well as independent and specialty grocery stores and retailers throughout the Midwest. In 2019, Top Note plans to increase its presence in Minnesota and push east into the Mid-Atlantic since it’s an active and experimental cocktail market.