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Low-calorie martini maker stepping out into U.S. markets

John Seelmeyer
jseelmeyer@nnbw.biz

Ready-to-drink cocktails may be one of the next big things in the spirits business, and promises of staying slender have provided sure-fire marketing strategies for untold numbers of consumer products.

A young company headquartered in Sparks, DeJa Enterprises LLC, is clawing its way into the reduced-calorie, ready-to-drink market with TinyTini, a line of low-calorie, ready-to-drink bottled martinis.

Jamie and Derek Asmis, who launched the company in 2011, have gotten a crash course in the complexities of state liquor-distribution laws, product development and guerilla marketing in a segment that’s dominated by giants of the spirits industry.

TinyTini — available in pear, pomegranate, cotton-candy and chocolate flavors — now is distributed in Nevada, Colorado, Connecticut and Illinois, says Derek Asmis.

Already profitable, the company is nearing a big step, as distribution in California is just over the horizon, says Asmis, the company’s chief operating officer.

TinyTini positions itself as a guilt-free indulgence — 36 proof and 35 calories per ounce.

And the Sparks couple positioned the low-calorie drink in a segment of the spirits industry that’s beginning to grow.

Consumers like the convenience of ready-to-drink beverages at home, and bar owners are willing to give ready-to-drink products a closer look as their quality-control efforts continue to be plagued by inexperienced bartenders and staff turnover.

But big players such as Bacardi have spotted the same trends and are rolling out ready-to-drink products of their own.

Asmis says DeJa Enterprises isn’t a rush to battle with the big companies, and instead is content to roll out TinyTini state by state, and market by market.

“We know it’s not going to be an instant success,” he says.

Patience is required as the small company wends its way through the liquor-distribution laws — each state has its own requirements — and finds distributors willing to take on a new product.

In Nevada, TinyTini is distributed by Booze Brothers Beverage of Las Vegas. Among the first outlets to take on the product was the Total Wines & More store in Reno, Asmis says.

Patience was needed, too, as the little Sparks company waited six months for the federal government’s Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau to give its approval of ingredients, recipes and labeling.

“It’s frustrating because you’re just on hold,” says Asmis, who left a job in information technology to devote fulltime to the venture. His wife continues to hold down a day job. The product that the feds approved was developed with the help of the palates of 350 people who sampled possible TinyTini flavors and offered their thoughts in a survey conducted during a Wine Walk in downtown Reno.

The company has eight flavors ready to go, but decided to focus its resources — the company is self-financed by the couple, along with a friend in Southern California — on four products initially.

Production of the 750-milliliter bottles of TinyTini is handled by a contractor in Louisville, Ky. Its brand identity was created by a graphic designer in Vietnam, who made connections with DeJa Enterprises through freelance.com.

While the company slowly opens distribution into additional states, Asmis says it’s also focused on opening new channels in existing markets. He’d like to see TinyTini on more grocery shelves, and he’s also working hard to get it behind the bar at taverns and restaurants.