Last year the bars turned around selling bottle cocktails when they had to close their premises. We wrote two of them, Brotenders and The Swagger Salon.
Instead of trying their luck with the exact same thing, Juelie Koh and San Wong decided to venture into something else that is less common in Malaysia – bottled sangrias.
It started when a friend asked San if she could sell her sangrias since San had 10 years experience as a bartender.
“This friend probably needed a concoction to overcome her MCO-related fears. That's how it all started and we started selling to our friends in July 2020, ”Juelie told Vulcan Post.
Selling sangrias, ginteas and cocktails
Ready-to-drink sangrias sell a variety of products, including ginteas and some cocktails, but their bestsellers are their bottled sangrias.
Your product line / Image Credit: RTD Sangrias
About 150 ml of full or medium strength wine, fruit juices (not made from real fruits) and rum or cognac are mixed into a sangria. They let the mixture sit for 24 hours before bottling it.
Customers can choose between two sizes: 240 ml and 700 ml. Their sangrias cost between 19 and 55 RM, depending on their taste and size. A 240 ml bottle contains 2 servings and Juelie and San recommend drinking it within a week of opening.
If you want to keep it longer, they recommend no longer than 3 months. Although the alcohol does not drain, the sangrias taste drier and less fruity. So if you consume your sangrias after 3 months, it will most likely taste like dry wine.
Your sangria doesn't come with fresh fruit
As someone who's had sangrias on occasion, it's a pretty easy drink compared to cocktails. You pretty much just have to cut up some fruit and add them to the liquor of your choice.
My friends who like sangrias do so because of the fruit in the drinks that San and Juelie don't have.
Instead, they suggest that you add fresh fruit to your sangria on mini cards that come with their drinks. What they offer is simply the convenience of having the basic drink ready.
“Although easy to make at home, sangrias are like sambals. You can buy all the ingredients and try to make the sambal to your liking. Or you just go out and get a ready-made sambal, ”Juelie joked.
Preparation (left), labeling (center) and your cards (right) / Photo credits: RTD Sangrias
Harder than making cocktails
Preparing sangrias is relatively more difficult than cocktails for Juelie and San, mainly because they had to wait 24 hours every time they created a preparation. Cocktails, on the other hand, don't have to wait that long to test the taste.
Once you open a wine bottle to mix into the sangria, you need to use it right away, unlike spirits for cocktails, which can still be stored unfinished.
“It took us about 6 months to bring out a 'publicly acceptable' taste. We distributed samples to family, friends and strangers, ”said Juelie about her research and development.
“However, we don't make white sangrias because they have to be bubbly. Bubbly sangrias are difficult to fill and cannot be kept for long,” she added.
Make more of pop-ups than online sales
Since January, Juelie and San have had weekly pop-ups in the non-halal section of Bangsar Market in KL Eco City.
On the way to the opening of their pop-up store / Image Credit: RTD Sangrias
For these pop-ups, they would prepare 4 boxes for sale, 3 of which are for sangrias and the other for ginteas and cocktails. Each box holds up to 12 bottles.
“The Bangsar market at KLEC has very, very, very little traffic. The conversion rate from sample to sale is approximately 80%. Out of 10 who tried, 8 would buy, ”said Juelie.
“However, these are quality customers. We'd rather have it that way than higher traffic where only 2 out of 100 would buy. "
The percentage of their offline sales compared to their online sales is roughly 90-10, and of that 10% of online sales, 20% customers return from their popups. Each week, they could sell an average of 20 bottles through their pop-ups.
Overcoming misunderstandings of the drink
"Most Malaysians don't know what sangria is. Some of them even equate sangria with Ubat Kuat," Juelie said.
Therefore, Juelie would have to regularly explain to newer customers what sangrias actually are. This is a Spanish summer cocktail made mainly from wine.
Since Malaysians are not too familiar with sangria, they have to rely heavily on taste testing to attract customers and generate sales.
"Our online marketing has had a very low sales conversion rate, mainly because customers can't try it," Juelie told Vulcan Post.
From now on you will find ways to bring your products to grocery and convenience shelves and even to import them.
In addition, they want their own kitchen and storage area to ramp up production.
- You can find more information about ready-to-drink sangrias here.
- More startups that we have covered here can be found here.
Selected image source: Juelie Koh and San Wong, founders of ready-to-drink Sangrias