Interview with Annika Sörenstam of Fizzy Beez
Interview with Annika Sörenstam of Fizzy Beez
There are few perfect marriages, but golf and mixed drinks are a match made in vodka-heaven. When you’re hitting the links, you always want to have your cooler at hand with ready-to-drink canned cocktails to keep you refreshed while out on the course. If there were a crossroads where the world of golf meets the thriving canned cocktail market, you would find golf legend Annika Sörenstam standing smack-dab in the middle of it.
Famous as the first female golfer to break 60 in an official tournament, Annika Sörenstam won too many competitions, events, and awards to list here. Her career took a turn during the 2020 COVID19 pandemic when she decided to launch a canned cocktail company named Fizzy Beez. Using organic honey as a central ingredient, Fizzy Beez has created a lot of buzz in the hot ready-to-drink canned cocktail market. We were lucky enough to sit down with Annika Sörenstam for a phone interview to learn about why she created Fizzy Beez and how she and her co-owner perfected the flavors and ingredients.
My husband looked at me and said, “Annika, you’re such a busy bee. Do you need more projects?”
And that’s where the name comes from.
A Little Background
How did you go from working as a professional golfer to the beverage industry?
Yeah, it’s a good question because I don’t really see the link other than we all want to have a good time. Right?
So, my husband, Mike, and I were mixing drinks during the summer. Mike’s best friend owns one of the biggest distributors in Ohio, and he would bring all these RTDs. I just didn’t like them. They didn’t have any flavor. And when he brought drinks with a ton of flavor, the calories blew my mind. I enjoy a glass of wine or a cocktail here and there, but it needs to be good. I’m not going to waste all my calories, sugar, and alcohol on drinks I don’t enjoy. Right? It needs to be worthwhile.
I said, “No, there has to be something, something else.” We just couldn’t find anything. So, I told my husband, I said, “Why don’t we just make our own?”
He looked at me and said, “Annika, you’re such a busy bee. Do you need more projects?”
And that’s where the name comes from.
Busy Bees Make Fizzy Beez
I’ve been working with organic honey for a long time. My husband has allergies, and honey has health benefits in a lot of different ways. So, when I cook and make drinks, I want some flavor and not fake stuff. I don’t want syrups, fructose, or cane sugar. When I started to mix drinks with organic honey, it actually made the drink a little thicker and smoother. And it’s just like a double benefit. Right? All of a sudden, you get the flavor, plus you get that [smoother and thicker consistency]. And there are health benefits. That’s really what it was. It was during COVID. What else did we have to do then? We had a good time [developing the drinks], and then we finally came up with a kitchen formula.
Bringing in a Co-Owner
How do you go from kitchen formula to a commercial product?
So, a friend of mine – she is a pickleball player – is the head of a winery. Her name is Kathy Johansen. I contacted her. I said, “I think we have a business idea. Do you want to join the hive?”
And she goes, “Sure. I’d love to!”
So, we got ahold of a flavoring company in California and sent our recipe down to them. We said, “Hey, can you make these drinks for us?”
We picked these four classic cocktails. I literally went on Google and typed in “top 10 classic cocktails”, and those were the four that came up. Thankfully, they were all very familiar to us.
My husband loves Cosmos. I have an herb garden, and I make them with real mint. I love ginger, and fresh ginger is one of my favorite ingredients in a Moscow Mule. So, that’s why we decided to do these four cocktails, and all of a sudden, we had a commercialized formula.
What was the process of refining the flavors?
So, we sent the flavor recipes to these flavoring companies. We went down there [to California], and we went through our recipes with them. They mixed our recipes in their labs, and we sat there and tasted, and tasted, and altered it, and altered it. And then, because of COVID, we could only be there so long. So they sent samples to our homes, and we would get a bottle every other week. I think it took 17 tries until we had figured out all four formulas. It came down to the details. It’s too sweet. It’s too salty, too sour, or it has too much ginger. We had a good feeling for what we wanted, and luckily it turned out that we were at only 140 calories [when the recipe was complete].
You can’t have full flavor with no sugar or calories. So we went back and forth, adding a little bit of this and a little bit of that. And, like I said, after 17 samples back and forth, we felt like we had our final format. Then, we talked about the different carbonation levels. We tried different carbonation [levels], some higher, some lower. We’re about 2.3, and we feel like it’s a good carbonation [level] without [being too] filling. I told them we’re Fizzy Beez, not flat bees.
Ingredients to Feel Good About
Did your background as an athlete play into the recipes and the choices you made in and around Fizzy Beez?
I would say just being a perfectionist and knowing it takes time to build something. You need to be disciplined, you need to be focused, and you need to be patient. I think all those skills have helped me.
I studied nutrition in school. So, I’m conscious about what I eat and put in my body. I know it sounds funny when you have an alcoholic drink. But we have real ingredients we feel good about, like organic honey, real fruit, and nothing artificial. We’re gluten-free, and we’re kosher. And we were conscious of the level of sugars, which comes mostly from honey and real fruit juice. We’re only 2% honey, 5% alcohol, and there’s less than 2% fruit juice. Most of it is carbonated water.
Starting Fizzy Beez During the Pandemic
What was it like starting a business with your co-owner during the COVID19 pandemic?
Yeah, so we were all at home, right? And, we were not going anywhere. So, we went to the [grocery] store a lot. We had time because all the other businesses [were closed]. I wasn’t really playing [golf], and we had time. The tricky part was having people over. Obviously, it took a little while before we could have people over to try our drinks. But it was summer, and we had time to experiment once the restrictions started. When we flew to [visit the flavoring company in] California, it was still quite restricted. [The California flavoring company] only allowed a few people to come into the office. We couldn’t do as many visits. I would say it just took longer, but we made it work during the COVID19 pandemic.
And, once we had the commercialized product ready, we were like, “Well, let’s hire a marketing company.”
Pollinating the Fizzy Beez Brand
We already had the name Fizzy Beez, because we really liked it. Organic honey was a given. And we wanted to give back as well. We needed somebody to take all our different ideas and put them in a blender and come out with a story. We needed something that would make sense for the design of the can and the packaging and the design of the website and all those things. It’s funny; I still have a lot of little drawings that I made with my daughter with different fonts and colors for the logo and the can. So, we put it together with this marketing company and were like, “Okay, it’s time to make these.”
We did our first canning on February 3rd. We stood there with 160,000 cans, and we called up [my husband’s] best friend and said, “Here, you’re the one that started this project in a way. Are you interested?”
They bought the whole batch. So, we started to sell them on March 1st, 2022, in Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio. And our distributors had a lot of connections, and they said, “Well, for the rest of the states, I recommend you try these distributors.”
We went out and contacted them. Now we cover the whole state of Ohio, and we just announced that we’re selling in Tennessee. We’ve been pollinating our product a little here and there.
The Fizzy Beez Promise
You and your co-owner have a long history of giving back. Can you speak a little on how Fizzy Beez supports sustainability and environmental-focused efforts?
We call it the Fizzy Beez promise. We like to give back. Our packaging is recyclable. But for sustainability, we want to give back to the farmers and beekeepers. We already gave our first donation out to [the Queen City Pollinator Project] in Ohio. It’s gone well and just feels good to know that we’re giving back thanks to our drinks. It’s been really, really cool. Our goal is to be able to do that in every space where we sell Fizzy Beez. We want to be able to connect the community and make sure that bees and humans can all live together. I don’t think many people really understand the importance of bees. There are organizations that move beehives to save them. And that’s our goal – to be able to get back. So that’s been really cool. We call it the Fizzy Beez Promise.
Seltzer Nation: Thank you for your time and for talking to us about Fizzy Beez.
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