Anthony von Mandl: Founder & Chairman of Mike’s Hard Lemonade Co.

July 30, 2015

“Constantly surprising and delighting consumers in ways they never imagined!”

Everybody things they know Mike's Hard Lemonade, the American beverage icon that took the country by storm when it was launched in 1999, but few know the back story about Mike.

Mike is really Anthony von Mandl, Founder & Chairman of The Mark Anthony Group, one of North America’s most diversified and successful private alcoholic beverage companies. With the creation of Mike’s Hard Lemonade, von Mandl created an entirely new beverage category, Flavored Malt Beverages (FMBs), by crafting the first real alternative for men to enjoy on beer drinking occasions.

“We found that up to 25% of guys didn’t particularly want to drink beer, but couldn’t be seen holding anything else in their hand,” said von Mandl. “That all changed with the creation of Mike’s Hard Lemonade – taking the great taste of lemonade, the type your Grandmother used to make, using all natural ingredients and giving it a kick.”

An entrepreneur from the start, von Mandl launched a one-man wine importing business back in 1972. His passion for wine may have only been surpassed by his dedication to quality and determination for brand building. Merely importing fine wine was not von Mandl’s endgame. Today, as the proprietor of Mission Hill Family Estate winery in the Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, he is an award-winning winemaker who is passionate about putting this emerging region on the world wine map.

Von Mandl’s interest in wine has taken him to all parts of the globe. During his travels, he noticed that it was hard for guys to drink anything other than mainstream beer on beer drinking occasions. He explains, “I wanted to create a beverage that guys could call their own – one they could associate with, that would surprise and delight them from the first sip, one they would rush out and tell their friends about… And that’s exactly what happened with Mike’s.”

Mike’s sold its first 10 million cases without a cent of advertising. From the start, Mike’s has been a remarkable success because consumers discovered it on their own, and fell in love with it. But it didn’t stop there. Mike’s set out to make an array of new tastes, like Mike’s Hard Cherry, made using fresh Michigan cherry juice – it just doesn’t get any better!

Over the years, von Mandl has invested tens of millions of dollars in leading edge technology to create a vodka-like neutral malt base that 7 out of 10 consumers, in blind taste tests, actually prefer over Grey Goose Vodka. This is a patented technology that no one else in the world has been able to replicate. This amazing base allows Mike’s to use fresh ingredients and authentic flavors to create spirit-like beverages for beer drinking occasions, bringing spirit and white wine drinkers back into the beer aisles.

The Mike’s franchise has expanded from the original Mike’s Hard Lemonade to include various flavors and new categories, including Mike’s Lite Hard Lemonade, Mike’s Margaritas and Mike’s Harder Lemonade – a line with higher alcohol that packs a powerful punch. Together with the company’s other innovative brands including Cayman Jack Margaritas, T.G.I. Friday’s Ready-to-Drink Cocktails and the new Palm Breeze, Mark Anthony Brands is the undisputed leader in the FMB segment.

“Mike’s represents the American dream,” von Mandl explains. “The one where you could start out with just an idea and create a real business, one that could drive against even the biggest competitors, one that you could launch out of your garage with very little money, making something that consumers absolutely love and could call their own.”

Von Mandl believes that for the next generation of alcohol beverage consumers, it’s all about flavor. “There has been a growing demand from the Millennial consumer for a higher alcohol product that still tastes amazing. Our proprietary malt base is so clean that it allows us to use delicate natural flavors, even in an 8% product.” For von Mandl, this explains the success of their Mike’s Harder Lemonade lineup which includes such flavors as Lemonade, Black Cherry, Cranberry and a variety of seasonals all with an 8% ABV, and all available in 16 oz. cans. Consumers are believers too, and Mike’s Harder is on track to outsell the Mike’s core brands.

The company’s most recent product launch, Palm Breeze, or “Vacay Every Day,” as the folks at Mark Anthony refer to it, is made with exotic tropical ingredients and the taste is a bit lighter than typical malt beverages. “This innovation represents the most significant product launch for our company, since the original Mike’s Hard Lemonade launched in 1999,” says von Mandl. “With Palm Breeze, we will connect with consumers with an authentic brand, featuring incredibly drinkable products. And like Mike’s, it all begins with a liquid – completely different from anything we have made before – unbelievably light, incredibly refreshing and sessionable.”

“Flavor is a trend that will only accelerate,” von Mandl says. “New consumers entering the legal drinking years will continuously seek variety and innovation from their beverage choices, and no segment can offer variety and convenience like FMBs.”

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