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Meet The Maker: Joe McCanta, Coast Drinks Founder and Grey Goose Brand Ambassador

December 22, 2021 by Joel Davidge

Global Head of Mixology and Education at Grey Goose Vodka Joe McCanta founded COAST Drinks to challenge a lack of premium mixers for dark spirits.

In recent months, many exciting and innovative companies coming into the drinks industry have been born from the industry itself. With Joe’s experience in the drinks industry spanning two decades COAST is a great example of this.

We sat down to chat all things mixers, the future of the drinks industry, and what it’s like to launch a drinks company from scratch.

Global Head of Mixology and Education at Grey Goose Vodka and founder of COAST Drinks Joe McCanta

Tell us a little about yourself, Coast Drinks and how launching the brand came about?

I’ve been working in the drinks industry for 20 years now and have been lucky enough to design all the key cocktails for events including the Vanity Fair Oscar Party, Cannes Film Festival and BAFTAs, and I’ll be designing the official Grammy cocktails for the next two years.

The COAST range was developed to challenge conventional mixers. Standard tonic water is often too sweet or bitter, soda water too plain or boring, and there is a lack of well-crafted mixers for quality dark spirits.

That is why COAST innovated three flavoured mixers; British Tonic, White Tea & Yuzu Soda and Maple Soda is known for its clean-tasting and naturally lower sugar mixers.

Inspired by travel and after realising that some of the best drinking moments happen in the setting of the coast, the COAST range has a signature fresh, less-sweet style and uses innovative coastal flavours & ingredients, including sea salt.

COAST Drinks tonic next to a cocktail and sunglasses, sat on a beach towel

Source: COAST Drinks

There is already a rich history of drinks brand ambassadors for established brands going on to do their own thing in the industry. This seems to be on the rise now – what do you attribute to this trend?

There are certainly loads of examples of brand ambassadors going on to do their own thing. The pandemic has definitely played a part and has sparked innovation in the soft drinks market from the wider drinks market.

I also believe that in part, it’s because the people within the industry are passionate about their craft and are always looking to push boundaries. That’s certainly true of the COAST brand.

In recent years, the industry has grown into such a diverse place with so many opportunities from wellness to low/no alcohol, and even into education which has all led to a much more interesting space for individuals in the industry to have an idea and run with it, whilst still feeling supported.

Tell us about how larger drinks companies are supporting entrepreneurs to start their own businesses?

Large drinks companies have shown that they value new entrepreneurs entering the market with their own businesses in a number of ways.

Companies such as Diageo have launched their Pre-Accelerator Programme, with a commitment to investing $5 million in drinks entrepreneurs over the next 12 months through this initiative and Bacardi has an in-house incubation programme to help support small brands as an investor.

There are a whole host of others with similar programmes, all highlighting the importance in supporting, empowering and investing in entrepreneurs to start their own businesses.

COAST Drinks tonic bottles on a beach towel

Source: COAST Drinks

How do you see the trend for ambassadors starting their own brands to evolve in 2022?

I think that things are only just starting – we’re going to see a lot more innovation across different sectors for sure, and I’m excited to see what else is on the horizon.

We are seeing huge names getting involved, including the likes of Ryan Reynolds partnering with the well-known ambassador of Aviation to really boost its profile.

I was really inspired by Giuseppe Gallo and his story of how he started Italicus, a new category of spirits (recently sold to Pernod Ricard).  At COAST, we’re still early on our journey too – watch this space.

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As a new drink brand, what obstacles have you had to overcome so far?

As with any new brand, there are lots of things we are learning about along the way. The past couple of years have been tough for everyone, and I’d say launching COAST in this environment has been the biggest obstacle we have overcome so far.

First off, the industry just barely survived, and many restaurants and bars have been hit with a crisis of sourcing ingredients and staffing issues and in some countries, constant changes to rules have made it even more difficult to know what to do and how to stay open.

Many of those who have made it through are struggling to survive, making it difficult for a new brand to come in and ask them to take a chance with you.

Combine that with the fact that the ‘big brands’ are only getting bigger and using their weight to make it hard to compete as a newcomer and it amounts to a difficult situation.

Luckily at COAST, we are optimists and believe that the quality of what we do and the passion we have will break down these barriers.

A woman in a red bikin sits on the beach next to a COAST Drinks mixer bottle

Source: COAST Drinks

Where do you want to see Coast going in the next 5 years?

In the next 5 years, our goal at COAST is to continue to grow and get as many people as possible across the country trying our products.

We want to continue our work with the Marine Conservation Society to help the coastlines, additionally, become inspired by new coastlines around the world to create new and exciting products.

We have always dreamed of having brand homes across the globe that could help more people try our drinks, learn about the work we do to keep coastlines clean and help connect like-minded lovers of drinks and coasts, so this is a goal we will always be working towards.

Apart from Coast and Grey Goose, what drinks are you into right now?

I love that low and no alcohol drinks are having a real moment – we have been working closely with High Point, who are incredibly nuanced and interesting. The likes of Three Spirit and Pentire (who have a coastal theme as well) are incredible and are always stocked in my drinks cabinet.

COAST Drinks mixer next to a Rum Maple Cocktail

Source: COAST Drinks

Lastly, shaken or stirred?

All of the above! The real answer, in my opinion there’s no wrong way to make a cocktail. I believe it was one of history’s finest bartenders, the great Harry Craddock from the Savoy, who when asked the best way to drink a cocktail replied “quickly, while it’s laughing at you” – that’s good enough for me.

 

Meet The Maker

The Cocktail Service is the UK’s leading drinks agency. Specialising in complex event delivery, we create engaging brand activations for some of the world’s largest drinks companies.

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