Florida Caribbean Distillers
Issue Winter 14
In an industry bombarded by several hundred new products each year, Florida Caribbean Distillers ensures it stays relevant by continuing to innovate and renovate its wines and spirits to offer consumers great-tasting products at a fair price.
“I think this year about 800 new products came out in the market, so we always want to stay ahead of the curve,” Vice President of U.S. and International Operations Nicolas Abuid says. “With all the new products coming to market, you want to be able to differentiate yourself all the time by putting a product out there that has high-quality liquid, attractive packaging and is at a price point that matches the quality.”
The Lake Alfred, Fla.-based company began in 1943 by distilling spirits from citrus fruits because grain alcohol was being redirected toward the war effort. Florida Caribbean Distillers is ideally located in the heart of the state’s agriculture region where an abundance of citrus and sugar cane is grown. “This is where we procure the raw materials for our alcohol distillation,” Abuid explains. “We are well located for raw material sourcing.”
Florida Caribbean Distillers has the capability to bottle more than 20 million cases of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages per year. “We are the largest distillery in the Southeast and the largest rum and sugar cane spirits producer in the continental U.S.,” Abuid attests.
Florida Caribbean Distillers produces its own rum and wine products, and it sources from high-quality domestic and global suppliers for the rest of the spirits it bottles under its own brand. “We give our specifications to the suppliers and go through a meticulous process to select the liquid that goes into the bottle,” Abuid explains.
The company produces more than 10 million proof gallons of alcohol in the Florida distilleries and has capabilities to produce an additional eight million proof gallons of rum per year at the Club Caribe Distillery located high in the mountains of Puerto Rico. “We operate the highest distillery in Puerto Rico, the Club Caribe Distillery, Abuid says. “Our award-winning Club Caribe rum is shipped to us here [in Florida]. The Puerto Rican rum is taken through a careful method of distillation and aged for one year.”
Florida Caribbean Distillers’ rum, including its award-winning “Florida Old Reserve Rum” is made in its Florida distillery and aged in a cherry cask. The liquid is heavier and darker than the Club Caribe rum, which Abuid describes as having a smooth taste that can be sipped straight or mixed in a Mojito or sodas.
The company launched Club Caribe flavors last year in seven flavored varieties and has already made great inroads in the market. “This year, the company is launching Club Caribe Silver, a spectacular liquid and put into a beautiful bottle,” Abuid says. “It’s going to be a big hit with consumers.”
The company prides itself on continuous innovation and its product development team is led by industry veteran Stacy Woodward, Florida Caribbean Distillers’ director of quality assurance/control and product development for 25 years. “Every team member brings creative ideas and solutions to develop products on trend or ones the company thinks will create a trend,” he explains.
Bourbon and whiskeys have experienced the highest percentage growth this year in the spirits category, Abuid says. Florida Caribbean Distillers launched its Colville straight Kentucky bourbon last year and took home the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America’s best in show award.
Most importantly for the company is that there is a new great renaissance in rum, Abuid notes. “The outlook for growth in the United States and the rest of the world is positive and Florida Caribbean Distillers, along with Club Caribe Distillers with its award-winning products, are well positioned to help drive the renaissance and growth of rum,” he says.
Moving forward, Florida Caribbean Distillers plans to continue disrupting its status quo to stay on the edge of innovation and be in a constant state of change.
“Consumers today are changing,” Abuid explains. “They are really not interested in drinking the same way their parents did. They want to create their own experience and brand for their own generation. That’s why, for us, staying on top of the innovation curve and speed to market is important. We want our products out fast and in the consumers’ hands so they can experience the great products we are creating.”