CANTEEN is the Newest Spiked Soda to Hit Shelves

Meet Brandon Cason, CEO and Co-Founder of CANTEEN Spirits

Corrie D.
ByCorrie D.
Staff

Is it even summer if you aren't sipping on a spiked seltzer? Maybe, but you can't be blamed for jumping on this trend of refreshing, light, boozy beverages. We wanted the skinny on the newest kid on the block, CANTEEN, so sat down with co-founder Brandon Cason to get the deets on this sparkling vodka/soda combo. 

Brandon, you're an industry veteran, former VP of Marketing for Deep Eddy Vodka and co-founder of Waterloo Sparkling Water. CANTEEN seems like a literal blend of the two. What was the inspiration behind this new venture?

That is correct. It seemed fitting to marry the two, which not only creates a cleaner, more refreshing adult beverage by using vodka over fermented malt-based alcohol, but we also are doing something that has not been widely adopted yet. CANTEEN has a strong point of differentiation in that we use vodka, which is a trade up to the traditional seltzers you see available.

You position CANTEEN as "the provision of choice for the new explorer." What’s the story behind the adventurous brand image?

I’ve always had an affinity for exploring and for the outdoors. When CANTEEN was conceived, we imagined bringing the spirit of adventure to the forefront of the brand’s identity. The portability of the can combined with the ready-to-drink nature of the pre-mixed beverage makes it truly ready to go. Whether your adventure is the beach, the boat, or the backyard, CANTEEN can come along.

At Waterloo you invested in bold and rich flavor development as a distinguishing factor, even building an in-house team. What is your distinguishing element for CANTEEN? What makes it different than other spiked beverages in the market today?

Our commitment to a clean nutritional facts panel is clear. We wanted and delivered a beverage that had zero sugar, zero carbs, no sodium and a low calorie count but didn’t shirk on taste. Consumers are looking for refreshment that delivers on the ‘better-for-you’ attributes, but they are not willing to sacrifice on taste. In CANTEEN, you get both. Great taste with none of the guilt.

Your partner Daniel Barnes also comes from the industry (Treaty Oak Distilling & Waterloo Gin), how did you two meet? What led to you two teaming up again on CANTEEN?

Daniel and I worked closely in developing the launch of Waterloo Sparkling Water. We worked in parallel in our previous days in the spirits business, but did not come together until 2017 at the outset of Waterloo. In 2019, we recognized the opportunity to create the best-tasting, highest quality Vodka & Soda product in a package and brand that would appeal to both men and women and be widely adopted by all LDA age ranges. We’ve gotten very good at making beverages that taste great and use nothing but real, natural ingredients.

Our (Influenter's) parent company, Bazaarvoice, is also based in Austin, TX. What is it about Austin that makes it conducive for startups?

Austin has long been an incubator of amazing brands. The community here really rallies around consumer brands, and it’s become known as the place to launch new products. Austin is truly a brand of its own, and with the successes of many of brands here, it’s become a hotspot for raising capital to get brands off the ground. The locals love anything and everything that’s born here, and their support is something that really makes waves across the rest of the country.

What is your advice to other aspiring entrepreneurs?

My biggest advice is to make sure you bring the right team together. Lean on each others’ strengths to build an organization that has experience in all the necessary areas to drive a strong business. And hire top talent if possible. Someone that may cost you significantly more in salary can often deliver 10x the value because of the relationships and the institutional knowledge they have which is worth every extra dollar you can apply to it. Saving money on talent doesn’t always save you… you’ll actually lose in the long run if you don’t hire the best people for key roles.

Watermelon, Black Cherry, Lime, Grapefruit and Cucumber Mint -- which is your favorite flavor, and why?

I love all my children equally. Kidding… but I really do enjoy switching it up. I keep my fridge stocked with rows of every flavor and depending on my mood, I’ll grab the can that appeals to me in the moment. Good news is all are delicious and surprisingly, that is reflected in our sales. We have a pretty evenly distributed sales forecast which is a really great reality to have. There are no duds and no clear runaway winners. We look forward to launching new flavors this fall and again in the Spring as well. Stay tuned…

How important are online reviews and customer feedback to the success of your product and business?

Very! We have been lucky to get great feedback on the brand so far. From organized taste reviews to everyday consumers posting their feedback – It’s all important. We often say that we’d rather see a MILLION whispers from consumers than seeing a celebrity endorsement. Consumers appear to be more motivated to influence from their friends and neighbors who are real people giving real, unbiased feedback. That is critical.

Which drinks, spiked or otherwise, are you sipping on this summer? 

About the Author
Corrie D.
Corrie D.
Staff
Former Influenster. You can see my reviews and product insights on my OG Influenster account: @corriedavidson. Follow me on Instagram @CorrieReviews, YouTube @CorrieDavidson, tiktok @CorrieDavidson.