For years, flavored seltzers have dominated the RTD market. But the allure of low-calorie, low-ABV, mild-tasting drinks is fading. As the world re-opens after COVID-19 and a year of making their own drinks at home, people are looking for bold, spirit-focused drinks that offer the same convenience as a seltzer.
Enter: Chaco Flaco, award-winning craft cocktails in a can. They’ve taken what seltzers started, and evolved the RTD space with their high-quality, full-flavored drinks that are easy to incorporate into any beverage program.
Founded by bartender Chuck Moore and financial executive Steve Cislaw, Chaco Flaco makes canned craft cocktails for cocktail people.
All natural, and dairy free, Chaco Flaco doesn’t contain any high fructose corn syrup. Instead, they use real fruit juice, natural sugars and sweeteners to create the taste customers want with less carbs, calories and sodium than a traditional drink.
“The first part of my bartending career was in fine dining. The second half was all about tacos and margaritas,” says Moore, who started Chaco Flaco in his kitchen with a Nutri-Bullet. “The first part informed the second, and I learned I could have fun with it.” He started selling his all-natural craft cocktails at events, and they quickly took off.
The duo spent almost three years working with food scientists to perfect their flavorful canned formulas before hitting the market. Today, they have three award-winning cocktails and five types of mixers, with a new line of cocktails and 0-proof cocktails expected by 2022. Their products have been recognized with Double Golds in the prestigious Sip Awards and were crowned Best Canned Cocktail by Phoenix Magazine. And, after taking home the Platinum Award for Best in Show at Las Vegas Global Spirits Award, trumping over 750 competitors from six continents, they’re officially the best canned cocktail on the planet.
Moore and Cislaw spoke with Bar & Restaurant about the process of developing the world’s best RTD, and how on-premise operators can take advantage of canned cocktails.
Canned cocktails, or RTDs, are often thought of as an off-premise drink. How do they integrate with on-premise?
Chuck: It’s all about convenience for the operator and the consumer. Let’s say you’re in the weeds and someone wants 10 mules. Normally it’s a whole process, but with Chaco Flaco all you have to do is line up 10 glasses and pop 10 cans. You’re never overpouring, there’s no spillage, and you have a true craft cocktail in a can.
Around the country, the industry is facing a labor shortage. It sounds like this is the perfect time for operators to consider adding an RTD element to their menus.
C: In today’s economy, where we’re lacking bartenders and staff, being able to pour quickly pour a canned cocktail is all benefit. Canned cocktails are standardized, you’re going to get the same flavor every time. One of the biggest losses in the bar industry is overpouring, so this is going to save operators money and time. As a bartender, that’s what I was thinking about when we were developing this. Everybody wins.
Most people assume a canned cocktail is some sort of seltzer. They don’t realize how sophisticated the market has gotten, thanks to brands like Chaco Flaco which are just so much more sophisticated in taste and quality.
C: We’re the next generation. The seltzer world paved the way for us, but now people want more flavor. That’s the whole mantra of our company, ‘flavor first’. All you have to do is crack open one of our cans to realize that it isn’t a boring seltzer. This is something people actually want to drink.
Steve: The canned cocktail space is grown so much in the last year, and is expected to hit $58 billion in sales by 2024. What’s going to get the market there? Products with better flavors that deliver a better experience.
Chaco Flaco delivers big taste, without sugars and additives. How did you manage to balance the flavors so well?
S: It took us two and a half years working with amazing food scientists to get everything just right, but we did it. Look at the Mango Margarita. We wanted a subtle habanero finish on the backend. When you open the can, you’ll smell it – you might even cough a little – but it’s not actually spicy! It’s just a little pop at the end, and that took us the longest time to perfect.
Why did you set out to make such a healthy drink option?
C: Our background is in the extreme sports space, and that means we’re health conscious. As an athlete, you need to be mentally and psychically in shape, so you want something low in calories, but with a bunch of flavor. Forget about vodka sodas and rum & cokes – they’re boring! We know for a fact that people want more flavor. That’s where the industry is trending. One of the things that sets us apart is we’re Whole Foods compliant, which is hard to achieve. Whole Foods is very stringent, and if you want to be on their shelves, none of the ingredients can be artificial. That means there are no preservatives at all, even though every can has 17% fruit juice.
Chaco Flaco is active in the community – you support charities, athletes, festivals and race car events. It’s a whole lifestyle brand, wrapped up in a can. Was that always the intention?
C: From day one. Our backgrounds are in skating and snowboarding, we’ve got friends in BMX, and extreme sports. We have a soft spot for the military, and support organizations like Wounded Warrior Project and Operation BBQ Relief. That’s the kind of stuff we get behind. So far, we’ve been giving back with product and time. In the future we’ll give back with money. Steve wants to get involved with the Paralympics.
Steve, what attracted you to the Paralympics?
S: My older son Tanner. He’s an incredible athlete. He was freeclimbing during his freshman year at University of California, Santa Cruz, and fell. He had twelve bolts, three rods in his back and eight months of extreme physical rehab, and now he’s paralyzed from the waist down. When he went back to school, he started indoor climbing, and then competing. He became a US Champion, and got on Team USA. He even brought home a bronze medal in France. On Father’s Day this year, he took back his US National Champion status. The testimony these kids give other people in these moments is mind boggling. God uses people in different ways, and we want to be a part of it. We’re going to sponsor Tanner and other young athletes. You can’t take any of this with you. So, when we find ourselves in a position where we can help, heck yeah we’re going to do it.
What’s next for Chaco Flaco?
C: New flavors, and zero-proof, craft products. We’re launching the official mocktail of the designated driver, which really focuses on the on-premise. Steve has been sober for over seven years. I always drag him to the bars with me because I need a designated driver, and he needs something good to drink. So do all the other people out there who aren’t drinking!
Chaco Flaco is currently available in Arizona, Colorado and Nevada. Find Chaco Flaco in your local AJ’s Fine Foods and select retail establishments. They’re rapidly expanding to California and new markets soon - follow their social media to find out when they launch in your city! @chacoflacodrinks