Carter Reum is the founder of VEEV, the world’s first spirit infused with the Brazilian superfruit, açaí and the preeminent eco-friendly spirit brand. The Chicago native has fused his personal philosophy on environmental responsibility and stewardship with his passion for the beverage sector, an industry that he found in need of ways to improve its environmental business practices.
Carter’s taste for entrepreneurship started early, when he worked for Champ Ventures in Sydney, Australia scouting and helping incubate young start-up companies. He later joined Goldman Sachs in New York, where he worked with clients including Honeywell, KKR and Lockheed Martin. In 2007, Carter and his brother were introduced to açaí, the Brazilian superfruit recognized for its antioxidant and health benefits, while on a surfing trip in Rio. It sparked their ‘a‐ ha!’ moment – creating VEEV®. Carter is a graduate of Columbia University and has been a FoundersCard Member since 2013.
1.You left a career in investment banking to take a chance on VEEV, what prompted your decision?
Before starting VEEV in 2007 my brother and I worked in the investment-banking world and managed the accounts of several spirits brands. Despite the variety of spirits on the market, it became increasingly obvious to us that the category was lacking a product that embodied a healthier lifestyle in terms of better ingredients and sustainability.
2. What was the catalyst for your creation of an açaí based spirit?
The idea to develop a product to fill that void, sparked after my brother and I discovered the antioxidant-rich acai berry while on a surfing trip to Brazil. This was before the acai trend emerged statewide, but we believed that the US consumer would take to a spirit that was made with the superfruit. VEEV was an innovator from the start in developing what we believe is truly a better way to drink. Our goal was to create a better alternative to vodka with an emphasis on fresh ingredients and a better taste, all backed by a company that truly gives back.
3. Your company focuses heavily on sustainability and being environmentally friendly. What are some of the ways you are accomplishing that?
We’ve given back since day one, we follow a sustainable practice – both in the bottle and in our business practices as well. Our company is an active member of 1% for the planet, donating at least 1% of our annual net revenues to environmental organizations. VEEV is distilled using 4 column fractional distillation process which uses 200% less energy that a traditional pot still. And we also produce VEEV and VitaFrute with organic, and all-natural sustainable ingredients. VEEV affords you the rare opportunity to improve your lifestyle and drink something delicious at the same time.
4. Can you tell us a little bit about VEEV’s Apothecary Bar. It sounds like a fantastic experience!
We wanted to bring the experience of making cocktails to the consumer so at events we use VEEV custom mason jars and let consumers pick various ingredients to throw in their mason jar in order to create cocktails! We educate consumers on the benefits of various fruits and herbs so not only do they create a great tasting cocktail but feel a little better about their drinking.
5. What is the biggest challenge that you faced when beginning this venture?
I would say our biggest challenge was launching VEEV at the time we did in 2007, just as the economy was going into a recession and entering an increasingly competitive category.
6. What is the most fun part about your job?
Drinking VEEV of course! All jokes aside, I really enjoy pioneering a movement towards a better way to drink in the spirits industry. Thus far there has not been a huge push towards sustainable spirits and I hope that we can be a driving force behind this.
7. How many days a month (or year) do you typically spend traveling?
I spend around 165 days a year, typically 45% of the time.
8. What have you found is the most successful way to gain exposure and brand recognition with such a unique product?
Our number #1 goal is liquid to lips, we need to get consumers to try VEEV and hear our story. And we are continuously doing that by engaging them and creating memorable brand experiences through culturally relevant events and at retail, both in the on-premise and off-premise. We also work hard to create brand advocacy with the Trade, they (bartenders/mixologists) are invaluable in increasing our exposure and recommending VEEV to their customers, in a way they are unofficial brand ambassadors.
9. Apart from the success with your company, what are you most proud of?
I’m most proud of the fact that my brother and I are partners and still are best friends even after that! I couldn’t imagine having any other partner and having him as my partner makes the journey a lot more fun.
10. Give us your best plug/brag a little about as to what you’re working on now/next.
It’s going to be a very busy year here at VEEV Spirits and we have a few very exciting things in the works for 2014. We are repositioning VEEV and have worked with our award-winning distiller to reformulate VEEV from a 60 proof açaí liqueur to a 70 proof neutral spirit with a blend of Açaí and other natural flavors, making VEEV even more versatile and mixable as a vodka alternative. This will provide for greater versatility and mixability. This will be communicated and supported with a new campaign that the trade and consumers will begin seeing in early May.
We are also introducing a new line extension, Coconut Colada to our VitaFrute Cocktails line, an all-natural and organic line of ready-to-drink cocktails. Coconut colada will join our current flavor line up: Margarita, Lemonade, and Cosmopolitan. So a lot to look forward to in the coming year!
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