Suzie's Organics launches organic hard seltzer
As Chris Barhyte, chief executive officer of Suzie's Organics, tells it, he and his son were camping in Oregon not long ago when they began noticing numerous campers drinking cans of hard seltzer — White Claw, to be exact.
That's when his son suggested tthat Suzie's should think about creating its own organic mixture of sparkling water, alcohol and natural flavors.
"And I was like, 'No, we'll probably never do a hard seltzer,'" said Barhyte, a Tualatin resident since 1994 and former member of the City Council. "And then … after seeing it everywhere — at tailgaters at a football game — I was like, 'Hmm, we should do a seltzer.'"
So Barhyte brought the idea back to the company's quality assurance director, who just happened to have a degree in fermentation. The quality assurance director was excited about the prospect, and the ball to production got rolling in a big way last October.
Soon, the company carved out about 5,000 square feet of space in its new warehouse in Pendleton for its new brewery, and on Aug. 1, it rolled out Suzie's Organic Hard Seltzer in five different flavors with a tagline of "Official Hard Selzer of Mother Nature."
"It's actually, surprisingly, going really, really well," Barhyte said about initial sales. "People have been receptive and happy to bring it in, so we picked up limited Safeways and Albertsons. We're in New Seasons. We're going into Whole Foods."
And, despite the pandemic, it appears it's not a terrible time to bring a new alcoholic beverage to market.
According to USA Today, a June Nielsen report shows that alcohol consumption at home has increased by almost 27% since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Suzie's Organics produces all its specialty condiments in Pendleton with the assistance of 43 employees, but its administrative offices are down the hall from Tualatin City Offices on Martinazzi Avenue in Tualatin.
"It's been a real fun project," said Barhyte of the seltzer's launch. "We're having a lot of fun on the marketing side."
That includes an advertising campaign that displays cans of Suzie's Organic Hard Seltzer spilling into scenes of nature such as Willamette Falls or the Oregon Coast.
Barhyte said what makes the seltzer organic is by fermenting organic sugar into alcohol. The new beverages have been certified by Oregon Tilth, a Corvallis-based non-profit organization that advocates for organic food and farming as well.
The original history behind Suzie's Organics dates back two centuries ago to one of Chris Barhyte's relatives, Jacobus Barhyte, who brought his mustard recipe from Germany.
After fighting in the Revolutionary War, Jacobus Barhyte settled down in Saratoga Springs, New York, and opened a tavern. It was there that he made a sweet and sour mustard that is said to have been favored by such luminaries as President John Quincy Adams and Edgar Allen Poe, according to the company's history.
Chris Barhyte purchased a portion of Barhyte Specialty Foods in 1995 from his parents, who were making Haus Barhyte Mustards and Willamette Valley Mustards at the time. When the company started making other items, such as salad dressings and marinades, its name threw some customers off. Before long, the company changed its name to Barhyte Specialty Foods, and today it's Suzie's Organics. (Suzie is Chris Barhyte's mother's name.)
In the future, Barhyte said plans are to add new seltzer flavors as well as launch an organic French fry sauce.
Meanwhile, in an effort to help out the environment, Suzie's Organics will plant a tree for every 12-pack of hard seltzer sold, Barhyte said.
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