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Interview: Latitude Beverage President Kevin Mehra

February 9, 2016

Founded in 2007, Boston-based Latitude Beverage Co. has seen rapid growth for its flagship negoçiant wine brand 90+ Cellars, which has more than doubled to 280,000 cases over the past three years, according to Impact Databank. Sourcing wine from surplus supplies of wineries with histories of 90+ ratings, the brand’s lineup features 35 red, white, rosé and sparkling wines in total, retailing from $9-$25 and up. SND assistant editor Kimberly Carmichael recently spoke with Latitude co-founder and president Kevin Mehra to see where the company is headed in 2016.

SND: How did Latitude’s brands perform in 2015, and what kind of progress are you expecting this year?

Mehra: Last year was strong, and December was the biggest month in our history. For the year, we grew 22% to about 340,000 cases as a company. 90+ Cellars did nearly 300,000 cases, while our recently launched Mija Sangria ($10.99 a 750 ml.) did about 20,000 cases following its May debut. Other smaller brands make up the rest. 90+ Cellars is on track to grow by 16%-17% this year.

SND: What price points do you target?

Mehra: Our portfolio is divided into three segments. First is our varietal Black and Orange series—mainly imports in the $9-$12 price point—which comprises about 60% of our business. Those wines are the most accessible and get wider distribution in the grocery store channel, which is accounting for an increasingly higher share of our business. Our limited edition White Label wines generally retail for $15-$20. Those are primarily domestic labels like Russian River Pinots or Napa Cabernets, some high-end Italian wines too, and they account for 20%-25% of our total, and are growing. We also have the Collector’s Series at $25-and-above, which accounts for 10%-15% of the business, and that includes Cuvées, Barolos, Barbarescos and high-end Rutherford Cabernets. Under Latitude Beverage, we have some offshoot labels with the same basic strategy as 90+ Cellars. Last year we launched a new brand, Earthshaker ($15-$25), designed for more adventurous consumers with varietals like Syrah and Cabernet Franc.

SND: What’s your strategy on adding new wines?

Mehra: We’re not a company that plans out our composition of imports versus domestics. We’re very opportunistic buyers who go where the values are. Imports are approximately 60%-65% of our business, but this year they might make up an even higher percentage because of the bad harvest and drought in California in 2015.

SND: What’s the inspiration behind launching Mija Sangria?

Mehra: We looked at the category and thought it was underserved. Sangria is growing by 15% a year. People are becoming more interested in sweet wines, but are moving away from Moscato and Riesling. Consumers are increasingly interested in all-natural products, and Mija is 100% unfiltered with no preservatives. It’s made with premium dry red wine, pomegranate and açai, and has fruit and pulp at the bottom of the bottle that consumers can see.

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