Christmas five years ago. Juha-Matti and Anette Raunio had stumbled across a recipe that combined Finnish mulled wine glögi and sparkling wine, and the couple decided to spice up their evening shindig with friends by raising this different kind of toast.
“Everyone thought it was delicious,” Juha-Matti Raunio says. “It had the best of both: the celebratory feeling of sparkling wine and the Christmassy and sweet taste of glögi.”
Soon after Christmas, he shared the thought with co-founder Theodor Arhio, who immediately got excited. They started searching on Google for similar, ready-made drinks. It turned out that none were available – anywhere. Could there be an empty spot on the shelves, perhaps?
Through personal connections, Raunio got hold of Juha Berglund, a renowned Finnish wine connoisseur, and presented the idea to him. Berglund’s initial reaction was blunt.
“As someone who focusses on organic, ‘real’ wines, he thought it sounded horrible,” Raunio tells laughingly. “But he did recognise the commercial potential and told me I should talk to other wine experts, Tomi Salonen and Antti Rinta-Huumo.”
Salonen and Rinta-Huumo were instantly on board. Many a recipe were tested, and number 16 was finally what the team had been looking for.
Now, the product is mass produced in Spain – so again, the best of both worlds.
“Glöet blends Finnish design and innovation with Spanish tradition and skills in wine making,” Raunio explains.
Glöet White hits new seasons
This year will be the third Christmas running that Glöet is available for Finnish consumers. In the first year, 30 000 bottles were produced.
“Various experts told us that if we sell 10 000 bottles, that already would be a great start and that 30 000 bottles is a lot,” Raunio says. “Well, our best daily sales was 9 500 bottles, so the first batch was sold out pretty quickly.”
Since then, the production has multiplied and Glöet has been taken to Estonia, Sweden, Norway and Luxembourg. This year, more and more markets are being tapped into, particularly German-speaking countries with their Glühwein enthusiasts.
This spring, Glöet added Glöet White, a mix of cava and sangria, to its selection. Unlike the wintery version, its lighter coloured sibling is a perfect refreshment for all kinds of occasions, a bit like white wine.
Glöet White is also easier to introduce to international markets, as the ingredients are much more familiar abroad than the slightly weird-sounding Finnish glögi.
“It was also much easier to develop – the end product is recipe number nine,” Raunio notes. “When we started with Glöet, our Spanish partners weren’t sure what glögi was to begin with, but cava and sangria are right up their alley.”
Next up: let’s go pink
The range of colours hasn’t been exhausted yet. Currently Glöet is in the process of finalising the third bottle in the family, which will be known as Glöet Pink.
Raunio won’t reveal the ingredients to the general public yet, but assures that the idea is the same as with the previous products: combining two familiar flavours in a new, surprising manner. When Glöet White is a year-round beverage, the Pink one is most likely to become a popular choice in the summer time.
White and Pinks are targeted a little further south than their predecessor.
“Italy, Spain, Portugal and France are all potential markets,” Raunio tells. “At the moment, a lot depends on where we can find importers and partners with the right connections.”
The business model lies in partnerships; aside from the owners, who run the company alongside with their day jobs, Glöet has no employees. All market openings are due to the people who have, one way or another, found the brand and believe in it.
The co-founder is confident that in 2018 Glöet will see its sales figures abroad outnumber those of within the borders of Finland. Raunio has concrete evidence that there are plenty of people who do have faith in the future of low-alcohol mixed drinks.
“This Christmas, a copy of our first Glöet will enter the market,” he says with a grin on his face. “You know you’ve done something right if you create something with zero prior experience in the field, and then a big business follows in your footsteps!”