Hella Cocktail Co. & Century Label

Jomaree Pinkard, co-founder of the Hella Cocktail Co., displays one of the company's new products at the Winter Fancy Food Show.

“Some guys like to get together on the weekends and watch football. We liked to cook.”

That’s how Tobin Ludwig, co-founder of the Hella Cocktail Co., explains how he, along with friends Eddie Simeon and Jomaree Pinkard, found their way into the business of bitters. For the uninitiated, bitters is an often-overlooked ingredient mainly used as a way to enhance the flavor of various cocktails. It can also be used in a number of food recipes.

During those weekends spent in the kitchen, Tobin, Eddie and Jomaree began making their own bitters—and quickly realized they were pretty good at it. Through a highly successful Kickstarter campaign, the three were able to fund a large batch of their product, which they took to various bars, restaurants and specialty shops around Brooklyn.

“Places started purchasing them on the spot” Tobin beams.

In 2011, Hella Cocktail Co. was born. Along with a quality product, the company focused their marketing efforts on a premise of accessibility and transparency. While other bitters companies were selling to high-end bars, restaurants and chefs, the guys at Hella saw a more far-reaching market: all those folks at home who dabble in the culinary arts or mix the occasional cocktail.

Taking that vision a step further, the team sought to increase the accessibility of not only their product, but also the tools to create their product.

“Making bitters is easy” says Tobin, “anyone can do it and we wanted to give people the ability to do so”. In that vein, Hella began selling kits that allowed the user to make their own bitters. This offering has been tremendously successful for the company.

A Hella Solution

Hella Cocktail Co. has continued to grow ever since. As with any new venture, though, new challenges followed—including finding a labeling solution for all of those bottles of bitters.

“As soon as we commercialized in 2012, we underwent a rebranding and needed labels”, Tobin recalls.

At the Fancy Food show that year, Tobin discovered Century Label. Not long after, he had his first conversation with Susan Ramos, Key Account Manager. “It was a very positive conversation” says Tobin, “I really got a sense of a desire to problem solve and satisfy our needs”.

That conversation would become the impetus for a long lasting and mutually beneficial relationship that, according to Tobin, has flourished over the years.

“We've got a really good workflow with Century” he says, adding “the product is great and the pricing is competitive."

That workflow came in handy for the Hella Cocktail Co. in January 2016. Already a presence back east, and riding a wave of exposure as the focus of a national ad campaign for American Express, the Hella team was preparing to make an impact on the West Coast. The company planned to use the Winter Fancy Food show in San Francisco as its launch pad for their new line of cocktail mixers; however, in preparing for the show, the team found themselves in a tight situation.

“We had a last-minute label redesign” recounts Tobin, “and proofs needed to be in California the day before the show so they could be cut and applied.”

A daunting task, for sure. But when the team reached out to the Ohio-based Century Label, even with the short time frame and cross-country delivery, Century was able to fill the order and have it delivered on time.

“We were able to demo the product with no problem” says Tobin. With a new look to go along with a quality product, the Hella Cocktail Co. was able to make the West Coast splash that they had anticipated. The new mixers—original, hibiscus and cola flavored—were a hit.

As they continue to grow, Hella plans to expand their offerings and increase the scope of their business. Acknowledging that the dynamic nature of the culinary world can be challenging, Tobin admits "we reach out last minute with hard asks and deadlines.”

Additionally, he adds, “it's good knowing Century has the team, infrastructure and know-how to meet demands."