Food Entrepreneur SAN FRANCISCO — It began as an off-the-cuff comment from one chief executive officer to another at a natural products trade show.

“Hey, we should make an olive oil martini and sell it to cruise lines,” Andrew Benin, of olive oil brand Graza, jokingly suggested to Paul Voge, of herbal sparkling water brand Aura Bora.

“And then the two of us went from joking about it to taking it seriously to making samples of it to loving what we made, and fast forward a year and a half later, here it is,” Mr. Voge told Food Business News. “It started as a friendship, and it has culminated in a delicious product.”

The co-branded, zero-proof beverage, available for sale on Aura Bora’s website, combines Graza’s Extra Virgin Picual Olive Oil with yuzu extract, juniper oil, vermouth flavor and lightly sparkling water.

“It drinks like something that’s designed for 6 p.m.,” Mr. Voge said.

The product marks several firsts for Aura Bora, which has gained fame in recent years from a “Shark Tank” appearance and its Thanksgiving-inspired green bean casserole seltzer that captured many headlines and attention on social media last fall. It is its first collaboration with another brand and its first extension outside of the sparkling water segment.

“What we’re testing is the product, the partnership, of course, with a brand we really love, kind of testing our own consumers’ interest in things that are not sparkling water, and it’s a new price point for us,” Mr. Voge said. “I’d say this is totally test and learn. If it’s an absolutely smash success, then, yes, we’ll think about pushing it to retail next year.”

Aura Bora offers an assortment of sparkling waters flavored with herbs, fruits and flowers that are sold in 7,500 retail stores across the country. Its core lineup includes lemongrass coconut, strawberry basil, peppermint watermelon, lavender cucumber, cactus rose and grapefruit elderflower.

The brand also markets a selection of seasonal and limited-edition cans online as part of its flavor-of-the-month subscription program, featuring such combinations as guava eucalyptus, hibiscus passionfruit, tangerine blossom, mango chili and lime cardamom.  

“Lime cardamom was our most subscribed flavor of the month,” Mr. Voge said. “We’ve kept it on the website permanently, and now you can find it in probably 500 stores and pushing into more next year.”

The current monthly flavor is peach honeysuckle, inspired in part by the results of a customer survey conducted earlier this year.

“I’m actually allergic to peach … but an overwhelming percentage of our customers were interested in something peach-based,” Mr. Voge said. “So, we said, ‘Let’s have our own Aura Bora spin on peach.’ Finding a peach that didn’t taste like peach ring ended up being very difficult. We eventually found a good peach supplier that we felt that is true to the taste of a white peach.”

Mr. Voge, who founded and operates the business with his wife, Madeleine, said the team also draws flavor inspiration from other product categories.

“When we first started the business, we launched a few flavors that were distinctly salad-like,” he said. “Our peppermint watermelon — I’ve had a peppermint watermelon salad before at a restaurant…. I remember having a honey lavender ice cream and thinking, wow, I’ve never consumed lavender like this.”

Graza, which debuted early last year, markets single-origin oils that are extracted from Picual olives harvested in Spain and packaged in squeeze bottles. The varietal is superior to others, with a higher smoke point, longer shelf life and more stability while cooking, according to the company. The beverage contains Graza’s “Drizzle” oil, processed from olives that are picked early and have a bolder flavor.

“I always think of James Bond when I think of a martini, but everyone has a way they like a martini to taste,” Mr. Voge said. “I haven’t seen that many non-alc martinis. That was another fun part of the project.

“Can we make this where it still has a lot of the flavor notes of a traditional martini but feels different and, of course, actually has olive oil in it? Hopefully consumers respond to that well.” 

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