I am Don Vultaggio, Founder & Chairman of AriZona Beverage Company. AMA
Hello! Thanks for having me. I am Don Vultaggio, Founder & Chairman of AriZona Beverage Company. I look forward to hearing from you all, today.
Here is a little bit about how I ended up here:
I broke into the beverage industry in the early 70's as a local beer distributor. I went on to build a beer business, Hornell Brewing Co. We were very successful but I wanted to offer something to a wider audience...
In 1992 I had the idea to start selling iced teas bigger and better than anyone out there… literally! We packaged our tea in a never-done-before Big Can and started with AriZona Lemon and Raspberry Iced Tea. We then went on to create Green Tea and Arnold Palmer, among many other AriZona products you know and love. It was very exciting to see the fans love and support, in such a big way.
In 1998, we introduced the the 99-cent suggested price point to the packaging label. We still pre price them 99¢ to this day. My goal was to bring quality and quantity to the masses for an affordable price and the rest is history!
We produced our first AriZona Tea on May 5th in 1992 and today we are celebrating our 28th anniversary! Thanks to our employees, loyal fans, and retailers we now sell AriZona worldwide in over 50 countries.
Despite our global growth, we remain family-owned and operated and plan to keep it that way. My son Spencer is helping me write these responses. So, don't be shy, ask me (us) anything about our history, favorite AriZona beverages, about building a business or more.
That came about when my son Spencer had a coloring book, and that was the Japanese inspired look we were going for when we introduced it in 94. My wife did the original art that we used on the original can.
Have you ever taken a bath in Arizona Iced Tea?
How do you keep the prices consistent throughout the years?
We work real hard at it. We give the value back to the consumers. Over the years we modernized our facilities to produce faster. When we started in ‘92 we ran the can at 150 per minute in one facility. Today we run over 45 facilities, and some run at 1500 cans per minute.
I read they spend $0 on advertising, idk how true that is but maybe he could confirm
That is true. We don't do traditional marketing. We use our beautiful designs to market our products. We believe consumers make the decision to buy our products with their eyes.
Why is the "Z" capitalized in the name of the drink?
When we originally came up with the design for AriZona my wife Ilene came up with the big Z to make it look cute.
i went to summer camp with your son a million years ago, and i remember when the canteen switched to all arizona drinks. ah the 90s. my question is, how is your son?
I’m good, thanks for asking - Spencer
How did you partner with Arnold Palmer for the drink? Was he a fan prior?
It was brought to us by our flavor house who had the connection to the Arnold Palmer organization. We introduced that product over 20 years ago and it is one of our best sellers. No, but he was a fan of iced tea and lemonade and when we introduced it was a big fan of it.
Thanks to the reddit community and everyone who joined me during today’s AMA. It was fun to respond to so many of the inquisitive and insightful questions posted.
I hope I was able to answer them, and I appreciate the time you took out of your day to be here.
Even during these unprecedented times, one thing you can count on for sure, is that AriZona will continue doing what we’ve been doing best for the last 28 years.
This has been a great experience. I hope you all enjoyed learning more about AriZona Beverages! Stay safe, be well and thanks for the business! -- Don
Why do I feel more powerful after drinking your iced tea and what should I do with the extra power?
Work hard!! You never know you may become a great success.
Given the current trend of beer companies coming out with alcoholic seltzers to compete with White Claw and the like, would you ever consider releasing a line of 'hard' teas?
We’re doing Hard Green Tea in Canada. The product tastes great and the can looks great and we are thinking of introducing it in America. We have plans to formulate a hard seltzer with some of our great flavors in the US.
What happened with the pina colada flavors? Used to buy them by the case lol.
We had some separation of the coconut cream but we think we have overcome the issue and we hope to reintroduce it this summer.
I love all of your can designs. was that the same aesthetic you had in mind from the beginning?
Yeah we came up with the southwest motif when we came up with the name AriZona and carried that over the years.
What ever happened to shaq Soda? And would you ever be able to bring it back even if it has a different name? That stuff was delicious!
Shaq was a fabulous spokesperson and was lots of fun working with him. The cans were terrific looking and a great tasting drink. We had a great initial response but then sales slacked off and we dropped it. They were great flavors. Inspiration for cream soda was I loved it as a kid growing up in Brooklyn NY. As or right now we have no plans on reintroducing cream soda.
I remember hearing a while back that AriZona Tea was messing around with the idea of CBD products and haven’t really heard any news of any products like that since. Is AriZona going to come out with CBD products?
We are exploring the opportunity and don't know where that trend is going. We are always open to new ideas.
Have you ever been approached to be acquired by larger brands (Coke, PepsiCo) why did you choose not to sell?
We've been approached many times by large companies to be bought out. On one occasion a president of a company came to tell me they wanted to buy me out and I said I'm not for sale. He said “well then I’ll just have to rip your heart out” and I said “you better bring some of your friends because I’m going to put up a fight” and that was over a decade ago.
Hi Don, thanks for doing this AMA.
Important question, how do I stop drinking AriZona Green Tea once I'm hooked? I don't recall the last time I bought individual cans, instead of lugging cases out it from my local Costco.
We did that on purpose. We made it taste great and look great and price it right.
What’s your personal favorite AriZona flavor?
I drink Arnold Palmer Zero everyday with lunch.
What motivated your team to print the price on the label? And have you ever gotten retailer / distributor pushback or thought about removing it?
Think you are one of the only products to do that and it goes a long way to enforcing your MSRP plus getting a lot of buyer attention. Super interesting decision and surprisingly not one many have copied.
We came up with the idea of pre-pricing the can in 1998. At the time we were selling glass bottles with beautiful shrink labels on them and the big can sales declined so the idea was to offer the big can at an attractive price (99c). We think about newspapers and potato chips that have prices on them but in the beverage industry people have not taken that approach.
👋🏼 Thanks for doing this. I run a small craft farm-to-can soda company.
Large beverage brands are notoriously failing in their sustainability initiatives. From high energy costs to waste (like single-use plastics for example) to extracting valuable water resources from at-risk communities, to name a few.
So, as a large beverage brand, what is AriZona doing to operate sustainably?
We’re in the process of completing a facility in NJ and it’s highly automated with solar panels and water treatment facilities attached. We have rail siding too so we can ship by rail to avoid over the road trucks. We’re manufacturing bottles in the facility so we avoid extra trucking to the facility. The facility produces on multiple lines aluminum cans which are highly recyclable. We instituted a practice of delivering products at night to avoid congestion during the day. We lightweighted our containers with new technologies to use less aluminum and plastic.
Most stores don’t carry the whole lineup of AriZona products, any better way to find or get the drinks we can’t find?
Keep searching and we’ll keep working hard to have more stores handle our drinks.
Is there any way to get a pair of AriZona Adidas shoes yet? I missed out on the occasion :(
Sorry you didn't have a chance to get a pair but stay tuned .
Hi Don. I’d just like to let you know I’ve been collecting your many different flavours of AriZona for the past 10 years. I have amassed 65+ unique ‘Zona flavours so far, a little tougher feat when living in Canada.
I have an Arnold Palmer umbrella tattooed on my ankle! My favourite summer drink! AZ dedication.
I’ve shot lots of photos using your awesome branded merchandise and products, and AriZona has used them to promote the products online via Twitter, Instagram, Facebook etc.
I’ve always found that to be such a great way to advertise. Put the product in the hands of customers and let them BE the ad by word of mouth, and via online posts that don’t always have to be directly from the company itself. AriZona has always been known to not show commercials! And yet they’re one of the number one to-go tea/juice brands in the world...
MY QUESTION IS: what exactly goes into choosing which flavours appear in which countries? Mostly just demand? Cultural preference for certain flavours? Some countries receive unique flavours like CARROT COWBOY COCKTAIL or PINA COLADA and others only get the standard ‘Zona staples such as green tea/lemon tea/raspberry tea/AP.
Well we put products in the market place and we see what sticks. For instance in Europe our number one flavor is Pomegranate and in Mexico our number one flavor is Watermelon, in America its Green Tea. By country sometimes the flavors vary based on consumers preferences.
Will you ever expand operation to the UK? Any reason why this hasn’t happened yet? The shops that do sell charge outrageous prices... upwards of £3.20 ( $3.98 )
HUGE HUGE FAN FROM THE OTHER SIDE OF THE POND 😊
We have multiple manufacturing facilities in Europe and are expanding in all parts of Europe. Pricing in Europe is difficult to manage due to the retailers and the belief that they can charge more for our product. Our bottles and cans look so pretty…. We try to give consumers an ongoing value.
Have you ever been in a store that sells the tea for above the price marked on the can, complained, and then gotten it for the price on the can? What are your thoughts on stores marking up from the can price?
I have not but I was in Mexico for vacation and I saw them scratch the price off the can. It is a suggested retail and most retailers follow the suggestion.
How did you have the idea to put pear juice in the Arnold Palmer? I love your zero Arnold Palmer, so thank you! I have diabetes.
Because pear juice gives you a great taste and lingers on your taste buds. We use pear juice often because it’s very satisfying to the taste buds. It rounds off flavor nicely.
I remember years ago ya'll had a chocolate soda, did it not do well enough to be a permanent offering?
The chocolate soda comes from my roots in Brooklyn. In Brooklyn we call it an egg cream but we experienced difficulties in producing the product because of the setting of the chocolate syrup
How long did it take for your company to become profitable/successful/mainstream?
The first case of AriZona we made a profit on it and last one we shipped last night we made a profit on that too. We launched in NY and it is a high profile market and both wholesalers and retailers ask for it and became a national success pretty rapidly.
Thank you for your creation! Are there any other flavors you have considered making but didn’t find any success during the testing phases?
We don’t do testing. We introduce products to NY and FL and see if the consumers like it then we roll it out nationally.
No joking, is an honor to speak with the founder of the company that makes my favorite beverage, thank you for creating it.
I would like to ask, Are you aware (as a company) of the influence that you had (and have) on the creation of the aesthetics of the Vaporwave? Which is a music subgenre.
I know a little bit of it from what my sons show me on social media. But other than that I don’t use a computer or carry a cellphone.
Hello Don! Thanks for sharing your story :) How would one be able to pitch you or your sons a marketing idea? The idea consists of a few comedic vignettes on how you kept your price at 99 cents for over 20 years.
DM us on Instagram @drinkarizona
Any chance red apple green tea will make a come back?
We are still producing that flavor but in limited quantities. It is a fabulous tasting product and we hope to introduce it to additional markets.
Thanks for doing this! AriZona Fruit Punch for 99c is the best gas station grab ever.
What is your preferred beer nowadays? Do you have a brand or style you go to?
Our new beer from Spain, Velero. I don’t really have a favorite beer.
Hi Don and Spencer! I had the pleasure of meeting you guys a few years ago in High School. It was a radical experience and I still tell that story to this day.
Do you plan to do more pop-up shops in the future?
We will as soon as the COVID thing settles out.
On the business side of things what are the most difficult challenges to overcome for beverage entrepreneurs? Any tips/resources for those of us that like you want to make a dent in the space.
Well to compete with Coca Cola and Pepsi is a challenge. Because oftentimes they buy up the venues and prohibit other companies from selling. So when we started we went to the mom and pop shops in NYC and when you can create major traction with the product oftentimes the large retailers pick you up.
They sell your guys’ nachos where I work, which I had never heard of until recently. Which makes me curious; are there any products other than tea you wanted to try making, but things just didn’t work out?
Well I'll tell you about the things that worked out. We introduced AriZona fruit snacks that turned out to be a big hit.
For retailers that dont sell your products at 99 cents, do you see any of that revenue?
We only make it on the wholesale price.
big fan of most of your teas but when i was over seas i came in contact with Arizona Blueberry White Tea! it was fantastic and i drank it as often as i could but when i returned back to the states it was no where to be found. So my question is was that a limited run or is there some method for me to grab some now that im back state side? Thanks!
We sell it here but it happens to be one of our better sellers in Europe. We have it in 20 oz bottles as well as gallon jugs.
You mentioned you sell in over 50 countries, what’s your best market in sales after North America?
What was the biggest hardship your company has had to endure?
I had a partner I started the business with in the early 70s and then he decided he wanted to sell the company but I did not want to sell. We had a 10 year legal battle about it. I ended up buying him out.
As a fellow lover of Big Cans, what inspired your love of Big Cans, and what advice would you offer other lovers of Big Cans in the neverending pursuit of Big Cans?
When I was a truck driver in the early 70s I delivered Schlitz malt liquor in a big can and they were one of the few beer companies to use the big can to market their product.
What are your opinions on peace tea?
Peace Tea is a cheap knock off. On the financial side we fight each day to keep the costs down. We don’t want to disappoint consumers by raising the price.
Don!!! What’re some of your favorite brands? Brands that inspired you in the beginning? LONG ISLAND RULES!!!
Snapple inspired me because Snapple started in NY and that’s what inspired me to get into the tea business when I was a beer distributor in NY. It was a day in Feb in 1991 when I was in a retail establishment in NYC and a Snapple truck pulled up delivering tea in the wintertime. Back in those days I didn’t think iced tea sold in the winter.
How has your business been handling the Covid epidemic?
We have a skeleton crew in our office and we set our employees up to work from home before the order came in to do so. We tried to get ahead of the curve. We're one of the few companies that have not had any furloughs or lay offs.
Hi Don! I’ve been drinking your green tea for over a decade now! Can you give us a random fun fact about your company?
All of the flavors are created at our lunch table. We invite employees in that work in different departments to try and we go through many different samples before we come to the final one.
What states have the most sales of your products?
The large states - NY, Florida, Texas, California
Pretty much every company I can think of has some major scandle, but when I think of the AriZona brand nothing comes to mind. How has your company avoided the unethical practices of companies like Nestle or Coke while still being a household name and turning a profit all these years?
When I first came up with the idea of AriZona I went to my banker and I pitched him the idea and he quickly told me it was a bad idea. So I was able to introduce the product without financing and all these years later I have not relied on bank financing to support the business.
Most of our products are produced in factories who we co-pack with. The factories are owned by stand alone companies that produce our product for us and their business is producing product for companies like us.
I love your scarf. Can we purchase this fashion somewhere?
Online we make them available. I’d just come back from my factory in Jersey when the picture was taken.
I've kept a can of AriZona Iced Tea that has no 99c label on it. Is this a rare enough occurrence for me to hold onto it? (It's in the office, so I don't have a pic readily available. I just know it's a cross-promotional can with a film release of some sort.)
It’s very rare. We've sold over a billion last year with 99 cents on it and very few without 99 cents.
Hi Don, and thanks for doing this AMA! I just want you to know that your AriZona Green Tea got me through my deployment in Afghanistan. We lived out in the sticks, so I would buy a case or 2 every time we'd travel to one of the bigger bases.
My question is what has been the most rewarding part of your career, creating such a unanimously loved beverage?
Well firstly thank you for your service to the country. Making a product made in America by Americans for American consumers and having fun doing it has been great.
Will you ever sell Coffee?
Other than Arnold Palmer and Shaq(whose soda I miss) what other athelete/person would you want to work with? Has anyone ever approached you?
We work with Jack Nicklaus and we made Joltin Joe Sparkling Espresso. We’re always open to opportunity and on a regular basis we meet celebrities and sports stars that are interested in doing business with us because of the success of Arnold Palmer.
what made you choose the flavor "ginseng and honey"? its bitter but sweet,- just perfect for me.
I was on a flight to Hong Kong and my wife Ilene ordered a green tea from the stewardess. My wife said it's good for you, try it and I did. It was awful. But on my way there and the whole trip I was thinking about it. If I could make it taste good, I think it could be a great success, so I added honey which my mother gave me when I had a cold. The honey smooths off the finish. I added ginseng as well.
What other name choices did you have for the drink before coming to the conclusion of Arizona?
Where are you from? What part of the US? How long has your family been in America?
I’m from Brooklyn NY. My family has been here since the late 1800’s. They migrated from Sicily.
How come you guys can always make it so much better than any other company and anything I’ve tried to make?
Because we put good ingredients in and we don’t compromise on quality. You can't make it taste good without good ingredients.
Did you have any personal business in adding a skate team? Being a skateboarder, I cannot tell you how many of these cans I have had in my lifetime...it is in my blood.
We have a skateboarding team and I come see them when they come into the office, they’re cool guys.
I absolutely love your products sir. I have been drinking them since I was a child, I even convinced my corner store deli to carry the rarely seen(at least in my area in Ny) cranberry flavor. I have so much respect and loyalty because of your maintained price point and maintained quality, I wonder what a man like you did before you started your drinking company,And how you felt taking the risk(perhaps financially at the time)to go global?
My admiration and respect, thank you.
I was a truck driver
What are some Arizona Flavors that never saw the light of day?
Drink your salad green tea.
Where's the RX? It's my go to and the deli just said they aren't receiving it anymore? Please don't let it be over.
It’s not over. Tell that deli owner to call the company, we have the product. In Florida it’s one of our top flavors.
Any thoughts on offering sugar-free or significantly less sugar versions of your products? To be clear, I'm not talking about A product, but a line of your excellent flavors without the (to me, huge) volume of sugar.
We do that already. We have products with low sugar and no sugar. We have a new product line called Santa Fe sweetened only with fruit juice and in Europe we have a line of less than 5g of sugar per 100ml.
What’s the story behind the cherry blossom design on the green tea cans?
Edit: Added “green tea” to the question.
View HistoryShare Link