The HVADC Cultivator
Incubator Without Walls Client Spotlight - Marianne Courville, The Hudson Standard
For Marianne Courville, the idea for the Hudson Standard came out of conversations about handcrafted bitters that were, at the time, trending on the west coast. In 2012 her exploration into the world of bitters making began in the Hudson Valley where excitement about shrubs was just beginning. Shrubs, for those not familiar, are syrups made from fruit, vinegar and sweetener. They are excellent additions to cocktails while being adept enough to stand alone when added to seltzer, creating a non-alcoholic "adult soda.” The early English version emanated from medicinal cordials of the 15th century and the American version has its origins in 17th century England, where vinegar was used as an alternative to citrus in the preservation of berries and fruit. As example, Hudson Standard’s unique flavor offerings now include Concord Grape Shrub, Peach Lavender Shrub, Cassis Berry Shrub, Apple Coriander Maple Shrub and Strawberry Rhubarb Shrub.
In 2013 a friend recommended that Courville speak with Brian Zweig of Business Opportunities in Rensselaer who, in turn, suggested she contact Hudson Valley AgriBusiness Development Corporation (HVADC). Marianne’s end goal was to develop, with her husband and business partner, a line of cocktail bitters and shrubs from locally sourced ingredients. She was interested in developing a plan to market the products and evaluate the viability of the business concept as well as receiving counseling on better business management including accounting, record keeping and marketing/sales.
According to Courville, HVADC’s Incubator Without Walls (IWW) program was very helpful in understanding her business from various aspects. She especially thinks it’s an excellent tool for those just starting out. Business counseling in general, said Courville, is a worthwhile expense, especially if you haven’t done anything like what you are attempting to start, previously. She added that the IWW program is especially helpful because HVADC will not only let you tailor the type of assistance/counseling you are looking for to meet your specific needs and allow you to do it at the pace of your life/business, but they make it affordable for the smaller businesses that might not otherwise be able to afford that caliber of service. Services are customized, so if you only want help with a business plan then you get help with that, or if you want production input or help with tax planning then you get that.
Marianne and The Hudson Standard are committed to the region. Their ingredients, whenever possible, are sourced from the Hudson Valley. Recently, the demand for their product has increased to a point where they can no longer do production using their original method – in a 15 gallon kettle - and have turned to contract packing. Contract packing, also known as co-packing, has allowed them to be able to fill the larger projects without having to add expensive equipment or extra staff to their overhead. They utilize co-packing services to produce their four main flavors in order to be able to keep up with current demand. It also allows them to supplement, seasonally with small batch flavors that can only be found locally. Their biggest market would have to be wholesale to retailers, mostly specialty food shops. Direct sales and wholesale to restaurants are channels that are quickly increasing though.
Up next for The Hudson Standard is some product rebranding that is just being released at the end of September. Courville says that they hope it will better convey what their product is and definitely “take it up a notch” in terms of marketing approach. The new packaging is more elegant and contains more information for those not familiar with shrubs and bitters.
Hudson Standard also produces traditional style bitters, all using a base of New York State organic grain alcohol, with no preservatives or artificial flavorings, including Catskill Masala Bitters, Spruce Shoot Bitters, Ginger Bitters, Celery Bitters, and Love-Struck Bitters.
For more information about The Hudson Standard please visit https://thehudsonstandard.com/
For information about the HVADC Incubator Without Walls program please visit https://www.hvadc.org/iww