Brent Albertson Knows Life’s Too Short for Bad Drinks

Zing Zang CEO Brent Albertson brings experience, innovation, and a palpable sense of joy to the mixer giant

For the past twenty years, if you’ve had a Bloody Mary, chances are that Zing Zang made the mixer. The beverage giant launched its Bloody Mary Mix in 1996 to help bars and restaurants make quick, easy cocktails, and the rest is history.

In 2018, two decades after establishing itself in the cocktail space, Zing Zang went through a pair of significant changes: the launch of their All Naturals line, and the promotion of Brent Albertson from chief revenue officer and president to CEO.

A natural salesman at heart, Albertson has felt the pull of business since he was seven years old, selling newspapers in front of the hospital where his mother worked as a nurse. “If I sold enough papers, I would get prizes. So, from an early age, I was out selling,” he explains.

Albertson has spent more than thirty years in the drinks space. Before joining Zing Zang as general manager of its Midwest division and senior vice president, Albertson spent twenty-nine years with spirits giant Diageo. When he first arrived at Zing Zang, his sales and general manager background at Diageo came in handy.

“Zing Zang needed a lot of attention,” Albertson says—especially with market distribution and finding strong people with industry knowledge and sales experience for their staff. “I was able to bring a lot of that quickly and grow the company’s value.”

“It’s hard to make mixers sexy.”

Part of that innovation was the launch of Zing Zang’s natural line, which spans all of their major mixes—margaritas, piña coladas, sweet & sour—with high-quality ingredients, no artificial flavors, and no high fructose corn syrup.

“Zing Zang All Naturals are the first national brand of All Naturals available,” he explains. The company completed a partial rollout in 2019 with greater expansion to come in 2020.

They’re also appealing to more than just distributors and bartenders; in addition to the large plastic bottles of mixers they’ve been selling since their inception, the All Naturals line has also launched in single-serve slim cans in retailers like Walmart and others across the US.

That’s not the only way Zing Zang has been improving: the company has seen tremendous growth over the past few years, projected to nearly double their EBITDA and revenue margins over the next three years due to improvements in supply chains, route-to-market pipelines, and more.

These achievements weren’t easy to come by. “It’s hard to make mixers sexy,” Albertson admits, and he had to work diligently to get their distribution network to see the opportunity inherent in their All Naturals line.

Once he did, however, the rest of the pieces fell into place, and the product line has expanded from five hundred thousand cases sold in 2010 to a projected two million cases in 2020.

When speaking to Albertson, his love and connection to the Zing Zang brand is palpable, something he credits for his success. “As an executive, you have to make sure that the personal connections are there, both with the brand and the people in the brand,” he explains.

“I think it’s important to build and keep industry relationships. That sort of respect and trust only comes from being in the trenches with your people.”

He likens his leadership style to that of a player and their coach, taking a very hands-on role in the development of his team and communicating with customers. “I think it’s important to build and keep industry relationships,” Albertson says. “That sort of respect and trust only comes from being in the trenches with your people.”

Much of Zing Zang’s growth and success is due to Albertson’s innate understanding of consumers in the beverage space. “The consistency of drinks across this country is horrible,” Albertson explains. That isn’t very palatable for a growing audience of millennial customers with veryspecific tastes.

“They want it all,” he explains. “Clean labels, all-natural liquids, and bold, mixologist-quality drinks.” Consequently, much of Zing Zang’s brand is tied to creating a consumer-friendly experience, crafting easy-to-use mixers that still allow room for experimentation and engagement from their audience.

While it’s still early days for Albertson in his new role as CEO, he continues to benefit from the expertise and advice of his predecessor Doug Corbett, who remains at Zing Zang as chairman of the board. “He and I have worked together for three years on the strategy and implementation of our All Naturals line,” Albertson explains, “so we have a seamless transition.”

Between this new transition to CEO, and the fledgling success of their All Naturals line, Zing Zang’s prospects appear bright. Albertson certainly has high ambitions for his tenure.

“I want to continue to expand this brand into more of a household name,” he says. “I think we’re all much more motivated about our possibilities, and we’ve accomplished a great deal so far.” In 2020, he plans to make Zing Zang the number-one drink mix company in the industry.

Even as the CEO for an industry-leading company, the most important thing for Albertson is to have fun every day and celebrate his team’s successes as they come. “I’ve always been motivated to achieve and do so in an environment where I can be with people I like and respect.”

After all, Zing Zang’s brand is centered around fun, joy, and crafting memorable experiences with friends. Or, as Albertson puts it, “life’s too short for
bad drinks.”