ORLANDO – Chris Byrd wouldn’t be caught useless littering, however he freely admits that any time he sees an empty can of Arnold Palmer Half & Half a smile instantly involves his face.
“There goes one other few cents for me,” he mentioned.
On Friday, Byrd, 72, celebrated the 20th anniversary of hanging a take care of AriZona Beverage, the No. 1 promoting iced tea maker, to market the Arnold Palmer model of half iced tea, half lemonade, which grew to become one of many fastest-growing drinks within the U.S. How massive, you ask?
“We’re promoting the equal of 1,000,000 cans a day,” Byrd mentioned.
Because the story goes, Palmer conceived the thought of blending these two refreshing drinks collectively sooner or later way back to his first spouse, Winnie.
“My spouse made a whole lot of iced tea for lunch, and I mentioned, ‘Hey, babe, I’ve acquired an concept. You make the iced tea and make an enormous pitcher, and we’ll simply put just a little lemonade in it and see how that works.’ We combined it up, and I acquired the answer about the place I wished it and I put the lemonade in it,” he recalled in an “ESPN 30 for 30” short, “I had it for lunch after engaged on the golf course. I believed, ‘Boy, that is nice, babe. I’m going to take it after I play golf. I’m going to take a thermos of iced tea and lemonade.’ ”
Years later, Byrd had ordered his share of Arnold Palmers and was sipping one throughout a rain delay at a golf outing in St. Louis when he broached the idea of promoting the drink to the boys that grew to become his enterprise companions – Charlie Beck and Mark Dowey – in what would develop into Revolutionary Flavors, Inc., and scratched out on the again of a paper serviette the marketing strategy that will develop into Arnold Palmer Tea.
“I had this imaginative and prescient that it had been a model for darn close to 20 years already,” Byrd mentioned. “Each bartender knew what an Arnold Palmer was, however he’d by no means made a penny off it. It was an concept whose time had come.”
Byrd had expertise within the meals and beverage business, beforehand working because the president of a chocolate division, creating ice cream flavors and promoting dairy merchandise. In the summertime, lots of his dairy shoppers transformed their fluid strains to tea and lemonade.
He made the coldest of chilly calls to IMG, who managed Palmer’s enterprise affairs and licensing offers, and was granted a gathering on the Monday after the 2001 Arnold Palmer Invitational. Byrd whipped up 10 copies of his marketing strategy at Kinkos and introduced three samples, together with one from his taste home (Allen Flavors in New Jersey).
The “Arnold Palmer” is a mix of lemonade and iced tea. What would a drink honoring you comprise and what would it not be named? pic.twitter.com/7R76t6XXct
— PGA TOUR LIVE (@PGATOURLIVE) March 5, 2020
Byrd lived down the street from Palmer’s Bay Hill Membership and Lodge, however had by no means met the legendary golfer earlier than. As he wrote in his self-published e book, “The Authentic Arnold Palmer Tea Story,” Byrd had been 12 years outdated when he watched Palmer play in a match at Firestone Nation Membership in Akron, Ohio, in 1962. After the spherical, Byrd’s mother, who waited tables there, took Palmer’s order and he gave her hug. “He did that as a result of her title was Birdie,” Byrd wrote.
It rained in Orlando on the day of Byrd’s presentation. He waited in a convention room till Palmer’s right-hand man, Alistair Johnston joined him. Byrd walked him by the primary few pages of the marketing strategy till Johnston interrupted, acquired up and left and returned with Palmer.
“Younger man, I perceive you might have one thing very fascinating for me,” Palmer mentioned.
Certainly, he did. Byrd poured his pattern and had Palmer blind taste-test his mix of iced tea and lemonade in opposition to the present choices already in the marketplace from Minute Maid and Paul Newman.
“He preferred ours one of the best, thank goodness,” Byrd recalled.
Then they acquired right down to brass tacks and Johnston did what he usually would do when somebody wished to companion along with his dwelling legend for a consumer. He requested for the world, largely in upfront cash.
“I mentioned, ‘It’s been the best presentation of my life. However I’m keen to stroll away as a result of I can’t put up that type of cash that you simply’re asking for. I’m simply not going to do it. So, why don’t you simply do the thought your self,” Byrd recalled.
Then he requested if anybody had any questions. Palmer had one.
“You’re giving up that simple?” Palmer mentioned.
Byrd repeated that he couldn’t afford to put in writing an enormous examine.
Palmer was empathetic to his plight. “Can’t you get inventive?” he questioned. Quite than present Byrd the door, he was a savvy sufficient businessman to comprehend that Byrd had the mandatory business connections to make this idea succeed and he was keen to chop him a deal so he might give it a strive.
Pondering rapidly on his toes, Byrd mentioned to show to the web page with the royalty mannequin for the subsequent 5 years. There may very well be some wiggle room, and he supplied to barter.
“I prefer it,” Palmer mentioned. “Let’s get this finished.”
They shook arms and two months later the contracts had been signed.
Byrd toured the nation with Palmer, taking him to fulfill everybody from presidents of supermarkets to prospects, the place he’d inform a number of tales and ship them dwelling with an autographed image of The King.
Whereas the enterprise initially launched with the purchase in of 10 dairies, Byrd and his enterprise companions quickly realized there was higher upside. Dowey, one among three founding companions of Revolutionary Flavors, advised Golfweek in a 2016 story that his firm quickly started receiving calls “from golfers’ wives saying their husbands had been seeing the drink at their golf equipment however couldn’t discover it wherever else.”
They focused Arizona on the advice of Allen Flavors, which additionally created lots of its best-selling merchandise. The eponymous Arnold Palmer beverage wasn’t precisely an in a single day success.
“Over the primary few years, I say, most corporations our dimension would have given up on it,” mentioned Don Vultaggio, Arizona’s chairman, in a 2013 ABC Information story. “As a result of, , if the numbers don’t attain what I’ll name a ‘significant quantity’ after six months, most massive corporations will say, ‘Eh, it’s not value it.’”
However Vultaggio gave the product an extended leash as a result of he preferred Palmer and believed “there was gold there, nevertheless it was deep down.”
By 2008, Arnold Palmer Iced Tea was doubling its gross sales, distributing bottles of virtually each dimension, from the most well-liked 20-ounce 99-cent model to the 64-ounce plastic container. It was reported that gross sales exceeded $100 million in 2010. Byrd mentioned it has continued to develop with retail gross sales of $300 million.
“We promote greater than all the opposite branded half-and-half drinks mixed,” Byrd mentioned. “Every time I used to see Arnold at Bay Hill, he’d cease me and ask, ‘Promote any tea at present, Chris?’ He’d smile and provides me a thumbs up.’ ”
Byrd sees loads of room for future progress. In July 2017, Miller-Coors signed a deal to distribute an alcoholic model, Arnold Palmer Spiked, with 5 p.c malt alcohol. In simply 5 years, it has grown right into a $50-million enterprise.
“It’s been 20 fantastic years and I hope we get 20 extra,” Byrd mentioned.
And so the royalties preserve pouring in, which was purpose sufficient for the mind belief behind this runaway success story and their households to collect after the second spherical of the Arnold Palmer Invitational on Friday night at Chatham’s Place Restaurant. Byrd ordered the veal. All that was lacking, unusually sufficient, had been cans of Arnold Palmer Iced Tea. As a substitute, they toasted their success with wine.
“It’s the personification of the American Dream,” mentioned Byrd’s son, Alex, who attended the dinner. “My dad grew up in a household that would not afford golf however Arnold was a hero of my dad’s as a baby, after which later in life by expertise, braveness and just a little little bit of luck my dad was capable of construct a profitable enterprise with Mr. Palmer.”