We recently connected with Regina Blohm and have shared our conversation below.
Hi Regina , thanks for joining us today. Let’s start with a fun one – what’s something you believe that most people in your industry (or in general) disagree with?
In our wine industry, we believe that a lot of people really think that buyers for retail and restaurants make their purchase decisions based on quality. But really, in the end, it comes down to making money for them. The more money you have to spend, as a wine owner, increases your chance to make it on to a certain wine list. Nationwide distribution is an obligation, not a choice, but to achieve that, you have to have the financial backup and the manpower to maintain it. Basically, you have to pay to play. Higher quality, smaller wine producers don’t have the money to get an importer and to be able to distribute into the US. We always hear from customers who have traveled to Europe and drink the wine from small producers, that they don’t get headaches or hangovers after consumption. The reason is simple, it’s because of the 100% natural production.
When people ask us what business we are in, we answer “the mafia business.” Jokingly, of course, but it’s not a far off comparison! We can’t change the system, but society CAN. We just need to give asking for what we want! The noise we make will bring SYLTBAR, and other smaller producers, to the top where they belong.
Cheers to that, and you are smarter to enjoy life in a healthier way.
Awesome – so before we get into the rest of our questions, can you briefly introduce yourself to our readers.
You won’t find this to be a typical wine story… Instead, you will find a true love story.
My husband, Claus Blohm, and I met in 2005 in the city of Hamburg, Germany. We were neighbors in the same building. I was 35 years old, single, and I had just moved from Munich, my favorite city in Germany. At the time, I was working for the luxury lingerie company, La Perla, as Area Manager. My work experience has always been in fashion, and I worked for several well known brands, such as Hugo Boss, Puma and Polo Ralph Lauren. Mr. Blohm was 45 years old, and had just come out of a horrible divorce (with no children), and was the CEO of a Swedish company that produced uniforms for police, airline and gas station employees. Both of us were lucky enough to enjoy lots of traveling because of our jobs, staying in beautiful hotels and dining out at amazing restaurants, all over the world, and found our true passion in quality food and wine.
The first time we met was in the parking lot of the building where we both lived. It was very clear that Mr. Blohm and I didn’t have much in common and probably would not have known each other had we not been neighbors. Because of the circumstances, we saw each other and got to know each other… and figured out even more things that we did not have in common. Mr. Blohm loves golf; I don’t like it at all. Mr. Blohm loves the country of France, and I love Miami. Mr. Blohm loves Caesar salad, and I prefer heavier foods because of the area I am from, Bavaria… But then, we finally found one thing we could agree upon. We both love one particular Prosecco that we would always drink together whenever we would meet. Both of us had tasted this specific Italian Prosecco 30 years ago, independently on different occasions, but in the same place: the island of Sylt. We agreed that this is the best Prosecco in the world because we would never ever be hung over the morning after drinking, and would wake up feeling great. Neither of us had any knowledge about the wine world, but that worked to our advantage because it mean we think and feel like true customers, and not just a wine producer who only loves his or her own wine and forgets what society is actually looking for.
Long story short, over time (and many bottles of Prosecco of San Simone), we fell in love and got married in Italy in 2008. After several visits to Miami and researching the Prosecco options in the US, we made the decision to bring more value to the market with a higher quality Prosecco. This was in 2009. We found out about the producer of the Prosecco we liked and reached out to them in Friuli, Italy, which is very close to Venice. They granted us the exclusive rights for this particular Premium Prosecco, and we achieved the Trademark for our brand, SYLTBAR, in 2010.
In retrospect, it was very risky for us to start a business in a foreign country in a field we had never worked in before. We are convinced that if we had known what we would be putting ourselves into, we never would have started. We never had a marketing strategy. All we knew was that this Prosecco was different in comparison to all of the other mass-produced Prosecco brands on the market that we had experienced over the years.
The main benefit of SYLTBAR, and what we attribute most of its success to, is its low sugar content. We know this for sure because SYLTBAR was lab tested by the University of Miami Diabetes Research Institute! In addition, our producers do not use any chemicals or added sulfites during production. People can really feel and taste the difference, and that is what counts.
Today, we are so thankful for the fact that we had no idea about the wine industry back then. Everything we did to introduce our brand to customers was so awkward, and we think that’s one of the reasons why the industry and customers came to know us very fast. Funny enough, we stood out because we didn’t know what we were doing! We didn’t have a big marketing budget like other Prosecco brands, which made everything we did truly authentic and “us.” Consumers quickly realized that we are real, and we are not on this venture only because of the money — it’s because we really believe in the brand.
What drives us is to educate people and help them understand why it’ so important to pay attention to the wine you buy here in the US. People always think the wine industry is so romantic and beautiful, but unfortunately this industry has become so saturated that the small producers overseas have almost no options to enter the US market because of what’s known as the Three Tier System. Phrases and concepts like this Three Tier System don’t exist for family owned wine businesses. It’s obvious that there is a big gap between a 100% natural production, and the overall general distribution business of wine.
We are so proud of ourselves that we have been able to hang in there and never gave up, even during times that were so difficult that we had to sleep in our warehouse on pallets for months, but it was better to be side-by-side with SYLTBAR than to be in staying a hotel. We always stayed positive and were so thankful about the reactions from our customers. That’s what kept us going strong. That, and having a sense of humor and joy even through the darkest days.
We still believe that the best marketing for a brand is the word of mouth and that is exactly what is happening with Mr and Mrs SYLTBAR. It’s also one of the reasons that we were able to handle the COVID crisis in a good way. While we do love that public attention, we are also proud that as of today, we are the only privatly owned Prosecco brand in the US market. That gives us a lot of independence, and allows us to hold on to our high quality standards and not be influenced by partners who would rather have a fast exit strategy.
Over all these years, we learned so much and have done our best to develop the brand, but in a natural way. SYLTBAR has grown so much from day one, in a very healthy way, and that is thanks to our producer and team always sticking together, even when times where tough. Authenticity and honesty are the core values of our brand. These are things that cannot be learned, they are innate.
People who have known us from the very beginning stages tell us that we worked so hard to get where we are. But we always say, it was not hard for us…because it was never “work” for us. We have always enjoyed the ride and the adventure and opportunity to learn every single day. SYLTBAR never gets boring, and it is wonderful for us to watch Mr and Mrs traveling all over the US market. Today, we are available in the key markets, and can be found in 23 states. We still have so many more ideas for developing the brand further, and see a bright future for SYLTBAR.
Any fun sales or marketing stories?
When we started in 2011,SYLTBAR Premium Prosecco was already at a retail price of $19.99, and typically, the average bottle of Prosecco on the market would sell for $9.99 at retail. Buyers and distributors called us crazy because they didn’t believe that, at this time, any Prosecco could be sold for a high retail price then $15.99 even with all the advantages what we had to offer.
On top of that, they didn’t believe that two Germans would succeed in selling an Italian Prosecco in the US, especially with a bottle label that features a logo with the shape of the Island of Sylt (which is located in Germany) and the logo also kind of looks like a kangaroo. However, in the end, this actually was to our advantage. Our interesting label and outstanding bottle design made us stick out in the market. Another reason we stood out it because our wine is 100% naturally produced, and in turn, naturally very low in sugar.
Even today, we see a pretty large gap between buyers and end consumers when it comes to making the decision about what to purchase. When it comes to Prosecco, buyers mainly care about the profit margin… But we have found that the end consumer really does care about quality! Over the years, end consumers have confirmed the outstanding quality with over 1,000 5-star reviews!
What do you think helped you build your reputation within your market?
Since the very beginning, we have always believed in reliability. Our customers, colleagues and suppliers can always count on us. That reliability starts with a high quality product, and ends with our customer service that is available every day from 9 am to 6 pm. You will always receive help and support from a real, knowledgable person, never a computerized voice or an answering machine.
Our team, as well all of our colleagues, believe in our vision to one day be the number one brand in the Prosecco category. We always do our best to produce the freshest Prosecco on the market, which means that we have a very time consuming forecast running to ensure that we hold onto our quality level and never compromise. The last two years have been very difficult for us, with the container shortages and general price increases in the food and beverage industry, but we made the choice to not increase the price of SYLTBAR out of respect for all of our loyal customers. This is why we haven’t been able to give big discounts like other Prosecco brands — because we do not mark up the price of our products six times what it costs to produce! We want our customer base to purchase SYLTBAR whenever they want, not just whenever there is some kind of “big deal” on the bottles. There is a reason we call SYLTBAR your “Happy, Healthy, Daily Juice.” That sentence says it all.
- Website: https://syltbar.com/
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/SYLTBAR/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/syltbar
- Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/company/syltbar