Tzfat Spirits of Israel CEO Marc Grossfield spent years perfecting AVIV 613 before launching the vodka in November
Minnesota entrepreneur Marc Grossfield has been around the block when it comes to running a business.
He was the co-founder and president of Johnson Grossfield, a promotional marketing agency, for 18 years. He was the CEO of BreathableBaby, a company that sells safe sleep products for babies, for four years. But today, Grossfield's underlying interest in vodka has launched him in a new direction - the liquor industry.
So far, so good.
Grossfield's latest business venture - the creation of a "spiritually enhanced" vodka called AVIV 613 - is roughly 9 years in the making. His new company Tzfat Spirits of Israel is based in Minneapolis but produces the vodka made by a Russian family in Israel. Today, the vodka can be found in Lunds and Byerly's, Liquor Boy, Haskell's, and many other liquor stores across the state.
But what makes Aviv different than other luxury vodkas? Grossfield says that it's Aviv's unique "biblical" ingredients, symbolic bottle, and ultra-smooth finish that makes the product stand out.
"When you look at brands like Grey Goose, their advertising is all about glamor," Grossfield says. "We're 180 degrees from that. We're the brand that says, ‘You don't need all that stuff. Celebrate what you have.'"
In order to create something that Grossfield felt was toast-worthy, he wanted his vodka to actually mean something. Meeting Israeli distiller Yossi Gold in 2004 was the first step in his journey to AVIV's creation.
"I asked [Gold] if he could make a product with the spiritual components found in the Bible," Grossfield says, hoping to sell a product with truly spiritual roots. Gold's response? "I can make vodka out of anything."
For two years, Grossfield looked to family friend and vodka expert Eddie Phillips - the man responsible for bringing Belvedere vodka to the liquor industry - for help perfecting his product. After three total years of taste testing, Grossfield had Aviv. Made from wheat, barley, olives, figs, dates, grapes, and pomegranates (all found in the Bible), Grossfield says Aviv is smoother than other luxury vodkas on the market. The water used to make Aviv comes from the Sea of Galilee and the bottle, which took years to perfect, is made with sand from the Negev Desert in southern Israel.
"When you hold our bottle, you're literally holding a piece of the Holy Land," Grossfield says.
When the first shipment of the product arrived in early November 2013, it was sold out in four days. Working with distributor Johnson Brothers, Aviv initially went into Lunds and Byerly's and Liquor Boy. Grossfield said that Byerly's had a "hard time keeping it on the shelf."
Today, new shipments continue to arrive from Israel, and Aviv can be found in more than 100 stores across the state. Consumers can also order the vodka in restaurants like Gianni's Steakhouse and Urban Eatery. And the new year will bring expansion, Grossfield hopes. His team of three employees, along with various outsourced marketing and sales professionals, are working to perfect the promotional plan before taking the product into other states.
"We are going to focus on the distribution of this product throughout the United States. We are going to go one market at a time," Grossfield says, adding that Florida, California, and New York are the next targets.
*Images via Aviv 613's Facebook page, photo credit: Bruce Silcox