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Bethenny Frankel launches Skinnygirl Sparklers, talks about her growing empire

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Image Credit: Michael Coppola /Warner Bros.

Bethenny Frankel has another surprise for all you skinny girls out there, only this one leaves less of a hangover than that cocktail you might’ve enjoyed last night. On today’s episode of Bethenny, the Real Housewife-turned-talk-show-host will announce a new partnership with Arizona Beverages, along with the launch of Skinnygirl Sparklers, which are described as “fruit water with a bubbly personality.”

Sparklers are Frankel’s first line of non-alcoholic beverages, and will be available in four flavors: Tangerine Mango, Strawberry Lemonade, Pink Grapefruit and Pineapple Coconut. Continuing with Frankel’s low-calorie theme, the drinks will each be 5 calories per serving, made with real fruit juice. We caught up with Frankel to talk about Skinnygirl, Sparklers, and her growing empire:

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How did you go from ordering skinny margaritas on Real Housewives to starting your own liquor brand? Was it something you always wanted to do?
BETHENNY FRANKEL: It evolved. It was what I thought was a great idea, and after I made it popular, bartenders were telling me it was the most popular drink ordered. No one monetized it, and I wanted to make it myself so everybody could have access to it. And I wanted there to be consistency in the recipe, and I decided to do it myself. I went to all the big companies and none of them wanted to do it. They didn’t think it was a good idea; they didn’t think it would work. I found a partner to do it and we made it happen ourselves. It’s not an easy task, launching a liquor brand. It is a very hard thing to do. I worked very hard, and I’m passionate about it. I think it was a great idea. It was the first low-calorie ready-to-drink cocktail ever and it changed the liquor industry. There’s no one in the liquor business who doesn’t know that story, and so it’s great, it’s inspirational to other people, women who have business ideas. So I’m very proud.

How long did that process take?
To get it on the shelf, a year and change. I did it very quickly, I have to say. In that industry, it doesn’t happen. It’s impossible to get a product to market that fast, but we just did it. I don’t know how. I was a dog with a bone.

What made you decide to add shapewear next?
To be honest, someone came to me with the idea and they were a great partner and they are a great partner. That’s how that happened. Truthfully, if I had done everything in the ideal order, something consumable would’ve been first – a non-alcoholic beverage would’ve been first, because people are drinking the cocktail, and people are saying, “What if we don’t drink?” or “What about during the day?” So food and drink really all should be first, nutritional bars came shortly thereafter, but now I have the luxury of having a very successful business, so I now can choose in what order things are being launched, so I’m thrilled with the shapewear, and the shapewear does incredibly well, but if you’re talking about just making plans in your business, where I am now with the order of things is more true to my brand plan.

So was the idea for Skinnygirl Sparklers something you’d had in your head for a while then?
I’ve been talking about doing a non-alcoholic beverage for a very long time. You really need the right partner. Beverages are very competitive and distribution is key, just like in cocktails, and price point is important. So I had that idea for a long time and not until I found the perfect partner did I decide to do it. I met a lot of different people and I have never ever been more excited about another business opportunity since cocktails. This is going to be very huge. And I haven’t let anybody know about it. It’s been my secret. It hasn’t been announced. This has been kept under wraps, so I’m very excited about this.

In general, how do you decide what new products to add? Do you have some kind of test kitchen?
First of all, part of the Skinnygirl story that no one knows and most people don’t understand is that everyone thought that I sold Skinnygirl. I did not sell Skinnygirl. I sold the cocktail portion of my business, and I’m still a partner, so I sold part of the cocktail portion. I think that’s something that most people don’t understand because I did that intentionally because then I would be able to build the rest of the brand. As far as how I decide, I have a very strict plan, and because cocktails is the flagship and is the first real big success and is one of the fastest growing liquor brands in the world and has nationwide distribution, I go to the next thing that you need. What’s the next thing that you need. You need a non-alcoholic beverage. So then what type of beverage is it going to be? So then I look at the landscape of what is out there and what women want and what they need and that women want to be drinking water, but they want it to be more fun. Then we get to, “Okay, I want to do a non-alcoholic sparking beverage and that’s what I really like.” And then I get to, “Okay,  well I want it to be slightly sweet and flirty just like the cocktails are and I want to call it Sparklers.” I’ve held on to that name and had that name registered for a really long time because I think it’s adorable and cute and explains the experience of drinking these drinks. And then I say, “Next I want to do salty snacks or I want to do ice cream.” It’s a combination between what I want to do and where I think there is a void. And then I go into formulation process. I say these are the flavors that I like. It goes into development and then the tasting process, which I’m very particular about and always have to go head-to-head with my partners because they always think it’s at a perfect point before it actually is, and then we get there.

What would you like to branch into next?
So Sparklers will come and then it will be my nutritional bars, which are out nationwide, but there’s going to be a big launch for Skinnygirl Daily, the on-the-go nutrition bars, and salty snacks and dips and hummus and then soups.

Have you modeled your empire after anyone, or do you have someone you really look up to?
I don’t. I don’t know anyone who’s doing this the way that I’m doing it to my knowledge that I’ve met. I’m just not a person who looks at what other people are doing. I do my own thing. Not to say that I don’t respect the businesses that so many people are running whether it’s Kathy Ireland or Martha Stewart or Paul Newman with his food business, it’s just that there aren’t that many people who are in a liquor business but then get into all these other different business, so it’s a very unique brand.

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