Add this to the list of things you might thank a millennial for.
At 33 years old, Kate Sturdevant noticed she wasn’t alone in wanting to feel less guilt after happy hour.
“You’re literally drinking your dinner,” she would think when she went out with friends. A regular American domestic beer typically runs around 150 calories, while a hefty craft beer can easily be more than 300 calories.
A former college volleyball player and now a mother of two, Sturdevant falls squarely into the category of 20-30-somethings who tend to be more health-conscious than previous generations, yet they don’t want to sacrifice the experience of drinking with friends.
“As a culture, we’re becoming more concerned with what we’re putting into our bodies,” she says.
She felt that internal struggle, and as a third-generation descendant of her family’s Miller Coors beverage distributorship in the Midwest, she was uniquely qualified to do something about it.
Thus, she created Itz Spritz — a gluten-free, lightly sparkling alcoholic beverage made with five natural ingredients and packaged in a slender 12-ounce can. It comes in at 140 calories. A Mike’s Hard Lemonade is 220.
“It’s literally everything that I wanted,” Sturdevant says of the drink she had been talking about for 15 years with her father and business partner.
The name emerged during a phone call when Sturdevant was trying, to no avail, to choose a name that wasn’t already trademarked. Her attorney, on the other line, blurted out “It’s a spritz!” The most common such cocktail is the Aperol spritz created in the 1950s. It also so happens to be making a comeback.
The Itz Spritz alcoholic base is fermented cane sugar, a newcomer to the alcoholic beverage industry. Fermented cane sugar is not as common as malt, the basis for such beverages Smirnoff Ice and Mike’s Hard Lemonade.
Sturdevant says Itz Spritz is not a seltzer, so there’s no harsh fizz, and the flavors — Elderflower Citrus, Cucumber Lime Twist, and Golden Pear — aren’t overly sweet, compared to malt beverages. Brewed like a beer at City Brewing Company in Memphis, Tenn., Itz Spritz uses no high-fructose corn syrup and no artificial flavors, colors, or ingredients. At 4.2 percent alcohol by volume, it’s equivalent to a light beer.
In 2015, around the same time she began developing the new beverage, Sturdevant and her husband and children visited Greenville after her family sold the beer distributorship in Missouri.
“We loved Missouri, but you don’t stay in Missouri if you don’t have to,” she says.
Within two hours, she and her husband were looking at Greenville real estate.
“We wanted someplace we felt like we could get in and make a difference,” Sturdevant says. They made the move a year and a half ago.
From their new home base, Sturdevant began working with her father and their network of contacts in the industry to release Itz Spritz to the market.
After months of brainstorming a name, getting FDA approval for each of the three flavors, and switching the packaging from bottles to cans, Itz Spritz made its Greenville market debut in April. It’s currently available at Green’s, Total Wine, Bouharoun’s Fine Wines & Spirits, New York Butcher Shoppe, Whole Foods, and select Spinx and 7-Eleven convenience stores.
Focused on East Coast distribution, Itz Spritz is also available in Massachusetts and Asheville, N.C., and is quickly expanding into Georgia and other parts of North Carolina.
Sturdevant views Itz Spritz as a pioneer of the healthy beverage revolution spurred on by suppliers listening to their customers’ needs.
“We hear you,” she says. “We are you.”