SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

September 11, 2013

Shaking things up Salem company specializes in all-natural cocktail mixes

By Bethany Bray
STAFF WRITER

---- — SALEM — A recent afternoon found Mark Mahoney and his coworkers sitting around a conference table, discussing business as they sipped icy concoctions from small taster cups. Their Norman Street office, decorated with tiki figures and a surfboard, is equipped with a bar, fully stocked with cocktail mixes.

It’s all business for Mahoney, who sells nearly 150,000 cases — that’s 2 million servings — of all-natural cocktail mixes a year.

The Powell & Mahoney brand specializes in cocktail mixes — bloody mary, cosmopolitan, lemon sour, margarita, mojito and a slate of others — that are made in small batches with all-natural ingredients. That means cane sugar, natural juices and juice concentrates, and flavorings such as ginger root and extracts — no artificial colors or flavors, Mahoney said.

“We felt when we launched that the product had to be the best product in that category,” he said.

Mahoney started Maui Beverages, a successful business that makes bases for smoothies and blended drinks, 12 years ago. He branched into cocktail mixes when Brian Powell, a former competitor in the beverage business, approached him with a business plan three and a half years ago.

The duo purchased a bottling plant in Vermont in 2012 and expanded the facility to handle increased production. Powell works out of Philadelphia and is in charge of sales for Powell & Mahoney.

Powell & Mahoney mixes are made in 200-gallon batches, which allows the temperature and other variables to be closely monitored, Mahoney said.

Making the product themselves also enables Powell & Mahoney to offer their mixes at an affordable price — usually $6.99 a bottle.

“It’s approachable ... an affordable luxury,” said Mahoney. “Our biggest challenge is to get people to taste it. But once they taste it, we have a customer.”

Powell & Mahoney mixes are distributed in U.S. and Canadian retail outlets, including liquor stores, food markets, the Courtyard By Marriott hotel chain and Whole Foods supermarkets on the East Coast.

The company offers a natural alternative to the often brightly colored mixes — “junk,” Mahoney scoffs — sold in the supermarket beverage aisle.

Sales have doubled in the last year, and Mahoney expects they will triple next year.

Powell & Mahoney has about 11 staff on the North Shore, plus 12 to 25 in Vermont, he said.

Mahoney started Maui Beverages in Salem, moved the business to Danvers, the Cummings Center in Beverly and then relocated to office space at 39 Norman St. about a year ago.

Maui products are distributed to food-service businesses only, including Caesar’s Palace casinos and the entire Cheesecake Factory restaurant chain. They’re sold nationwide and in roughly 16 countries, Mahoney said.

Roughly half a million cases of Maui are sold annually — that’s about 35 million servings each year.

Mahoney lives in Marblehead with his wife, Stephanie, who runs two restaurants at the Cummings Center — the Boardroom Cafe and Boardroom Cafe 2, with their son, Spencer.

“She does the food,” Mahoney smiles. “I do the beverages.”

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Bethany Bray can be reached at bbray@salemnews.com and on Twitter @SalemNewsBB.