We sat down with Smooj creator, Tommy Kennedy, to find out what happens if you jam-pack a ton of real fruit into a hard seltzer.
(Spoiler: Smooj happens)
Tommy Kennedy’s HOMES Brewery specializes in heavily fruited beers, so when he was asked if he’d ever considered making a hard seltzer, he knew the only way he’d jump into the game was if he could put his unique stamp on the style. The result was Smooj, the OG hard seltzer smoothie.
What began as an off-the-wall idea has since become a viral, runaway hit, with cases selling out of their Ann Arbor brewery in hours (and crashing the brewery’s site servers, no less). Now Philly is getting the first crack at Smooj, Kennedy’s first city in his national rollout plan.
We sat down with Kennedy to get the scoop on this brand-new beverage that combines everything you love about hard seltzers and smoothies
31st & Wharton (31&W): First off, what is Smooj and how did you dream this wizardry up?
Tommy Kennedy (TK): Smooj is a heavily fruited hard seltzer we call “hard seltzer smoothie.” It’s a whole new category of alcoholic beverage that combines the best of a seltzer—gluten-free, dairy free, refreshing carb—with the best of a smoothie: real fruit, full bodied, full flavored.
We actually came up with the idea back in Spring 2019. Hard seltzers had taken off and we were being asked if it was something we’d ever consider doing. We decided that, if we were ever going to make one, we’d give it our own totally unique spin.
So, when the pandemic hit and we had some unexpected bandwidth last March, we began experimenting with the concept and were blown away with the results. Our customers were too, so we knew we were onto something.
31&W: Take us back to the first time you shared Smooj with somebody — who was the first guinea pig and what was that reaction like?
TK: Outside of our team, the person I was most excited to share it with was my wife, Melissa. She has celiac disease and hasn’t been able to try any of the beers we make at HOMES. I brought home our first batch, Raspberry Mango, and thankfully she loved it.
31&W: How did Smooj move from a small operation to being a viral hit and an Untappd darling? When did you know you had lightning in a bottle with this?
TK: While we’ve grown quickly in the last year, we’ve been extremely intentional about every move we make. We spent a lot of time dialing in the product, designing a strong brand, and laying the groundwork for Smooj to become an “overnight success.”
From the very first batch of Smooj, we were excited about it. This gave us confidence that others would be too. So when we began to sell Smooj at our brewpub and got nothing but enthusiastic feedback, we really started to believe in its potential. The biggest “aha” moment was probably when our site’s servers crashed during one of our first releases — our IT guy thought we had been hacked. Clearly folks were stoked about Smooj.
31&W: Take us through your flagship flavors here, what made these the right combos for Smooj?
TK: Piña Colada and Strawberry Banana are two favorites of our staff and early customers. Piña Colada conveys the flavor of the cocktail perfectly with pineapple, coconut, and lime. Strawberry Banana is a classic smoothie combo, with just the right balance of those two fruits.
It was important to us to lead with flavors that felt distinct and full-flavored, positioning us in strong contrast with established seltzers.
31&W: How’d Philly get so lucky to be one of the first markets you’re bringing Smooj to outside of your home base?
TK: Pennsylvania has relatively lower barriers to entry than many states in the U.S., and we quickly found great partners like 31st & Wharton to help us hit the ground running.
A big draw to Philly, besides being a top-10 city population-wise, is its vibrant culinary and arts scene. The city is filled with tastemakers and folks interested in what’s new and what’s next, so we felt it’d be a good place to start gaining traction.
31&W: Who’s the ideal Smooj customer? Where should Philadelphians be on the lookout for Smooj?
TK: At the moment, our ideal customers are tastemakers — people who love being disciples of new and exciting things. They value unique experiences, innovation, and quality ingredients, all of which Smooj delivers on.
In the longer term, we see our target customers as pretty much anyone who drinks. Smooj already attracts beer, wine, seltzer, and cocktail drinkers because it has some of the best attributes of each of those categories.
Philadelphians can find us at tons of retailers in your area. You can locate the store nearest you at DrinkSmooj.com.
31&W: We’re ready to believe the hype — how high can this thing fly? What’s next for Smooj?
TK: Glad to have you on board! We’re grinding to make Smooj as good as humanly possible and hustling to get it out to more and more people. We get to blaze a trail in this exciting new category, which is an awesome opportunity, but it’s ultimately up to consumers to decide where it goes.