Giuseppe Gallo, an Italian veteran of the beverage industry, founded Italicus in order to recreate Rosolio, an apertivo with a long Italian history as a drink for kings. Now he’s taking some time to discuss the brand’s rapid rise and expansion into the United States, as well as the techniques and strategies that have brought Italicus this far.
Tell us about your business.
Giuseppe Gallo: ITALICUS Rosolio di Bergamotto is a fairly new business, founded in 2016 and started in Italy and then the UK. Now, Italicus is rapidly growing as an organization with over ten employees across two continents, 5M USD turnover, and product availability in over 40 countries across the globe.
Art Deco-inspired glass bottles of Italicus Rosolio di Bergamotto, tinted a luminous aquamarine to telegraph the Grotta Azzurra on Capri and the waters of the Amalfi Coast, first started appearing on bar shelves in the U.S. back in 2017. Aside from the visually arresting packaging, bartenders were immediately drawn to the new aperitivo’s citrusy, complex herbaceous flavors, melding it with the likes of Prosecco or simply Tonic water. Italicus is produced in a family-owned Torino distillery, is a liquid homage to my native Italy, starring cold-pressed Calabrian bergamot sourced from a UNESCO-protected area and Sicilian cedro lemon, as well as a macerated melange of Roman chamomile and lavender, gentian, melissa balm, and yellow roses from the northern part of the country.
What sets your brand apart in the marketplace?
GG: ITALICUS was created to reestablish a forgotten category of Rosolio. Once upon a time, Rosolio was the drink for the king in Italy. It takes courage to launch a small brand in a completely open space, without any historical sales and market data. Above all, this is the first and only liquor to champion the humble citrus fruit of Bergamot orange, most commonly used by perfume brands.
What was the greatest challenge your brand had to overcome initially and what did you learn from it?
GG: Trust. At beginning of the project, we immediately realized the potential of this business, winning the prestigious Tales of the Cocktail 2017 as the best new spirit of the year. A lot of people, and companies around try to cash off the brand’s popularity or reputation, but without any genuine attitude or long-term commitment. With time, I quickly realized and cleaned the organization of these unreliable people.
Does your business have any causes it supports?
GG: Bergamore : Bergamot + Amore (Love) / Every year for each entry to our online platform Art of Italicus, we donated €1(euro) to support the growth of Bergamot in Calabria to https://www.bergamore.net to support the re-planting of bergamot trees in Calabria coastline.
What is your best business finance tip for other brand owners?
GG: Cash flow will last shorter than you forecast, whichever figure you have in mind and/or in your initial P&L & business plan, add 30% overspend on top of it.
What is your best advice for a mutually beneficial relationship with your distributor?
GG: Engage with the distributor on a daily or weekly basis. They can do the best job for the brand as long you are able to share your full vision and constantly input with new assets, ideas, and marketing programs. They can not do the job for you, it is a shared responsibility.
What has been your most successful strategy for pitching a new retail partner?
GG: The unique brand proposition: a fully natural and crafted liquid and as such highly appreciated by experts and mixologists within top end on-trade. Therefore, the product is available around the world in the best bars and restaurants from Tokyo to New York via Rome.
Is your company investing in the fast-growing digital space for beverage alcohol? If so, where?
GG: E-commerce has become a new RTM for every spirit brand post-pandemic is even more crucial. Today our overall sales are coming 30% from direct consumer purchases online.
Curiada.com in the USA is our strongest partner right now.
Do you have a go-to book on business or leadership you recommend?
GG: “If Steve Jobs was Coaching You” by Life Hacks
If you were starting a new venture today, what’s the first thing you would do?
GG: Learn from my own mistakes but never fear to do it again. Run free, follow my instinct, and never get trapped by people and business dogma.