We get a lot of questions, and complaints, about charging $3 for a can of soda water “with a few dashes of bitters” and charging $10-$15 for shipping. If you’ve never worked in a product business or had to understand production costs as they relate to revenue, it can all seem a bit arbitrary. So I thought I’d take a few moments to shed some light so folks can decide for themselves if our cost is worth it to them.
Why Does Bitters & Soda Cost $3 A Can?
I think the biggest issue comes when we are compared to either flavored seltzers that often sell for $0.50 a can or that free glass of bitters & soda you can sometimes get in a bar. But we are significantly different than both of those and therefore the comparison is a bit unfair.
Most flavored seltzers are made with lab derived flavors, natural or otherwise, that cost significantly less than real ingredients and only need to be mixed into carbonated water for a finished product. There is almost no “prepwork” involved.
Not only do we use real ingredients that we chop, crush, and weigh ourselves, the process to make our bitters base takes about a day. That’s just what goes into the can. But the cans themselves are a significant part of the cost because we are not making and selling 1000’s of cases a month. Big brands like Polar and LaCroix generally pay about ¼ of the cost per can that we do because of the volume they produce. There are many other savings that come with producing at that level. As you can probably imagine if you make 1000’s of cases in a day versus a few hundred, the over head of rent and labor per can comes down significantly.
I could go on and on about the costs that go into making our Bitters & Soda, but the short answer is we use real ingredients to make a product that takes time and care and we do it on a small scale. For us to continue to do this, in other words be a sustainable business that pays the very few people who work for us a decent wage, we need to charge $3 a can, at least.
And what about the free drink you get in the bar? Well, it’s free because the bar makes enough money on the alcohol to not worry about the few glasses of bitters and soda that might get served in an evening. And actually these days a lot of bars have begun to charge as much as $5 for a bitters and soda. The latter is generally made with craft bitters very similar to our cocktail bitters and is definitely worth the $5 price tag.
Our Bitters & Soda is so much more than “a few dashes of bitters in soda water”. It is a craft product, with many similarities to craft beer, made by a few people who care deeply about what goes into each can.
Why Is Shipping So Much?
As a recent comment on Instagram said, “Had me buying right up until that $14 shipping… womp, womppp.” The truth is Amazon has really screwed over small businesses, not just by selling things cheaper, but most importantly by training customers to expect free shipping and for orders to arrive in a day or two. I admit, I love the convenience of being able to order office supplies or toilet paper or batteries from my couch and have them arrive the next day. But most businesses simply can’t do that.
Many businesses that sell directly to consumers online and offer free shipping are simply losing money on those sales because the bulk of their business is selling in grocery stores or other retail (which is much more economical) and they can afford to lose the money in exchange for the loyalty it brings. Or if the business only sells online and offers free shipping they have likely already built that cost into their price and you just don’t realize it because there is nothing to compare to.
Shipping is expensive, especially for heavy items like canned beverages, and it keeps going up. In the beginning of 2021 we would pay $11.50 to ship a 10 pound box (a 12 pack of Bitters & Soda) anywhere in the US via FedEx in two days. Now, a little over a year later, it costs us $16.50 to send that same package. That’s a huge increase and we can’t simply absorb it.
On the other hand I get that paying almost half the cost of the item for shipping is hard to accept. It seems ridiculous to me, but that is what it costs because of fuel and wages and other issues unique to shipping services. We talk to the shipping providers regularly to see if we can get a better price and we have optimized as much as we can currently. We only pass on the shipping charge, not the fees we pay to have each box packed or the cost of the box and packing material.
If you want craft products to exist in the world, support the small businesses that make them. Nothing we make at The Bitter Housewife is a commodity easily produced by someone else. Even our bitters recipes are unique to us, developed by me over months and sometimes years.
Thank you to each and every one of you who understand this and continue to support our company allowing us to make the products we want to see in the world. If this is all new to you, thank you for reading and taking the time. Hopefully I was able to shed a little light on why we’re priced the way we are and you’re better able decide if it’s worth it for you.