This cocktail in a can is the perfect antidote to summertime blues and afternoon heat

Published July 1, 2021, 2:00 PM

by John Legaspi

Low calorie, popping fruity flavor, and a strong buzz all in one can

Rio Strong cocktail drink

We may have entered the rainy season but the summer feeling is not over yet. The humid and warm afternoons don’t just make you want to have a cool refreshing drink, but they also make you miss your pre-pandemic travels, lounging by the beach or heading to a cabana for that citrusy cocktail.

If you’re in dire need of a thirst quencher and that tropical feel, here is a drink that encapsulates all of those in one can. Rio Strong, a ready-to-drink alcopop beverage brings summer fun to your system on one gulp. A product under KLM company, Rio Strong was brought to the Philippines after KML co-founders Kelly Parreño, chef and food entrepreneur, and dentist Miguel Librojo encountered the drink during a business trip to China in 2018.

“We enjoyed it while on trips around Asia and the idea of bringing it to the Philippines was really enticing,” the two say. And after months of preparations, avoiding liquor bans, and perfecting the drink to suit the Filipino palate, the drink is now here in the country.

Manila Bulletin Lifestyle chats with Kelly and Miguel as they talk more about the benefits and flavors Rio Strong is packing in its every can and what makes it a perfect fit for the Filipino lifestyle.

Kelly Parreño and Miguel Librojo

What is the story behind the creation of the Rio Strong drink and who are the people behind it?

Rio Strong promises nothing but a #CrazyStrong drinking experience for our drinkers/consumers. The eight percent ABV in one can is equivalent to the buzz offered by two to three cans of beer, minus the calories and purine, too!

When we were developing the campaign, we also wanted to deliver a relatable message. So we decided to reflect on what being strong means to the Filipino people and we came to the conclusion that pandemic aside, Filipinos are born with a natural tenacity to thrive. Despite the harsh realities and numerous uncertainties the world brings, we (Filipinos) always find ways to become stronger every day.

We started working on the brand in the second half of 2020 and then decided to partner up with Singapore-based experiential marketing expert and Filipina Rachel Carrasco to further develop the brand and strategize on how to maximize reach in the market.

Is this your first foray into the food and beverage industry?

KML has been in the food and beverage industry since 2015. Our established brands include Ta Ke Ho Me Sushi Stands across the Metro, Fair Grounds Organic, and an importation of Japanese nori sheets. Our vision is to create or introduce aspirational products and make these attainable to the Filipino people. Rio Cocktail is the latest addition to that line up.

Aside from this, Kelly is also in partnership with Rachel, to launch the world’s first all bacon snack and confectionery line of products called Baken this coming August. Baken is an original brand that has been in the making for the last three years.

What makes the canned cocktail a perfect fit for the Filipino lifestyle?

For one, Filipinos love to drink just because. There really is no need for an occasion. As a result, Filipinos tend to find more and more ways to elevate drinking experiences. Nowadays, it’s also not surprising to find a spectrum of alkyl beverages that best fits our needs. And with Rio Strong, it’s everything you’ll ever need in one can–low calorie and zero purine, popping fruity taste (available in four flavors–lemon, calamansi, peach, and grapefruit, and a strong buzz with an affordable price tag (only P88 per can).

We’d say that is pretty generous and powerful for one can!

How do you ensure that the quality of the cocktail meets the standard of the ones handcrafted from the bars?

Apart from the fact that Rio Strong has been distributed in global markets worldwide since 2017, our manufacturer Shanghai Bacchus Distillery has over 15 years of experience in the industry. They ensure that every Rio cocktail is created with the consumers’ needs at the forefront. Product ranges are also developed with quality base ingredients of rum, brandy, or vodka and vary from light, healthy to strong. Plus, exciting flavors every release! Each range suits any lifestyle and/or drinking setting too.

Since the brand was created and to be launched during the pandemic, did you encounter any challenges in making it happen? What did you do to cope?

We had to take turns calming each other down and reminding each other to breathe during the whole experience. But, we were very much committed and determined to bring something new and light during this crazy time.

We did encounter several challenges, mostly delays in terms of permits and shipment and we had even more difficulties with government imposed liquor bans. That pushed our launch and timelines back several times. Those times were the most frustrating for us as we knew we were so close.

We did our best to look at the big picture, be patient and flexible so we could achieve our long-term goals.

The brand dares everyone to be #CrazyStrong. What does that mean? Are there more benefits packed in the canned cocktail?

Yes there is! Beyond the product, this is our way of saying that we are with our (Filipino) drinkers. We understand that each day always brings new experiences, sometimes amazing and sometimes challenging. This is a reminder that no matter what that experience may be, you have the choice to break-free and discover your own inner strength.

Strong may get you there. But being #CrazyStrong will get you everywhere!

How do you like your canned cocktail served? What should our readers do to fully enjoy it?

It is best served chilled, just that easy and convenient. Our personal favorite is Rio Strong Mimosa, just add equal parts of fresh orange juice and Rio Strong Grapefruit for a refreshing twist.

Rio Strong is available for ordering directly from its website and is also available in other online outlets such as, Grab Mart, and in Ram’s House of Wine in Makati. Follow Instagram more updates.