Teas are an American staple. Who doesn’t like to brew a fresh batch of ice cold tea on a hot summer day? John Ferolito and Don Vultaggio sure liked their tea; enough to turn it into a billion-dollar business.
Before creating AriZona, John and Don were two New York distributors who started off making money as developing malt liquor. Both of the men had delivery jobs at breweries and local beer distributors. They came up with the idea to do business together in the 1970s. Together, they bought a VW bus and delivered reduced price beer and sodas to homes and local grocery stores. Soon, they quit their ‘real’ jobs and did this full time. Their success came from making the product as cheaply as possible and also selling it as cheaply as possible. They promoted it in neighborhoods that had high crime rates; small markets around Manhattan and Brooklyn. They did fairly well with their liquors, Crazy Horse and Midnight Dragon. After a few bouts of negative press however, their sales fell. They set their eyes on teas.
John and Don were inspired by the new age beverage market. More specifically, they were inspired by Snapple and the fact that they had tremendous growth with little hassle. Their goal was to provide a cold, ready-to-drink, non-chemical tasting tea. Don’s wife had just been to Arizona and came back enchanted by the South West. Since Arizona has a connotation of hot, they figured it would be a good brand name. Thus, the name AriZona was birthed. Because of their history in the liquor business, the men used their 24oz cans with bright, pastel South-Western designs to bottle their teas. Experts warned them that the pastel designs would fail them; they would not stand out amongst other cans. They were proved wrong when their sales in the early stages were an instant win. Customers had not really seen big tea cans like this before. They were selling their tea in bigger batches for cheaper versus Snapple’s small, more expensive teas, a clear selling point for consumers.