“CACTI, not no iced tea.”
This is what Travis Scott shouts during the first verse of his most recent single “Franchise.” The video expands upon the lyric above, showing the rapper in front of a wall of CACTI-branded boxes, wearing clothing adorned with a CACTI logo, as he cracks open a can of CACTI.
We have since discovered what CACTI is. It is Scott’s new spiked seltzer beverage crafted with the help of American brewing giant Anheuser-Busch. And today marks the first time that the three flavors of CACTI, lime, pineapple, and strawberry, will be available to the masses.
CACTI is the latest venture that Scott, who Forbes calls “corporate America’s brand whisperer,” is adding to his laundry list of big name collaborations that have included everything from a virtual performance in Fortnite to his own McDonald’s meal. Of course, we can’t forget about the multitude of Nike collabs and merch drops either. Like projects before it, Travis and his Cactus Jack team have once again gone beyond just slapping their name and logo next to another one. The most recent example, a movie trailer-esque, 30-second TV spot complete with a surprise Eric Andre cameo that aired during Sunday night’s Grammy Awards to promote the beverage.
“[Travis Scott] has his hands in everything, which is super amazing because sometimes you work with people and they’re very to the side. They’re just, ‘Okay, sure. Give me a PowerPoint presentation,’” says vice president of marketing for Anheuser-Busch’s Beyond Beer, a segment that oversees non-beer products like Ritas and Hiball Energy, Lana Buchanan. “He rolls up his sleeves and get things done, which is something we’re very lucky to have found.”
Ahead of the CACTI launch, we spoke with Buchanan about what went into creating the product, working with Travis Scott, and more.
How it Started
When the general public first became aware of CACTI back in July 2020, there was no indication that it was Travis Scott’s new alcoholic beverage. In fact, many outlets assumed that CACTI was a clothing line separate from his ever-increasing merch output. It made sense at the time. Scott frequently wore caps, workwear jackets, and even Air Force 1s—perhaps most notably in Big Sean’s “Lithuania” video—that bore the red and white logo we now know represents CACTI.
“The idea of the partnership with Travis has been [in the works for] a while. It’s been over a year of talking through it and identifying what we need to do in terms of the product we want to start with,” says Buchanan. “I think from the moment we identify that we really wanted to do a seltzer and what the flavor components would be, and what the brand would be from that point, I would say it was about eight months to launch.”
Buchanan says that Travis and his team were very hands-on throughout the entire process from taste-testing flavors to finalizing the can design and providing input on the cardboard cut-outs that will be placed in retail stores. While Buchanan says that due to Covid-19 protocols much of the process was handled via Zoom, a recent teaser video also shows Travis paying a visit to the Los Angeles factory responsible for making CACTI. In the video he pulls samples off of the rapidly moving conveyor belt and sips each flavor.
“We really are co-creating the brand. This wasn’t a brand that existed that we then said, ‘Okay, Travis, will you sponsor it?’ It’s literally co-creating the logo together. How do we want the cans to feel, do we want the matte finish? Do we want the tabs to look a certain way? So really taking him through all of that and making sure him and his team can make decisions with him around those elements,” says Buchanan. “I can tell you, we talk to each other probably every hour with [his manager] David [Stromberg] and his entire team.”
Why Hard Seltzer?
While celebrities endorsing their own alcohol is nothing new, Travis entering the market with his own hard seltzer is a bit of a unique approach. Considering the booming hard seltzer market, which according to T4 was a $1.8 billion industry in 2020 projected to grow 35 percent this year, it does make sense though. Anheuser-Busch currently produces a handful of other hard seltzers including BON V!V and Social Club as well.
According to an official press release, CACTI will be available in a handful of ways. Along with nine-count variety packs that offer strawberry, pineapple, and lime flavors, there will also be single 16- and 25-ounce cans of pineapple and lime sold. Buchanan notes that strawberry is Travis’ favorite from the original trio of flavors. Because Travis likes tequila, CACTI is infused with 100 percent premium blue agave from Mexico. It also offers a bit of a higher alcohol-by-volume (ABV) than most seltzers on the market too (CACTI comes in at 7 percent while brands like White Claw or Truly are both 5 percent ABV).
“When we looked at seltzer, we really recognized that especially for a larger consumer base, they were kind of ready for something that had more flavor, had more ABV, had some more unique ingredients. So that’s where we focused because Travis also likes seltzer,” says Buchanan. “He likes that it’s refreshing and that you could sit there and enjoy one when you’re hanging out with friends, but he wanted one that delivered on taste and that’s higher ABV versus what was in the market.”
Where to Buy it
Unlike most of Travis Scott’s previous work, CACTI isn’t something that will only be sold via his web store or so limited that it will sell out in a matter of minutes. Buchanan says that when you pop into the store to buy your next six-pack, CACTI will eventually be sitting beside various other brands. While retail pricing will vary slightly depending on where you buy it, the range of products will be sold at a slight bump up from other seltzers currently on the market. Rather than a limited time drop from the brand, it appears that CACTI will become a long-term offering in stores nationwide.
“We’re looking to build this brand for the next few years and decades to come,” Buchanan tells Complex. “The goal for this is something that, if you were in the mood for it, you can go to your local store, you can go to your local gas station, you can go to your local bodega, you can go to the bar and find this product.”
At the time of writing this, there has not been any merch released by Travis, but based on the 100-plus offerings to celebrate his McDonald’s collab, and the numerous items he’s worn over the past few months, expect some to be on the way. Perhaps the branded Yeti coolers we saw seeded to Travis’ friends and family will get an official release too? Who knows at this point. When it comes to the drink itself though, Buchanan hints that this is only the beginning of the CACTI brand, and that they are already thinking about new flavors to introduce in the future.
“The idea is that the brand itself becomes a larger portfolio,” says Buchanan. “Seltzer is going to be step one.”