How to Grow a Drinks Business with Private Aviation

Jason Crandall tells Fabrizio Poli how business aircraft ownership enabled him to grow and develop his beverage company, and how it continues to support him in his new venture following the sale of his successful business.

Fabrizio Poli  |  11th April 2024
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    Fabrizio Poli
    Fabrizio Poli

    Fabrizio Poli is Senior Consultant at Orville Aviation. He is also an Airline Transport Pilot. Mr. Poli...

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    Building a beverage with a private airplane

    Jason Crandall’s father was a serial entrepreneur who started Amelia Bay, a Multi-Level Marketing (MLM) company selling ice beverages. The product was concentrated juice you added water to. Initially, Jason began working for his father while he was still in college.

    Ultimately, the MLM model proved to be too much work, so Jason started pitching companies directly in the Atlanta, Georgia area. While people loved the concept of just adding the powder to a tub of water, the problem was that the product didn’t taste good enough. So, Jason (pictured below, right) worked on the formulation.

    Improving the taste, he also designed a machine to help with production and once the changes were in place, sales started picking up. Soon Jason found himself selling iced tea and coffee in large drums to large beverage companies – a business model that proved much easier than MLM or selling to restaurants.

    It was around twenty years ago when Jason started getting into flying. At the time he was traveling via the scheduled airlines twice weekly, and he recollects the experience was getting tedious and tiring.

    A lot of Jason’s customers were in the southeast US, and he came to a sudden realization that they were easy to reach if you could fly yourself.

    He spoke to his accountant and explored how aircraft ownership worked, and upon learning that aircraft can be considered a business expense, Jason was sold on the idea.

    He called his local airport and found a 19-year-old flight instructor with whom he started taking lessons. It took Jason two months to earn his Private Pilot’s License, Instrument and Multi-Engine rating, and a few weeks after that he bought a Cirrus SR22 single-engine piston airplane.

    The Extra Freedom of Business Aviation

    Jason flew as much as he could, often visiting clients and returning home on the same day. The freedom of flying his own aircraft, traveling to his own schedule where and when he wanted made aircraft ownership “the greatest luxury in life,” he says.

    “There is nothing better. I don’t care if you have a Cirrus SR22 or a business jet. You can drive into your hangar, get your plane out, and fly away... that’s it!”

    Within a couple of years, Jason was looking for his next plane. Exploring the possibility of another piston aircraft model, he narrowed the search down to the Beechcraft G36 Bonanza. Selling the Cirrus and buying a turbo-normalized Bonanza, he flew 1,000 hours in just three years in his next airplane.

    Then a chance meeting with a local Pilatus dealer from DeKalb-Peachtree Airport presented him with an opportunity to fly a Pilatus PC-12 single-engine turboprop – a plane he immediately fell in love with and bought. 

    Jason made good use of his PC-12 amassing 2,000 flight hours during seven years of ownership. Flying it everywhere, he used the plane entirely for business purposes, and the business paid for everything.

    The US taxation system favors private aircraft ownership, and Jason used this to allow him to build his business even further. If a customer called from the southeastern United States with an issue, Jason would be there within an hour. “The Pilatus was a massive life and business upgrade,” he explains.

    He recalls one particular occasion when a customer called to say they’d had an accident with one of their tea containers and urgently needed some more. Jason loaded some drums of cold tea onto his Pilatus, and within a couple of hours was on his customer’s doorstep.

    With the payload capabilities of the PC-12, he would often load the airplane with product, and this made a big difference in building his business.

    Jet Setting Life After Selling the Drinks Business

    Today, Amelia Bay is an industry leader for industrial-scale brewed tea, coffee and botanicals. The company's flavor chemists and R&D staff have created some of the most well-known and beloved brands in the marketplace.

    In 2020 Jason sold the company to Florida Food Products, LLC. (FFP), at which time he decided to venture into the business jet ownership world.

    Finding a low-time Cessna Citation CJ4, having acquired it he flew it to Stevens Aerospace in Greenville, South Carolina to customize the interior at a cost of $300k. He describes the CJ4 as a “fast Pilatus”, and flies it to Europe, Mexico, South America, and into the Caribbean. In the three years since he bought it, he has flown 1,000 hours in the CJ4.

    These days, Jason operates in the Real Estate business building hangars. The line of business suits him because, as well as being aviation-related, once the hangar is built and rented there are no people to manage but it produces a guaranteed cashflow every month while the hangar appreciates in value over time.

    The decision to own an aircraft all those years back paid off for Jason. It enabled him to excel in customer service, build his business up to a level it was successfully acquired, and now it enables him to get ahead in a new area of business entirely as he builds and rents hangars.

    The freedom and flexibility of “the greatest luxury in life” has undoubtedly paid dividends for Jason Crandall.

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