New Mexico State University (NMSU) alumni and fans now have more ways than ever to support student-athletes and Mesilla Valley retailers, thanks to an ever-expanding galaxy of NMSU products offered in bars, breweries, and stores throughout the state.
The university dove headfirst into the lucrative world of food, drinks, and other licensed consumable products in 2017 with the introduction of Pistol Pete’s 1888 Ale.
Crafted by Albuquerque’s Bosque Brewery, the straw-colored brew captured a bronze in the blonde ale category at the Great American Beer Festival in
2018. The beer is among NMSU’s 10 officially licensed consumable products on the market.
Today, NMSU ranks in the top five among collegiate leaders in the sale of licensed consumables (fifth) and alcoholic beverages (second).
Those are heady rankings up against such heavy hitters as the University of Texas, Alabama, and other much larger universities.
“We’ve been very innovative in the consumable space under the collegiate licensing umbrella,” says NMSU Athletic Director Mario Moccia. “We are very close to licensed products, including consumables, generating $75,000 to $100,000 in annual sales.”
The athletic department works with its exclusive licensing agent, Collegiate Licensing Company/Learfield Licensing Partner (CLC), which licenses all NMSU products, such as caps, jerseys, housewares, tailgate items, and branded food and drink products.
CLC receives 12 percent of a licensed item’s wholesale price and each quarter NMSU gets a cut of that amount, depending on the individual contract.
Income from NMSU products goes strictly to supporting more than 400 Aggie student-athletes in 16 sports, according to Mario.
“The vast majority of our products are from small, local New Mexico businesses,” Mario explains. “Oftentimes, they have Aggie alums who are in leadership positions.”
In 2016, CLC planted the seed with the university for licensing the first of what has become a burgeoning array of NMSU products — Pistol Pete’s 1888 Ale. The athletic director got the okay from university brass to proceed and Bosque Brewery, headed by Aggie alums, received a license to produce the suds. It began selling it on tap in 2017 as one of the nation’s first licensed beers.
The crimson-and-white beer cans designed by an upper-level NMSU marketing class debuted the next year to great acclaim and are now sold in hundreds of retail outlets throughout New Mexico.
Mario sees licensed NMSU products as a win-win- win proposition that benefits not only student-athletes and New Mexico businesses but also increases alumni awareness and interest in NMSU and New Mexico agricultural products.
The sale of consumables, too, has been a boon for local businesses, helping them weather challenging financial times brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In 2020, Dry Point Distillery owner Chris Schaefer (Aggie Class of 2008) agreed to be the licensee for the nation’s first collegiate-branded spirit, Pistol Pete’s Six-Shooter Rye Whiskey. A national distributor has placed the product in more than 140 package stores and other retail outlets throughout the state.
“I credit the whiskey with ensuring our success throughout the pandemic and providing a good way to keep our people employed,” Chris says. “Our sales continue to increase and I’m proud to have sent over $30,000 back to NMSU athletics.”
Las Cruces Bulletin Publisher Richard Coltharp, a longtime Aggie supporter, enjoys the whiskey as well as many of the snacks and adult beverages sponsored by the university.
“I like the idea that these products are out there,” says Richard, “and if I have a choice between two similar products and with buying one of them can support the Aggies, I’ll absolutely make that choice. Plus, most of these products are locally produced and I always like to support local.”
Shop for NMSU products at FARMesilla
FARMesilla, a Las Cruces farm-to-market business at 1840 Avenida de Mesilla, worked with Mario to become a certified one-stop shop for all NMSU products.
Customers can browse all of the NMSU products stocked on the Aggie Corner shelves located just behind the cash register.
Owner and NMSU grad T.J. Runyan says that all Aggie NMSU products are selling well, singling out the recently introduced Pistol Pete’s Most Wanted Salsa, as well as Dry Point’s rye whiskey and the bottled Wobble On Water, as the market’s top sellers.
“They’ve done a great job,” remarks T.J., who also runs Mesilla Valley Produce. “The products fit our theme because most are produced in New Mexico and the quality is outstanding.
“It’s easy to just slap a label on a pre-packaged product but these are all quality products. We’re ecstatic and happy to be working with Mario and the athletic department.”
Five years into the licensed consumables program, Mario sees more branded products on the horizon. Roughly 100 Aggie-faithful joined university brass and mascot Pistol Pete at Bosque’s brewpub across from the NMSU campus just before Thanksgiving 2022 to celebrate the release of the school’s latest consumable entry — Pistol Pete’s 1888 Hard Seltzer in a can.
As the year came to a close, Mario said the university is considering a possible collaboration to bring to market a licensed tequila and to work out something with the state’s popular pistachio industry. Aggie alumni and supporters will no doubt be cheering them on.
In fall of 2023, two additional product lines were added. Heart of the Desert Pistachios & Wines is collaborating with New Mexico State Athletics to create a mix of farm-fresh New Mexico pistachios named “Pete’s Provisions.” Aggie fans can get a taste of the two main flavors of nuts, garlic and green chile or the salted and roasted. Other products include milk chocolate pistachio toffee, pistachio cranberry biscotti, green chile pistachio brittle, and green chile pistachio caramel popcorn.
Aggie fans can also take care of their sweet tooth with pecan and milk-chocolate chip cookies dubbed Pistol Pete’s Pecan Treats from Snugglecubs Cookies, a family-owned business from Albuquerque. Pecans are a big crop in Southern New Mexico, so the inclusion of pecans in the cookies is a natural.
To use a baseball analogy, here is the starting lineup of NMSU products, plus some designated hitters.
• First Base: Aggie Nuts (2011) – Butter toffee peanuts from Virginia Diner in Wakefield, Virginia, make the perfect pregame snack for Aggie fans.
• Second Base: Pistol Pete’s 1888 Ale (2017) – Handcrafted by Bosque Brewing, this beer was one of the nation’s first licensed collegiate alcoholic beverages. In 2018, the golden ale became available in cans with a design created by upper-level NMSU marketing students.
• Shortstop: Pistol Pete’s Crimson Legacy Wine (2020) – Four generations of the Lescombes family have NMSU ties, making this rich cabernet a perfect addition.
• Third Base: Pistol Pete’s Six-Shooter Rye Whiskey (2020) – Aggie alumnus Chris Schaefer, owner of Dry Point Distillery, jumped at the chance to offer the nation’s first collegiate-branded spirit.
Available in two sizes, the 95% rye and 5% barley blend is a hit with Aggie fans.
• Pitcher: Pistol Pete’s Pecans (2021) – Legacy Pecans’ CEO Heather Salopek attended NMSU and helps oversee one of the oldest and largest pecan-growing enterprises in New Mexico.
This roasted and salted snack food pays tribute to the nation’s only indigenous tree nut that reigns supreme in Doña Ana County.
• Catcher: Pistol Pete’s Smell of Victory Candle (2022) – Kiandra Davis, the wife of a former NMSU football coach, took up candle making in Las Cruces. Her Kreative Candle Co. today sells her licensed apple- and maple bourbon-scented candles in stores and online.
• Right Field: Wobble On Water (2022) – This bottled water with a label designed by an Aggie alumnus helps slake the thirst of Aggie tailgaters. It pays homage to a stanza in the university’s fight song.
• Center Field: Pete’s Most Wanted Salsa (2022) – The Franzoy family, Hatch Valley chile-farming pioneers, introduced this all-natural ingredient salsa under the Young Guns Hatch Valley Chile label.
• Left Field: Aggie Roast Coffee (2022) – Support NMSU athletes while enjoying a locally made cup of “Joe” by licensee Beck’s Roasting House and Creamery. Beck’s has hired several Aggie students throughout the past decade.
• Designated Hitters: Pistol Pete’s 1888 Hard Seltzer (2022) – Debuting at Bosque Brewing in Las Cruces just in time to accompany Thanksgiving feasts, this refreshing, lightly carbonated cranberry and green tea seltzer is the latest in a growing line of NMSU-branded products. The 2023 additions of Heart of the Desert Pistachios and Snugglecubs cookies strengthen the team.
Most of the officially branded consumable Aggie products are available at select retailers throughout New Mexico and/or online from the individual licensees’ websites. The whiskey can’t be sold online across state lines or be sent in shipments via mail, but the website listing locations where it can be bought is drypointdistillersnm.com.
Story and photography by Rob McCorkle | Additional photos courtesy NMSU
Originally published in Neighbors magazine | 2023
Story sponsored by NMSU Golf Course & The Player’s Grill
Posted by LasCruces.com