Nekutli® Agave Nectar: The Colibree Company Looks Back at 14 Years of Entrepreneurial Adventure, and Forward to a Nationwide Retail Launch

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A look back at one woman's entrepreneurial adventure with Agave Nectar, as her company, The Colibree Company, celebrates its 14th year of operations, and she readies for the launch of a nationwide retail line under the company's own label, Nekutli.

Agave Nectar is sweet, but not too sweet, and it brings out Tequila's best flavors

It's been 14 years since Sabra Van Dolsen set out on her quest to introduce the U.S. to Agave Nectar ( and its many uses, after the creation of her own production and distribution company, The Colibree Company. As she celebrates the 14-year mark in her entrepreneurial adventure with the company, and looks to expand operations with the launch of a nationwide retail line of Agave Nectar, under the company's own label, Nekutli, she reflects on her use of one of her home towns - Aspen, Colorado - as a mini-marketing model for what was then, a fairly foreign substance to most Americans, and what is now, rapidly becoming a household item.

In 1995, Van Dolsen was busier than a bee, dispensing samples of Agave Nectar to friends, family, restaurant owners, chefs and bartenders, all over Aspen. The nectar began to pop up on tables in local coffee shops, right next to the packets of sugar and artificial sweeteners. Aspen chefs and bartenders started adding the Agave Nectar to their dishes and drinks, savoring its unique properties - the nectar is sweeter than refined sugar, but more delicate in flavor than honey. It is also 100% organic, and totally vegan.

Today, Agave Nectar can be found on store shelves across the nation - at monster chains like Whole Foods Market and Trader Joe's, as well as smaller chains and independent natural and organic grocery stores. But Van Dolsen's original campaign for the product really started with the tastemakers of the food industry: Chefs. She figured that if she could teach top chefs - and top mixologists - to recognize the product's many uses and benefits, the general populace would follow suit.

Agave Nectar is found in some of the highest-profile restaurant kitchens and bars nationwide, including that of one of Food & Wine's former Best New Chefs, Chef Charles Dale, at Terra Restaurant at the Encantado Resort in Santa Fe. The nectar is also used as an ingredient at the Willow Creek Bistro, at Aspen's Ritz-Carlton® Destination Club.

Some of the other Aspen chefs who have discovered Agave Nectar's versatility, and have developed imaginative applications for the nectar (, include Thomas Colosi, chef/owner of Blue Maize; Chef Kip Feight, of Conundrum Catering; Chef Matthew Zubrod at DISH Aspen; and even a private brewer, Ken Bartle. And locally, in Los Angeles, mixologists at the Michelin-rated, James Beard award-winning restaurant Providence, can't get enough of the sweet stuff.

"Agave Nectar is sweet, but not too sweet, and it brings out Tequila's best flavors," says Vincenzo Marianella, former lead mixologist at Providence, now owner of his own beverage consulting firm, MyMixology ( Marianella continues, "When I was still at Providence, I was searching for the Agave Nectar for months, and simply couldn't find it in Los Angeles…until I met Sabra."

But Van Dolsen's Agave Nectar success story didn't happen overnight.

Sabra Van Dolsen was born to American parents, in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. Although she now resides in the United States, she has always had a place in her heart for her country of origin and its people. She fell in love with the history, culture and landscape of Agave and she learned to appreciate the many uses of the agave plant. This is why, since the mid-nineties, Van Dolsen has been on a mission to introduce the world to Agave Nectar, one of the plant's shining contributions to culinary society. Van Dolsen even coined the English term, "Agave Nectar" - in Mexico, agave syrup was known as "Miel de Agave".

Van Dolsen spent her childhood and teenage years bouncing back and forth between Santa Monica and Venice, California, and Aspen. She left the western part of the U.S. to attend Bennington College, spent 20 years in New York City, and returned to Aspen in 1995. It was at this point that she teamed up with childhood friend, Jeanette Kappeli, and her first Mexican business partner, Humberto Saldana Pico, to found their first agave venture, The Colibree Company. The company dedicated its business plan to initiating commercial-scale production of Agave Nectar in Mexico, for United States import.

With an initial loan of $5,000 from Kappeli's mother, as well as money invested by a handful of Van Dolsen's college friends, the pair was able to start spreading the word about their agricultural endeavor and the benefits and uses of Agave Nectar. Through their teachings regarding the nectar's various applications, they created a host of fans, and secured an arsenal of interesting private investors.

Investors poured in from all varieties of fields and industry backgrounds. The Colibree Company's investors include the Executive Producer of "CSI: Las Vegas", Kenneth Fink, former Lieutenant Governor of Colorado, Nancy Dick, screenwriter Carroll Cartwright, as well as lawyers, doctors, environmental consultants, lodge owners, actors, architects, film editors, farmers, ranchers, canners, real estate agents, painters and poets, both here and in Mexico. They all had one thing in common: They recognized a unique business opportunity that had promise, they saw the potential of Agave Nectar, and they joined in on the adventure.

The initial investments funded The Colibree Company's pilot plant production at the University of Guadalajara, in Mexico. But in 1999, just as The Colibree Company was about to strike a deal with a large food conglomerate, the price of Blue Agave shot up from $80 per metric ton to $1,400 per ton, and the original business plan fell to pieces. A shortage of Blue Agave, in combination with a growing U.S. demand for Tequila - also derived from the juice of the agave - resulted in the huge jump in price for the plant, and temporarily ruled it out as a source of the nectar.

Van Dolsen's original investors urged her to give up the business plan and take the tax loss, but she wouldn't quit that readily. In the fall of 2000, Van Dolsen returned to Mexico and found new partners who she engaged as manufacturers in the production of Agave Nectar. The Colibree Company joined forces with a network of agricultural collectives and started a company in Mexico called "NEKUTLI", which means "the sacred juice of the agave" in Nahuatl, an Aztec dialect. Hundreds of Mexican farmers provided the raw material from an alternate species of agave, and production of the Nekutli Agave Nectar began in 2002.

Van Dolsen had always wanted to be involved in a project that contributed to the long-term socioeconomic development of Mexico. The Agave Nectar production process has resulted in substantial job creation; there are now jobs for thousands of Mexican citizens, right on their home turf.

Van Dolsen started to introduce Agave Nectar - at the time, an unknown product - to the American people in 1995, concentrating on Aspen as a mini-marketing model. Agave Nectar can replace honey or sugar as a sweetener in coffee, tea, drink mixes and culinary sauces, and has a myriad of other applications and health benefits. It is high in fructose and is sweeter than refined sugar (approximately 1.4 times sweeter), meaning you need less of it for the same effect. Fructose does not stimulate digestive insulin secretion as do other sugars and thus, the nectar is less disturbing to the glycemic index. In layman's terms, the nectar does not create a "sugar rush."

Vincenzo Marianella adds, "I can use Agave Nectar for people who have blood sugar problems, whereas before, they could not have enjoyed some of my cocktail creations."

Nekutli Agave Nectar is produced in three different grades varying in flavor and color - light, amber and dark - much like maple syrup, which can also be replaced by the nectar. The nectar is less viscous than honey, and dissolves easily in hot or cold beverages. The nectar does not crystallize like honey, which gives it a longer shelf-life.

At the June 10, 2009 grand opening bash for Hollywood's new eco-studios, GreenHouse, bartenders served up versions of one of the nectar's most popular partners: Margaritas. They also served up information about the nectar's health benefits and attributes, to guests unfamiliar with the organic product and its uses. If Van Dolsen had been in attendance, she would have witnessed how her labor of love had landed a spot in red-carpet territory, with a starring role at a Hollywood shindig. Now that's sweet.

About The Colibree Company, Inc.

The Colibree Company distributes Pure Agave Nectar, a 100% organic fructose sweetener from the Agave plant.

The Colibree Company distributes the Agave Nectar to food and beverage customers all over the United States. The nectar can be purchased in bulk, in drums and totes, and for food service in gallon containers and five-gallon pails. In Southern California, The Colibree Company sells direct to Whole Foods Market under the label "Nekutli", as well as to SYSCO Food Services of Los Angeles, Inc. The Colibree Company also packages for retail and offers private labeling services.

Van Dolsen is currently seeking strategic partners or investors that can help Colibree launch a nationwide retail line of Agave Nectar, under the company's own label. In the interim, she continues to market the product through her site,, where one can find a wealth of information about the nectar and its multiple applications.

The Colibree Company is located in Aspen, and distributes regionally out of Los Angeles, Denver, Texas and New Jersey. Please visit for more information about the company and Agave Nectar, in general. Van Dolsen continues to split her time between Los Angeles and Aspen. She is available for interviews and/or comment as a marketing consultant, as well as public speaking opportunities.


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