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Festival Product Launches: The Inspiration, People & Futures of the Brands

Festival drinks launches

We all love it when a new product comes to the mindful drinking market – it’s not just about the excitement and anticipation of tasting something different, it’s about the pure elation that the sector is growing and that there IS a demand for well crafted, delicious, experimental drinks which have been tailored to an adult palette. This demand is growing fast, and the options that we’re being given are too. How can we be so confident? Well, the proof is in the low-calorie pudding: Of the 48 brands we have at the Mindful Drinking Festival on Saturday 28th July, 11 of them are brand-new product launches. That’s 23% of our festival drinks brands that you’ve never tried, or even heard of, before.

We spoke to the founders of some of these new brands and services, to delve into their inspiration behind their creation, and their hopes for the future.

First up is our festival sponsor, Ceder’s alt-gin:

CEDER’S ALT-GIN – Craig Hutchison & Maria Sehlström

1) You’re launching your new alcohol-free “spirit”, Ceder’s, at the Mindful Drinking Festival, what was the inspiration behind creating the product?

Our valley in the Cederberg was the inspiration. While there in February 2017, enjoying the varied and intriguing botanicals, we had the thought to distil them into a non-alcoholic gin. The reason for a non-alcoholic gin is that I had carried on not drinking alcohol after joining Maria while she was pregnant, and I had missed having a sophisticated, interesting, adult drink experience.

2) The increase in this specific category of alcohol-free drinks has increased significantly since our first festival last summer, what do you think the reason for this is?

Adults who have decided not to drink alcohol, which could be for many reasons, have been a seriously neglected community. They too deserve beautifully served drinks, that take them on an intriguing taste journey. Now that both the industry and these consumers have recognised that, we can expect to see continued dynamic growth in this category.

3) Bringing a new product onto the market is a big task, particularly in the alcohol-free category, what do you think you’ll need as a brand to stand out and have the desired impact?

You need to have a distinctive brand and product. With CEDER’S we want to give our consumers an “Every-Day Escape”. Life is tough, we need 5 minutes every day to rewards ourselves, and to escape, with CEDER’S. Our products are also distinctive, and come in three variants, all Juniper based. They taste great with a premium tonic mix, or in a cocktail.

4) How do you think organisations like ourselves here at Club Soda have helped and can continue to help, with the growth of the low and no alcohol sector?

We need to manage the growth of this category in a conscious way. We need to ensure all products are of a high quality. We need to make sure we market our brands in a responsible manner. Club Soda have been super supportive, and are well placed to co-ordinate the growth of the category.

5) Where would you like to see your brand in 2 years, and what are the main hurdles in place that you’d like to overcome?

We hope to be established in the UK, as well as our home markets of Sweden and South Africa, as well as other international markets within 2 years. The main hurdle is to fulfil our promise to consumers, and give them an “Every-Day Escape” with a beautifully served and wonderfully tasting CEDER’S drink.

Caleño – Ellie Webb 

1) You’re launching your new alcohol-free “spirit”, Caleño, at the Mindful Drinking Festival, what was the inspiration behind creating the product?

So, I initially starting thinking about the alcohol-free space back in January 2017, as I was looking to cut back on my drinking after Christmas. There was one particular night I remember going out to watch a Latin Funk band with some friends, and I’d offered to drive as I didn’t want to drink. My friends ordered some nice craft gins to enjoy, whilst I was left drinking a diet coke and then water… Not quite as exciting. From there, I started thinking about this problem, and about how there is so much choice in the alcoholic spirits world, but hardly anything in non-alcoholic. A few months later I took a trip back to Colombia. I spent a lot of time with family and travelled around the country, visiting Cali, Medellin, Bogota the coffee region and the coastal towns of Cartagena and Santa Marta. Whilst I was there I experienced the warm, happy and sunny nature of the Colombia people, who are relentlessly optimistic, open-minded and are always finding an excuse to celebrate/party!! It was then that it kind of dawned on me what the non-alcoholic sector was missing – it needed a massive injection of fun and excitement, and a brand that rejects that stereotype that “not drinking” is somehow not fun. So, I guess it was from there that my journey really began….

2)    The increase in this specific category of alcohol-free drinks has increased significantly since our first festival last summer, what do you think the reason for this is?

I think it’s been a combination of 2 or 3 things. The first is that people are now much more conscious about what they consume, that includes what they drink. People are becoming much more aware of the negative effects of alcohol, in particular, the longer-term health issues. That means they are now making the positive choice to drink less. This trend has been well documented in the media and press, which has therefore shone a spotlight on the ‘mindful’ category as a whole. Consumers are now much savvier when it comes to understanding how the product is made and what it contains. The alcohol-free category caters well to this, including Caleño, which is sugar-free, gluten-free/vegan and made using natural botanicals, with a focus on our hero ingredient and garnish, the Inca Berry, which gives it some lovely tropical notes! Finally, I think the younger generation are just a bit fed up with the effects of alcohol. If you drink to excess, you’re left with a hangover, you can’t make the most of your day. I think we are seeing a real cultural shift in drinking less, which is then translating into an increase in NPD and attention on the category.

3)    Bringing a new product onto the market is a big task, particularly in the alcohol-free category, what do you think you’ll need as a brand to stand out and have the desired impact?

I believe as a new brand entering the category, you need to have a clear vision and a compelling reason for doing what you’re doing. For Caleño it’s quite simple – we want to bring fun and excitement to the category, and combat that stereotype that you can’t have fun if you’re not drinking! What better way to do that than taking inspiration from Colombia, a country close to my heart and that has more parties, festivals and public celebrations than you can shake a stick at, and where you can dance salsa all night! Caleño, is much more than just a non-alcoholic spirit. We’re inspiring people to seize the day (and the night!), because when you’re not drinking, there are no restrictions. You can still have an amazing time, do all the things you want and feel incredible the next day. We’re a non-alcoholic free-spirit so we make up our own rules. Why shouldn’t you be able to enjoy a Caleño & Tonic after an early morning sober salsa session, as well as dance ’til dawn, with nothing but joy and good times as your hangover.

4)    How do you think organisations like ourselves here at Club Soda have helped and can continue to help, with the growth of the low and no alcohol sector?

The guys at Club Soda have been fantastic, and for a brand like Caleño, just starting out, it’s so valuable to have people in the category you can approach for advice, who are actually there actively pushing your brand and what you’re doing, because they believe in the category. Not just that, but Club Soda have a really engaged community, and they provide really valuable platforms, such as ‘The Mindful Drinking’ festival, that massively push the agenda on the alcohol-free category. I don’t know how many categories have the same kind of support, so no I think it’s great – keep doing what you’re doing.

5)    Where would you like to see your brand in 2 years, and what are the main hurdles in place that you’d like to overcome?

In two years, I would love to see Caleño in some super fun and dynamic places, whether that’s buzzing Latin restaurants/bars or even as a refreshment after an energetic dance workout. I’d hope that the brand has really started to show people how to have fun with not drinking, and to have built a strong following of people who are drinking to the rhythm of our free-spirit beat!!

Caliente – James Brown

1) You’re launching your new alcohol-free drink range, Caliente, at the Mindful Drinking Festival, what was the inspiration behind launching this drink in the UK?

I was in Sweden last year on business and tried a Caliente at the hotel I was staying at, being a big chilli fan the drink really resonated with me and six months later I am importing Caliente to the UK!

2) The increase in the production of alcohol-free drinks and brands has increased significantly since our first festival last summer, what do you think the reason for this is?

Historically there have so few choices if choosing not to drink alcohol, this growing market is due to consumers, particularly millennials, willing to try new things.

3) Bringing a new product onto the market is a big task, particularly in the alcohol-free sector, what do you think you’ll need as a brand to stand out and have the desired impact?

First and foremost the product has to stand up in terms of taste and quality, an interesting back story is always a help as it allows the consumer to identify with the brand thus helping propagate the product.

4) How do you think organisations like ourselves here at Club Soda have helped and can continue to help, with the growth of the low and no alcohol sector?

There is often a great deal of peer pressure to drink alcohol, any de-stigmatisation of this is a positive.

5) Where would you like to see your brand in 2 years, and what are the main hurdles in place that you’d like to overcome?

The main hurdle is distribution in that you don’t just want it added to a catalogue of another 500 soft drinks, you want people to be out there selling it with real passion, finding the right distributor will be key. I would like Caliente range to be recognised for their food pairing qualities and become recognised as a serious alternative to wine.

Crafty Botanist – Neil Merrick 

1) You’re launching your new syrups range, The Crafty Botanist, at the Mindful Drinking Festival on 28th July after giving us a taster at our Christmas festival – what was the inspiration behind creating the product?

With the number of British adults who consume alcohol at its lowest since 2005, consumers increasingly seeking more premium products in the drinks sector and innovation really taking shape in the non-alcoholic drinks market – it was a natural step to create The Crafty Botanist range.

Working together, we created from scratch a range of unique products, exactly in line with cocktail and flavour trends in the market, and a brand proposition to wow the consumer.

2) The increase in the production of alcohol-free drinks and brands has increased significantly since our first festival last summer, what do you think the reason for this is?

There has been a massive surge in interest in the wellbeing sector, as a whole, with new events launching throughout the UK and a vast array of products now on the market to satisfy the growing interest from the consumer.

As we are all living longer, an increasing number of people are taking control of their own wellbeing – seeking to prolong the active phase of their lives and ensure they are in good health for a larger proportion of their lives. As such, it is only natural that there is a greater focus on fitness and diet throughout the UK.

Alcohol-free drinks are a natural progression from health in food – as people look to shift their lifestyle, as a whole, rather than just changing their diet. The launch of more and more alcohol-free drinks is being led by market forces, including…those avoiding alcohol for health & fitness reasons, people who haven’t drunk before, Millennials who want to stay in control, pregnant women, drivers, Religious reasons.

3) Bringing a new product onto the market is a big task, particularly in the alcohol-free sector, what do you think you’ll need as a brand to stand out and have the desired impact? 

The Crafty Botanist range has a unique proposition. Our plantcentric branding and beautiful imagery will resonate with those consumers looking for a non-alcoholic option that is different from the rest – those that love beautiful brands as much as we do.

There may be other non-alcoholic drinks for this market – but with these products we have created a completely new taste – not all of them will appeal to everyone. But that makes them special. And we are very confident that there is at least one for everyone!

Our brand is about experimentation and play – people will share their favourites, their creations, their ideas and we will pass it on. Plus, we aren’t just thinking of the consumer – we are part of something much larger and with each of our 500ml glass bottles diluting to 5 litres – the world’s resources will be better off.

4) How do you think organisations like ourselves here at Club Soda have helped and can continue to help, with the growth of the low and no alcohol category?

Not only are Club Soda, and other similar organisations, helping to put the non-alcoholic drinks sector on the market and highlighting the importance of this category to retailers and on-trade – it is also showing consumers that non-alcoholic drinks can be as inspired as alcoholic, the amount of choice available…and that Friday night doesn’t have to be ‘reach for that wine’ night.

5) Where would you like to see your brand in 2 years, and what are the main hurdles in place that you’d like to overcome?

Crafty Botanist will become a consumer favourite over the course of the next 2 years – both on and off-trade. We pride ourselves on our creativity and our ‘let’s try it’ approach … so we’d like to think that we can continue to bring something new to the category for all to benefit. We would like to see consumers sharing their experiences and experimentation with us, so that we can continue to meet shifting needs and ensure our flavour range and proposition continues to satisfy.

Hurdles. What hurdles?!

Sea Arch – Sarah & Geoff Yates

1) You’re launching your new alcohol-free “spirit”, Sea Arch, at the Mindful Drinking Festival, what was the inspiration behindinspiration behind creating the product??

We owned a very successful dessert business for over 20 years. I (Geoff) am a pastry chef by trade and developed many new products for the business by sourcing and combining flavours. We currently own a wine bar called Wellies in Torquay, where it has become increasingly obvious that there is demand for a healthier, sophisticated non-alcoholic adult drink.

Geoff used his experience and knowledge of recipe creation and flavour extraction to create a refreshing, low calorie, non-alcoholic alternative for gin lovers. It is juniper lead, with other botanics including sea kelp, blood orange, cucumber, grapefruit, orris, cardamom, lemon and rose.  The flavours are individually extracted using various methods such as distillation. The alcohol is then removed.

The inspiration for the brand comes from the south coast where Sarah and Geoff live. There are many sea arches in the area, which are made naturally by the erosion of the sea on the land, these show that things can be more beautiful when something is taken away.

2) The increase in the production of alcohol-free drinks and brands has increased significantly since our first festival last summer, what do you think the reason for this is?

People want drinks like Sea Arch that can be enjoyed by various groups. For example, those who have to or want to stay in control, eg sailing, driving a car or working.  People who have health reasons for not drinking, eg pregnancy. People who socialise a lot but don’t want to drink alcohol all the time. Or of course those who have made a lifestyle choice not to drink at all.

3) Bringing a new product onto the market is a big task, particularly in the alcohol-free sector, what do you think you’ll need as a brand to stand out and have the desired impact?

Sea Arch is a premium product designed to be served as you would a gin and tonic with plenty of ice, a squeeze of your favourite citrus and a quality tonic.  In this way in a group it would be hard to pick out the people drinking Sea Arch and those drinking an alcoholic drink. This helps to take away the stigma of not drinking, which is often present. We have strong branding and a beautiful looking bottle, with sophisticated taste and flavour.

4) How do you think organisations like ourselves here at Club Soda have helped and can continue to help, with the growth of the low and no alcohol sector?

With the development of good quality products with strong brands, the marketplace will be able to offer real choice to the no/low alcohol drinking consumer – sophisticated, in presentation and style, adult in taste and perception. By organisations such as Club Soda talking about, reviewing and promoting these products, this new sector will become established and supply will grow to meet increasing demand. The stigma mentioned previously should also become a thing of the past!

Outsider Drinks – Eoghan Conway 

1) You’re launching your new range of alcohol-free drinks, Outsider Drinks, at the Mindful Drinking Festival on 28th July – what was the inspiration behind creating the brand? And can you tell us a bit about the individual products?

When choosing a brand name, I thought about how I felt when not drinking in social situations. I was definitely an ‘Outsider’, and not just because of peer judgement. I never felt like a valued customer, with few quality no-lo options, and being forced to overpay for juices or mediocre mocktails.  With Outsider, I wanted to flip that script, and give people zero-proof drinks that are sophisticated and edgy, with the same level of craft, provenance, and innovation as you’d get in a nice microbrew.

We rotate flavours every couple of months, but for the Mindful Drinking Festival, we will showcase our Orange Blossom, Sorghum, and Malted Barley drinks. I’d love to tell you about them all in depth, but it would take too long. To give you an idea of the detail we go into, our Sorghum is made with Somerset cider vinegar that is sourced from small ancient cider orchards. It is aged for 2.5 years and finished off for 6 months in cask. We then blend it with sorghum syrup from an Amish community in Tennessee, organic ginger, and organic maple syrup from a small family co-op in New Brunswick. Each bottle is hand-capped, bottled on bespoke equipment, and treated with the same level of care you’d find in a craft spirit.

2) The increase in the production of alcohol-free drinks and brands has increased significantly since our first festival last summer, what do you think the reason for this is?

I think customers are becoming more discerning with their tastes, and looking for quality over quantity. Thankfully, the days of getting smashed on cheap booze over lunch are disappearing, but up until recently, forgoing alcohol has meant a sacrifice in quality. Lots of brands are jumping in to fill the void now, and it’s an exciting time to be involved in the sector.

3) Bringing a new product onto the market is a big task, particularly in the alcohol-free sector, what do you think you’ll need as a brand to stand out and have the desired impact?

The no-lo alcohol market is very trendy right now. At Outsider, we want to outlast the fad and produce drinks that stand on their own merits. For us, that starts and ends with authenticity and integrity. It guides everything we do, and we have made a number of sacrifices to maintain it. We won’t sell in supermarkets, because we refuse to have 6-month ambient shelf life or use preservatives. We will not make massive production runs, as it homogenises the product and limits what ingredients we can use. We have limited distribution because it allows us to continually innovate and deliver new products, keeping our customers #boldandcurious.

4) How do you think organisations like ourselves here at Club Soda have helped and can continue to help, with the growth of the low and no alcohol category?

As I mentioned earlier, we’re called Outsider because non-drinkers often feel like the odd ones out. Organisations like Club Soda are critical in bringing that conversation into the mainstream, and helping people realise that the community is larger than they may think. Events like Mindful Drinking also draw in people who may just want to cut down their alcohol consumption, but don’t know what alternatives are available. Most importantly, they help redefine the lifestyle choice as cool, fun, and adventurous.

5) Where would you like to see your brand in 2 years, and what are the main hurdles in place that you’d like to overcome?

I imagine our aspirations are in line with a lot of brands here at Mindful Drinking. We want to break the perception that low alcohol means low quality. In 2 years, we want the Outsider brand to be synonymous with #boldandcurious, zero-proof drinks, and hopefully be a major exhibitor at the 7th Mindful Drinking Festival!

Silk Tree – Andrew Oates

1) You’re launching your new alcohol-free “spirit”, Silk Tree, at the Mindful Drinking Festival, what was the inspiration behind creating the product?

My wife and I decided our love affair with gin and tonic had run its course so we decided to take a break from Alcohol to lead a more active and healthy lifestyle. While embarking on this journey we discovered we didn’t have to deprive ourselves and sit in the corner drinking water or sugary fizzy drinks all night. Or worst still, stay at home because we felt deprived. We embraced the alcohol-free beers but found there really wasn’t an alcohol-free gin that really hit the notes for us. This is when we decided to do a bit of blending and distilling at home, we invested in an air distiller and replaced evenings spent drinking wine in the kitchen to spending our time blending and distilling botanicals. One evening we came up with a formula that tasted so good we said we should bottle it and sell it. This is the seed from which Silk Tree was born.

2) The increase in this specific category of alcohol-free drinks has increased significantly since our first festival last summer, what do you think the reason for this is?

Because more and more people are ditching the booze and looking for worthy alternatives. The emblem for Silk Tree is the butterfly, this symbolises the social butterfly that wants to be out there socialising, having fun, meeting with friends, at the business dinners and not feeling deprived. There is now a fantastic choice of really good alcohol-free beers but a lot of people don’t actually like beer and the non-alcoholic spirit is a great alternative for the wine or of course gin drinkers. It’s refreshing, full of flavour and can be sipped during a meal or at the pub.

3) Bringing a new product onto the market is a big task, particularly in the alcohol-free category, what do you think you’ll need as a brand to stand out and have the desired impact? 

Taste, there can be no compromise on taste. We have come up with a very sophisticated brand, the bottle looks great up on the top shelf with all the spirits yet the labels screams this is good for you as it portraits all the fabulous natural ingredients that go into Silk Tree. Our unique selling point is the 100 % natural ingredients, there is nothing added to improve the look of the drink and the taste is very unique. The strong flavour also means it goes a long way and doesn’t get diluted when mixed with other drinks.

4) How do you think organisations like ourselves here at Club Soda have helped and can continue to help, with the growth of the low and no alcohol sector?

Just by spreading the word. I think the huge turning point for us when we gave up alcohol was the realisation you could replace your favourite tipple with a worthy alternative. Sometimes after a stressful week, you just feel like a nice refreshing drink be it a G&T or a nice cold beer.  You feel you deserve a treat. Now that we have alternatives we get the treat and not the hangover. When you’re out socialising and everyone around you is drinking you don’t want to feel left out and you don’t want to stick out either as the boring one drinking water. AF alternatives do the trick every time. I think organisations like Club Soda are fantastic places forlike-mindedd people to meet, share stories and you realise you are not unique and not alone.

5) Where would you like to see your brand in 2 years, and what are the main hurdles in place that you’d like to overcome?

We see Silk Tree as a global brand, we would like to extend the range of flavours it comes in and to be sold anywhere gin is sold. The only hurdles we see is the fast pace at which this market is growing, the fear we are not able to keep up. Just as well we’re off the booze!

 Social Beverages – Shinyoung Lyu

1) You’re launching your new popup bar, Social Beverages, at the Mindful Drinking Festival on 28th July – what was the inspiration behind creating it?

I love going out and having fun with my friends. That’s because I feel alive with the music, chatting and laughing. It’s good fun. But I realised that I wanted to avoid drinking more and more, yet it didn’t feel right to order something else than alcohol, when going out. So I decided to carry out a small experiment. For example, I would get sparkling water at a bar instead of G&T that my friends were ordering. Surprised in the beginning that anyone would do it, a few joined me to the ‘sparkling water club’ by the 3rd round. Or I would bring my own water in a crystal patterned water bottle to a house party. When someone offered me a drink, I would show the bottle and say I just finished intense sweaty yoga, so I brought my own “vodka”. No one gave me the look for drinking water when it was put into context: it was a discovery that I could actually choose not to drink. But soon I learnt that drinking sparkling water for an all-nighter is just too boring for me and I needed something more than a piece of lime in my water. Not to mention that I didn’t want to look cheap just getting tap water or to pay so much just for sparkling water that I can get at home. And most “mocktails” are too sugary for me. Even the name is like saying “I miss drinking a cocktail but can’t drink it” and that is just not my point. So much demand! I am being so difficult! That’s what I thought. But the more I spoke to my friends about my dilemma, the more I was convinced that actually many of us also wish for fun, low-calorie, worthy drinks without alcohol. Sadly, I realised that there is no place I can think of to get just some good drinks and have fun – minus the alcohol. So that’s when I got into the action of setting up my own bar, so that at least I can please myself and my friends when we don’t feel like drinking alcohol.

2) The increase in the production of alcohol-free drinks, brands, and services has increased significantly since our first festival last summer, what do you think the reason for this is? 

Festivals like this do help boosting the industry as it brings more awareness and interest to people. At the same time, I think there is a fundamental shift in consumers’ minds to drive this increase ever more and the growth will continue in the future. Drinking alcoholic beverages outside home is a big part of consumers’ spending and social activities. Having said that, drinking alcoholic beverages have become a drag to some of the health and wellbeing consciousness for millennial consumers. They are aware of the negative sides of alcohol – the empty calories standing in the way of fitness goals, the hangover ruining a quality weekend, and splurging on cocktails when one is trying to get a grip on expenses. 

3) Bringing something new like this into the industry is a big task, what do you think you’ll need to do as a brand to stand out and have the desired impact?

Having a strong and clear character is one of the ways to achieve it. There are so many brand names popping up all the time, all claiming the similar, so it’s easy to get confused of who’s who in consumers eyes. But I don’t want to shout out and say we are different just for the sake of it. Come to our stall or check out our instagram and see for yourself. I also believe that any non-alcoholic products, bars, or similar services are my potential partners, because the industry is still growing and I think there are more opportunities if we join forces.

4) How do you think organisations like ourselves here at Club Soda have helped and can continue to help, with the growth of the low and no alcohol category?

This festival is a great platform, and I can’t wait to learn more of what Club Soda will bring in next time. I value that you work with different ends of the industries, like makers, bars, big and small brands – because it is not what a single or a few sectors can easily do whilst the impact is bigger this way. I also appreciate that your organisation does not preach or go against alcohol, but finds ways to bring more interest in other options, and keep things open and flexible, similar to how Social Beverages is.

5) Where would you like to see your popup bar in 2 years, and what are the main hurdles in place that you’d like to overcome?

I will have a real location by then, and have pop up events instead! My ambition is to grow this concept bar to a global name of a non-alcoholic hang out place. I spoke to lots of people about my idea before quitting my job as a senior marketing manager in a global company. Some were excited about it, but some reacted strongly against it. It was the proof of the stronghold of alcohol in our society, that is so embedded in us. That could be my main hurdle as a going out place. They asked “what if my friends do want to drink, isn’t that selfish to bring them to your bar”, or said “it is nonsense”, “you probably also need to serve alcoholic drinks”, and so on. My approach is actually to ignore that, both the comments and the reality that lots of us still choose alcohol over anything. Instead, I focus on what is yet a niche, but that niche may become the mainstream in the future.

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Social Media Witch. Moderate drinker. Metal chick.

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