Posted: Tue 24th Aug 2021
Consumer purchasing habits have been heavily impacted by the COVID pandemic. In the world of drinks innovation particularly there’s been a number of new trends that have emerged. Low (or no) alcohol drinks, pre-mixed cans, fermented products, premium mixers with off-beat flavours, and even CBD drinks are just some of the trends to watch out for in 2021.
With that in mind, we meet 3 Enterprise Nation members hoping to make a splash in the UK drinks market.
With a rise in ‘have-a-go’ bartenders and virtual social group activities during lockdown, tequila sales soared. It was perfect timing for Danielle White and Matthew Walker, who’d already conceptualised their idea for a new business in 2019.
On a mission to encourage thoughtful sipping, rather than careless slamming, of tequila, the Edinburgh-based duo launched Savora Drinks to create a range of premium mixers to accompany their favourite spirit. And in April of this year their first perfectly paired mixer – Zesty Lime and Agave – was unveiled. “It retains the familiarity of tequila being served with lime whilst adding subtle undertones of agave - the sole ingredient of all premium tequilas”, explains Danielle. “We really pay attention to detail and I think that shines through in the product.”
Of course, in such a competitive industry, it’s not always easy to get noticed – or for small independent brands to compete with their larger competitors. “We’re currently selling online and in a number of pubs, bars and restaurants around Edinburgh – which provide the perfect opportunity for customers to experiment with Tequila as a long serve, without having to go out and purchase a whole bottle of tequila themselves. We’re finding that people are increasingly willing to pay a little bit extra for a premium product – and to support an independent brand. Obviously we’d struggle to compete with our much larger competitors in terms of price, but we’d love to see our products on the shelves of the big retailers one day soon. It’s crazy to think that less than two years ago Matthew and I were sitting in the kitchen making drinks. Not only have we been able to welcome our very first employees this year, but Matthew was recently shortlisted as Food & Drink Entrepreneur of the Year for Scotland & Northern Ireland in the Great British Entrepreneurship Awards! This is a huge win for us and recognition of our journey so far.”
Thanks to an increase in demand for wellness-oriented products during the pandemic, demand for ‘NOLO’ (no and low alcohol) drinks is on the rise. But to ensure longevity producers must convince consumers that choosing NOLO doesn’t mean they have to compromise on flavour.
With over 35 years’ experience developing new drinks and brands for other companies, Alli Briaris and her friend Neil Merrick may just be the people to do that. Using only the finest botanical ingredients they set about creating a range of non-alcoholic aperitifs, and in May of this year launched Drinks Kitchen.
“We were looking for something exciting, grown-up and non-alcoholic to drink on days when we’re being good and not drinking wine. As much as I love a massive glass of New Zealand Sauvignon, it just doesn’t love me back anymore”, laughs Alli. “All the products we tried were either too sweet, massively overpriced, or just poor imitations of alcohol. So we developed our own using distillates and extracts from fruits, herbs, spices & bitters. Flavour and authenticity were our priority.”
With big booze brands now pouring money into NOLO it’s clear that it’s an exciting market segment that’s ripe for innovation. So how do our Somerset-based entrepreneurs plan to compete? “There seems to be a lot of love for local businesses like ours. And there’s been a big increase in online shopping over the last year, meaning that consumers are more confident buying from smaller brands. Farmers markets and food shows have allowed us to meet our customers in an outdoor, Covid-safe environment. We’re now slowly getting into local retailers and hospitality too. It takes time when you’re doing everything yourself - it took almost a year to develop - so it’s just been brilliant to start making sales. I recently attended Enterprise Nation’s ‘Meet The Journalists’ event to discover more about PR. I’ve also been attending Lunch and Learn webinars to master my social media skills. Being part of a small business community makes going it alone feel less scary and give you the motivation to keep going. We were thrilled to win a gold medal for our ‘Herb Verde’ aperitif at the Taste of the West awards – as well as silvers for our ‘Spiced Rhubarb’ and ‘Orange Cinchona’. That feels like a real pat on the back.”
“After the last year, we’re all going to appreciate spending time with those we love. By enjoying one of our non-alcoholic aperitifs, you can make it a more regular occurrence. What’s more, you can drive home safely and wake up feeling fresh. Our moto is: live for today; drink for tomorrow.”
Kombucha is said to have first appeared in China as the ‘Tea of Immortality’ around 2000 years ago. It’s now one of the trendiest drinks on store shelves today, and one of the fastest growing in the functional beverage industry. Still commonly consumed for it’s health benefits this vegan, low sugar, naturally sparkling drink saw it’s popularity soar during the pandemic as consumers searched for new ways to boost their immunity.
Lou Dillon began experimenting with kombucha in the labs whilst studying for a master’s degree in Food Science. “After analysing kombucha I soon discovered the real benefits of the magical ferment and the role it plays in healthy digestion and immune functions. Soon after, whilst socialising with friends that were abstaining from alcohol, I had a ‘eureka’ moment. Hearing how frustrated they all were by the lack of choice and poor quality of alcohol substitutes, I decided to create a range of healthy, tasty beverages that could be an alternative to alcohol and sugary sodas. And so, Twisted Kombucha was born.
“We pride ourselves in making the tastiest kombucha out there. It’s 100% raw and complete with tons of active cultures. To flavour it, we do a secondary fermentation where we naturally infuse real fresh fruits, botanicals and herbs. I am working towards being a sustainable business. Our glass bottles are fully recyclable and our tea leaves are passed on to a local artisan skincare company. Most importantly our 'SCOBY' waste (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast) generated from the kombucha fermentation is passed onto a textile producer who re-processes it into a new, more sustainable, vegan, leather-like material. The process involves drying out the scoby and the end results are amazing gloves, wallets and bags."
With five unique flavours to choose from, including butterfly pea flower and hibiscus and lavender, Lou’s bubbly 'booch' is batch brewed, bottled and labelled in North London. “I’m so proud of what we have achieved. Earlier this year we moved into a commercial space and made it into what is now Muswell Hill's first kombucha brewery. I now have over 40 stockists around London, sell at food markets most weekends, and I’m about to launch an online shop too.
“I joined Enterprise Nation because I wanted to be part of a supportive community of like-minded business owners. Last year I also joined a networking group specifically for food entrepreneurs, alongside Jess Salamanca, founder of Banana Scoops. We get together each week to share our highs, lows and questions – and receive encouragement, support and answers in return.”
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