Non alcohol

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Athletic Brewing Co. Proves Viability of Alcohol-free Beer

Athletic Brewing Co. Proves Viability of Alcohol-free Beer

by David Klemt

Doubters and detractors of non-alcoholic beer have only to look at Athletic Brewing Co. to understand the category has a long, bright future ahead of it.

Athletic Brewing opened its first taproom in Stratford, CT, back in May of 2018. A month later, the non-alcoholic brewer signed on with a distributor to launch two of their flagship beers statewide. Two years after that milestone was reached, Athletic took over a 100,000-barrel capacity facility in San Diego once owned by Ballast Point.

That would be impressive growth for any brewer, traditional or non-alcoholic. But there’s another element that really highlights the explosive growth and potential of Athletic: investment rounds.

In August of 2017, Athletic raised $250,000 in seed funding. One year later, in September, the brewer raised $500,000 in another seed funding round. A third funding round resulted in $3,122,221 in December 2019. And then came March 2020: Athletic raised $17,500,000 in Series B funding.

According to a report written by Kate Krader and published earlier this week by Bloomberg, some of Athletic’s investors are celebrities, something that had remained quiet for a few years now.

David Chang, the founder of Momofuku, NFL players Justin Tuck and JJ Watt, and Lance Armstrong are some of the celebrity backers identified by Krader as Athletic Brewing Co. backers. According to Crunchbase, Blake Mycoskie, founder of TOMS Shoes, participated in the 2020 Series B funding round.

That these investments remained under the radar shows that celebrities and other investors believe Athletic and the non-alcoholic beer category is here to stay.

We’ve grown accustomed to celebrity-backed spirits and wines. At least three celebs have scored massive paydays in spirits. George Clooney and Rande Gerber sold Casamigos to Diageo for $1 billion in 2017. Last year, Aviation Gin, owned by Ryan Reynolds, sold to Diageo for a deal worth up to $610 million.

Athletic is one of the brewers we showcased in our January 1 article “0.0 to 0.5 Beers to Know for Dry January and Beyond.” We shared some of Athletic’s story and how founder Bill Shufelt was motivated to fill a void in the market. Namely, refreshing and flavorful non-alcoholic craft beers.

Shufelt, like so many people who have chosen to live an alcohol-free lifestyle or reduce their alcohol intake, still enjoys going out to bars and restaurants to socialize. Athletic and other non-alcoholic brewers offer guests a drinking and dining experience without a sacrifice in quality.

I can clearly see an opportunity for people to invest in Athletic Brewing Co., Partake Brewing, WellBeing Brewing, Surreal Brewing Company, and others moving forward. It’s obvious that craft non-alcoholic beers have a future beyond Dry January, and it’s likely more talented brewers and celebrities will enter the category. In fact, 2021 may be the Year of NA Beer.

Image: Athletic Brewing Co.

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Dry January Will Be Different in 2021

Dry January Will Be Different in 2021

by David Klemt

Tomorrow marks the start of the first Dry January we’ve ever experienced under stay-at-home shutdowns and bar, restaurant and nightclub restrictions.

Like Veganuary—remember way back to yesterday when we wrote about it?—the movement as we’ve come to know can be traced back to the UK. People have chosen t abstain from alcohol in January for decades but Dry January really took off after the trademark was registered by a non-profit called Alcohol Change.

Understandably, many operators have taken issue with Dry January. Taking a hit to the bottom line for a month (or more) because of a reduction in alcohol sales isn’t an exciting proposition.

However, Dry January may be different this year. The convergence of a number of consumer behaviors driven by restricted access to restaurants and bars may present an opportunity.

Throughout most of 2020 we’ve been inundated with reports about unprecedented boosts in online alcohol sales. Premium and ultra-premium spirits grew at a faster rate than they had pre-pandemic. Operators have been forced to pivot, relying heavily on delivery, (somewhat) traditional takeout, and curbside pickup.

Put those all together but substitute premium spirits for premium alcohol-free options and there’s the potential for operators to generate revenue directly linked to zero-proof sales.

One of the keys to succeeding with zero-ABV drinks is presentation. Many alcohol-free brands are dedicated to elevating the category, meaning they can be treated the same as their low- and full-proof counterparts. Curated zero-proof drink kits that include quality modifiers, mixers, garnishes and drinkware can help generate sales. Post quick how-to videos to social media showing a member of the bar team building zero-proof cocktails to create interest.

Those are just two ideas. It shouldn’t be difficult for operators to pivot and offer alcohol-free options that are authentic to their brand and therefore resonate with their guests.

Operators that nail their Dry January menu programming lay the groundwork for succeeding with the alcohol-free category throughout the rest of the year. We finally live in an age where sober, sober-curious and intermittently abstinent consumers don’t feel uncomfortable visiting a bar. Make them feel welcome. Operators who alienate these guests will drive them straight to their competitors to ring their registers instead.

Seedlip is probably the best-known within the alcohol-free category but more premium brands are emerging. Operators should familiarize themselves with the following: Lyre’s (which crafts zero-proof spirits that taste like their traditional counterparts), Wilderton (which uses a distillation method that never introduces alcohol), and Shoki (which showcases African and Caribbean heritage and flavors). There are also brewers embracing the alcohol-free movement, such as Calgary’s Partake Brewing (which is beginning to cross into the US) and Lagunitas and their IPNA, an alcohol-free IPA.

Image: YesMore Content on Unsplash

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