The “Mindful Drinking” scene is growing rapidly, and many of the brands that we know and love, or are only just discovering, were the brainchild of people who have changed their own relationship with alcohol – some of them have even cut down or stopped since being a part of the scene, soaking up the growing awareness around health. We caught up with four of these brand-founders, who will be at our Mindful Drinking Festival in London this Saturday (28th July), to find out their stories:
1) I understand that you have a story around your own relationship with alcohol, can you tell us a little bit
About two years ago, I had a mental health illness during which I was unable to drink alcohol. One of the things I really struggled with was being able to go out with friends and enjoy a sophisticated, adult-like drink where I felt like I fitted in with the group. Simply put, I was fed up with drinking sugary soft drinks or a lime and soda. What I really wanted was to have the same experience as someone drinking alcohol ordering a drink from the spirits shelf in a bar and experiencing a sophisticated taste in my drink. Berkshire Blend, a premium non-alcoholic spirit alternative, was started out of this frustration. At Berkshire Blend, we like to link back to the story that created the business and as such 5% of our profits are donated to Mind charity.
2) How has this influenced what you do as a brand?
Berkshire Blend is focussed on creating the non-alcoholic spirit alternative which tastes like an alcoholic drink. Having been in the situation where I couldn’t drink alcohol, I really understand what is required to make a non-alcoholic drink sophisticated in taste and experience. Our mantra in all that we do at Berkshire Blend is to redefine what it means to drink. Consumers want the same theatre and experience when they have a drink, regardless of whether it contains alcohol or not, and they want that sophisticated taste and characteristic burn at the end of each sip.
3) What changes have you seen in the “mindful drinking” scene over the last year?
Over the last year, the concept of mindful drinking has really come to the forefront of popular consciousness. What was a trend a few years ago has now significantly developed and is engrained into society demonstrated by the popularity of events such as the Mindful Drinking Festival and Dry January. Estimates suggest that 5m people signed up to no alcohol in January this year. The pub and bar culture has also really developed over the past year to cater for those who don’t want to drink alcohol.
We have seen the desire from consumers to live more balanced lifestyles. This doesn’t mean completely ditching alcohol, but it is about having an option for the occasions where you want an alternative to alcohol which still has those sophisticated, adult-like qualities. More and more consumers are wanting to go sugar-free or gluten-free and Berkshire Blend can offer them that sophisticated alternative.
4) Where would you like to see the scene in two years time, including with your own brand, and what do you think is needed to get you there?
The mindful drinking scene is already very popular, particularly in metropolitan cities. I’d like to see this continue to develop to the point where bar menus and in day to day conversation, going for a drink doesn’t necessarily mean drinking alcohol. The growing premium non-alcoholic drinks sector compliments traditional alcoholic options very well and I think we will see a continued move towards a complete offering in pubs, bars, restaurants and in the consumers home of alcoholic and non-alcoholic offerings sitting side by side. Berkshire Blend is well placed to grow within this developing sector.
As newcomers, we would love to immerse ourselves further into the crowd. From what we have seen thus far it is incredibly diverse and vibrant – a scene within which we would love to add to the conversation. Our big dream is that whether or not you drink alcohol we want all our experiences to be equal – Whether you drink or not the venue is the same, your friends are the same, and we very much believe your drinks should be also.
1) I understand that you have a story around your own relationship with alcohol, can you tell us a little bit about it?
I always loved strong drinks, those that burn the lips and set your mouth on fire. For a long time, I was searching for a fiery alcohol-free soft drink, to drink on its own.
A flying visit to my favourite grocery store made me realise that there were no strong alcohol-free drinks and I decided to redress that terrible injustice by inventing that beverage myself.
I can still see myself running through Paris looking for Thai spices, African syrups, Chinese roots, Caribbean fruits, Indian peppers, English sodas, Jamaican juices, inventing adventurous recipes, transforming my humble kitchen into a mysterious and magical laboratory.
The perfect trio of ginger, tonic and chilli pepper came to me in a miraculous flash of inspiration one evening. I couldn’t believe my taste buds – my glass was filled with a sexy, fruity and spicy drink, which was both sweet and violent at the same time. Soft like a soda, yet harsh like a spirit.
2) How has this influenced what you do with Pimento as a brand?
I decided to produce that incredible discovery on a larger scale, to help people cut down alcohol, taking a sweet pleasure doing it.
And it works! Pimento is seen and understood as a real and credible, “grown-up” alternative to alcohol, much better than a standard, tasteless soda. It’s an original weird and daring experience: it tastes like alcohol, but it’s not!
Take a sip. First, the surprise of ginger – full and fruity. Then, the shock of chilli – hot and amazing. A thrilling heat wave runs through your body, the unique taste and sensation of Pimento. You just won’t want any other soft drink from now on! And if you squeeze a wedge of fresh lime in the glass, it will be even better.
3) What changes have you seen in the “mindful drinking” scene over the last year? (this is what we call people who have stopped or cut down on their drinking, and the options available to them at pubs/bars/events etc)
There is definitely a groundswell building in the UK. An increasing number of studies show that around one in four adults do not drink alcohol and there are now lots of great “grown-up” soft drinks being produced. The issue for consumers is that these are still pretty hard to find. Several great online stores have appeared and there is an increasing number of alcohol-free festival and events, but the mainstream trade has yet to buy into this scene properly.
4) Where would you like to see the mindful drinking scene in two years time, including with your own brand, and what do you think is needed to get there?
I am sure that mindful drinking has the possibility to become much more mainstream in this timeframe, but the trade need to step up to the plate and provide a serious platform for smaller producers such as ourselves to get proper exposure and support. Wholesalers and on-trade chains need to listen to consumers who are fed up with the standard/limited products on offer and provide more interesting options to their customers, particularly their women customers.