Premium ingredients are key when it comes to botanical alternatives to alcohol.
Caleño, one such alternative to alcohol, incorporates ingredients and branding that take influence from the vibrant upbringing its founder, Ellie Webb, had.
Why are consumers moving away from drinking alcohol?
I think it’s been a combination of a couple of factors.
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 a 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. 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, and you can’t make the most of your day.
What is the significance of your ingredient/flavour choices for Caleño?
I wanted to create a great tasting premium adult spirit, that I would happily drink in place of alcohol and not feel disappointed or as though I was missing out.
I specifically chose ingredients that I thought would balance well together, but that also held significance in terms of what the drink is all about, which is a celebration of the upbeat and colourful Colombian culture I grew up with.
It’s really important nowadays, for customers to understand how a product is made and what ingredients they contain. For example, our Inca berries come from South America, our green cardamom from Central America, and our citrus and coriander botanicals come from Spain.
Latin colours and vibrancy play an important role in terms of what Caleño stands for, so it was important to incorporate some tropical flavours into the drink.
A lot of the time, if you’re cutting back on alcohol, it’s because you’re trying to stay a little healthier, so I kept this in mind when creating the recipe, which is why Caleño is also completely sugar-free, gluten-free, vegan and made using only natural botanical ingredients.
Have you noted any regional differences in response to botanical drinks?
I think other people out there creating non-alcoholic drinks, are creating expressions of what’s important to them in terms of taste and the customer base they most closely resonate with. I think the non-alcoholic category will flourish and grow if we continue to see varied expressions of drinks, which each have their own unique flavour and taste.
It would be a bit boring if everything was the same!
How should non-alcoholic brands formulate their products in order to cater to regional tastes?
I think the most important thing is to understand the audience in your market, and be sure to test out your ideas before spending a lot of time and money on developing it further. In the early days I spoke to around 100 bars, restaurants and pubs, and then tested variations of my recipe with their customers to make sure people liked Caleño and would buy it.
What are some of the obstacles faced by non-alcoholic brands in taking their drinks to market?
I think the drinks market as a whole, is one of the most competitive markets out there, so from the get-go you have that to contend with. I think also you then have to consider costs; how big are your ambitions, what size of audience do you want to reach, and how are you going to scale and grow?
The biggest obstacles I see in the non-alcoholic sector are mainly awareness and education. I think as a category we are going to have to over compensative to break-through and reach the mainstream in terms of awareness of this category.
It’s much better than it was a few years ago, but there’s still a long way to go. Education is also an important one, as people don’t automatically understand non-alcoholic spirits or the process involved in creating a one.
People wrongly assume it’s just a sugary squash, when in reality it’s quite hard to extract and get the right balance of flavours, when you are not relying on alcohol to do the legwork.
Tell us about your stance on sustainably-sourced ingredients, and how Caleño plays a part in this.
I think sustainability is incredibly important and something I am looking to focus more on as the business grows. For example, I’m quite interested in the use of ingredients that are a by-product, or would otherwise be discarded.
I think this will play an important in our future drinks development. I’m also quite keen to look at more efficient ways of shipping products, ensuring all packaging is completely recyclable and potentially innovations in format to help support all of the above.
What qualities do consumers look for in non-alcoholic beverages?
I think first and foremost consumers are looking for great taste. For a long time, the only non-alcoholic options out there have been predominantly sweet and sugary, whereas people are now fed up of those drinks, and palettes have really changed, to crave slightly more bitter, complex flavours.
It’s about sipping and savouring a drink, rather than gulping it down quickly. A lot of the time when people try Caleño, they are really surprised that it’s non-alcoholic. For me it’s about finding a place for alcohol and non-alcoholic drinks both behind the bar, and in the home, with people not really noticing the difference.
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