In days gone by, the Food & Drink sector was fairly static. The shelves were filled with heritage brands, many going back decades, and things changed very little in terms of products, methods of manufacture and so on. Not any more. We have grown increasingly used to seeing a constant stream of new brands, new technologies and new kinds of food and drink – all of which makes this a really exciting sector for consumers, companies and IP attorneys alike.
But these aren't the only changes. It's no longer enough to have a product which looks and tastes good. These days, social responsibility and sustainability are key to the success of a brand – and authenticity is an absolute must.
So how do disrupters in the Food & Drink sector see things themselves and what do they think the future holds? We decided to speak to some of the sector's most innovative and passionate founders to find out.
Our fifth revolutionary
Feeling like you may have slightly over-indulged over Christmas and New Year? About to embark on Dry January®? Or just newly resolved to cut back a bit this year? If so, then look no further, as we're delighted to talk to Luke Boase, Founder, and Emma Heal, Managing Director, of alcohol-free lager brand Lucky Saint in our latest disrupter interview. Founded just 4 years ago, Lucky Saint is already making serious waves with its delicious beer and hugely impressive achievement of B Corp status, awarded just before Christmas. We caught up with Luke and Emma to discover the secret of their success and find out just how they are turning the alcohol-free market on its head.
Q. We wanted to start by saying huge congratulations on your recent B Corp accreditation – this is an amazing achievement, and we know just how much hard work is involved. Tell us why achieving this status was so important for you and how this feeds in to the success of Lucky Saint.
Emma: One of our internal mantras is 'Making Sustainability Second Nature' - something we aim to live by, even when times are tough. As indeed they were in March 2020 when 70% of our revenue was immediately wiped out with the closure of bars and restaurants. We had 3 weeks' cash left and were forced to get the red pen out. A couple of months down the line, when we had restructured, we started work on our other single priority – getting B Corp certified. Luke and I blocked out a few hours and started filling in the free and confidential survey (the "Business Impact Assessment" or "BIA"), and got 47 points. This simple process proved transformative and we started making changes then and there. We know it's something consumers will increasingly come to expect from the brands they buy and believe it's the right thing for us to do. The whole team at Lucky Saint is proud finally to have become a B Corp in December with 83.1 points.
It may seem like a daunting task, but getting B Corp certification is not something you have to do on your own. Like most SMEs, Lucky Saint didn't have all the expertise inhouse, so we worked with amazing consultancies out there who specialize in this area – and we couldn't have done it without the guidance of Greenheart Consulting. We were also lucky to have a brilliantly passionate and determined team here at Lucky Saint to help us (a special huge thank you to our Supply and Operations Director Liz Buchanan who led the project). The B Corp community itself has also been wonderfully warm and supportive, so do reach out if you're thinking about joining us!
Q. And now to the beer! We were totally wowed the first time we tried Lucky Saint lager. What makes it different from other alcohol-free beers and how do you make it so tasty?
Luke: Firstly, thank you! Even after four years, it's still so rewarding to hear great feedback about our beer. There are a few things that make Lucky Saint unique. Firstly, we are a dedicated alcohol-free brand, so when I created Lucky Saint with our brewery, our aim was to create the best tasting alcohol-free beer rather than an alcohol-free version of a beer people already know. Secondly, we only use four natural ingredients (malt, hops, yeast and water - no additives or flavourings); and finally our beer is left unfiltered to retain maximum flavour, without the alcohol.
Emma: When I started chatting to Luke about joining the business, he sent me some Lucky Saint to try. Coupled with the gorgeous bottle and delightful Ecommerce packaging, as soon as I had a first sip, cold from the fridge, I knew we were on to something extremely special.
Q. Lucky Saint differs from some of its leading competitors in being a dedicated alcohol-free brand, as opposed to the alcohol-free version of an already established brand. How does that affect and enhance your ability to connect with consumers?
Emma: Being dedicated alcohol-free also means we are proudly alcohol-free. Lucky Saint is not a 'lesser than' version of an existing product and that really resonates with our consumers. We live this in the way we show up in the pubs, bars and restaurants, being available on draught with beautiful bold blue and gold fonts & glassware, with a focus on great staff training, our iconic advertising and imagery as well as great availability in grocery and convenience stores. We are focused on elevating the alcohol-free experience across the board. Lucky Saint is banishing the days when people ordered an alcohol-free beer under their breath at the bar and hoped no one would notice. Our customers are proud to be drinking Lucky Saint and telling their friends; word of mouth is the #1 way people first discover our beer.
Luke: This really came from my personal experience as a consumer. I loved the idea of alcohol-free beer, but the experience always felt like I was being short-changed compared with my friends who were drinking alcohol and I really wanted to change that. To be able to reward those not drinking with both the beer and experience they deserved was key for me. That's why draught is such a big focus for Lucky Saint; beer does not get much better than when it's enjoyed as a good pint in the pub.
Q. So many different people buy low alcohol / alcohol-free drinks nowadays. What was your target audience when you first launched Lucky Saint and how has that changed over time?
Luke: The choice not to drink or to moderate doesn't fit just one demographic. It's more of an attitude towards wanting to get the best from life. Whether you are in your 20s and wanting to nail your job, or you have small kids and can't do hangovers anymore, or you've retired and want to really look after your health. This idea of people wanting to get the best from life and do it through moderation has guided the way we talk to our audience; Lucky Saint is for all types of people from different walks of life. We're proud to be a lager that has mass appeal from a taste perspective and we want to embrace that.
Q. Distribution is often one of the biggest challenges for a new brand – you need to "be everywhere" all at once. How have you managed this challenge at Lucky Saint and how does being alcohol-free give you opportunities to be in unexpected places?
Emma: From the start, Lucky Saint has been an omnichannel business, selling through our own website luckysaint.co as well as through Amazon, bars, pubs, restaurants and shops. This meant we were agile during Covid; when one channel wasn't doing so well, we were able to ramp up our activity in others. In terms of being everywhere, all at once – credit goes to our fantastic team who ensure we are listed in the best pubs, bars, restaurants and grocers and ensuring customers have the best possible experience shopping with us online.
Luke: Being alcohol-free means we can play in all the spaces where traditional beer can, pubs, sporting events, bars. It also means we can show up in unexpected places. For example, we handed out 15,000 cold Lucky Saint beers to finishers of the Hackney Half Marathon and after racing in 28-degree heat, people were incredibly happy to see us! We talk about 'honouring traditions and breaking rules' at Lucky Saint; we love beer and pub culture and we want to be a huge part of that, but we can also rewrite the rules of where beer brands live and thrive and that is exciting.
Q. The low alcohol / alcohol-free beer, wine and spirit sector has changed beyond all recognition in the last 5-10 years. How do you see it evolving still further?
Luke: That's what's so exciting about being a leading brand in a disruptive category, there are so many possibilities for alcohol-free drinks. I think people will extend their repertoire of alcohol-free; just like people have a favourite gin, beer and wine, people will have a collection of alcohol-free drinks they love and drink regularly.
Emma: I totally agree – that is one of the most exciting things about working for a brand like Lucky Saint. We are a dedicated alcohol-free brand, so we haven't tied ourselves down to beer; who knows what the future holds.
Q. And lastly, since we couldn't not ask as trade mark attorneys, how important has the branding and appearance of your product been to your success?
Luke: Our brand is hugely important – we want people to feel good about having a Lucky Saint beer in hand, especially as there has been a lot of ridicule for people not drinking over the years. We want people to love our brand and help us spread the word about our beer. We are unapologetic about being alcohol-free; we often get asked if we will do a full-strength version of Lucky Saint, but our beer is brewed specifically to be a great tasting alcohol-free beer, and I'm proud that after years of research and development, we've cracked it.
So there you have it: a delicious and proudly alcohol-free beer, competing (and winning) on entirely its own terms, and with both great taste and a genuine social conscience at its core. If that doesn't encourage you to kick-start your own "moderated" 2023, I don't know what will! Please join me in raising a(n alcohol-free) pint to the New Year!
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