Friend of Spirited Away Brooke LeBlanc shares her business ideas and predictions for non-alc in 2023. Read on, then peep her curated collection on www.dryatlas.com!
- Who are you and what’s your involvement with non-alc?
I’m Brooke LeBlanc, the Founder & CEO of Point Five. We’re building a product that provides content, community and coaching for the non-drinker. I’m 2+ years sober, and have previously worked in sales for venture-backed tech startups.
- How would you describe your current state of mind with regards to the adult NA bev industry?
I’m very optimistic that the non-alcoholic beverages in the category are shifting consumer behavior. I’d like to see more accessibility in price point and distribution, and transparency in ingredients. We are trending in the right direction. I believe that there’s more demand than supply right now. It’s a good time to build in this space.
- What’s the last adult NA drink you drank?
I had mocktails on a date. He picked up Free Spirits Tequila, bitters, and limes to make us drinks at home and eat takeout.
- What’s the best NA drink you had out recently and what made it memorable?
I was pleasantly surprised to see a bar in Greenpoint called Rule of Thirds had a non-alcoholic menu and they made a great virgin paloma. We stopped by there on our way to grab dinner at Eavesdrop.
I also recently had a good Negroni alternative at the Dante’s pop up in Seaport, FiDi.
- What are you serving to someone who drinks booze but wants to try their first elevated, adult NA drink?
I would introduce them to the beer or wine category because they are more ritualized for casual, everyday drinking than liquor is. I brought a bottle of Null Red Wine on a trip to the Poconos a few months back and was shocked at how many people were interested in it.
There was one person on the trip who was taking antibiotics and couldn’t drink, and pulled me aside to let me know how much it meant for him to have this replacement. The coolest part about non-alcoholic drinks is that they make you feel seen in a culture where you often feel alone.
- What’s the most underrated NA brand or product? Overrated?
I am a huge fan of Proteau. They recently stopped production however I hope it somehow comes back one day. I was known for buying their Ludlow Red anytime I saw it on Spirited Away’s shelves.
I’m not sure overrated is the correct word choice here, but I personally don’t resonate with non-alcoholic liquor substitutes that smell like the real thing. One time I was offered a shot of non-alcoholic whiskey at a tasting and really was put off.
I haven’t drank alcohol for almost 2.5 years, so the low-ABV category is not a good fit for me. However I am sure they’re great options for someone to incorporate if they’re not sober and looking to cut back consumption.
- What doesn’t exist yet that you wish did?
Giving away one of my business ideas – I feel like there’s a lack of premium non-alcoholic options. Who is making the Clase Azul, Don Julio 1942, Dom Perignon of non-alc?
Who’s making the non-alc alternative that’s so valuable and rare that people will collect it, instead of drink it? Get on waitlists to get a batch like Scarecrow wine? Save it in their freezer for a special occasion? Even trade it at an auction house because it holds so much value?
Until I see non-alcoholic beverages as a category start to penetrate more use cases that big alcohol has in many cultures in the world today, it will still be early.
I want to get bottle service at one of the clubs in NYC and have a non-alcoholic option. I want to get a drink ticket at a comedy show or jazz event, and redeem it for a mocktail. There are small shifts happening that are leading me to believe this is where we’re going in the next 5-10 years.
- What do you want to say to the adult NA drinking community?
I’m so proud of everyone I’ve met who’s trusted me with their story.
I’ve spoken to hundreds of people, and no two stories are alike. Because sobriety is stigmatized, we tend to feel isolated when we get sober. The same advice gets recycled around the internet “get better sleep!” “have better skin!” when in reality, the benefits of sobriety are much more profound.
I had an NDE a few years back, so not-risking-my-life is a benefit of sobriety. As well as improving my memory, mental acumen, deepening personal relationships, showing up with integrity, and getting time back to focus on what’s most important for me to accomplish throughout my life. Thinking in decades. I don’t take a single day for granted, and because of the warm outreach I’ve received from sharing my story to the sober community, I feel driven and empowered to build in this space. I’m looking to create a solution I wish existed 5 years ago.
- What are your adult NA predictions for 2023 and beyond?
There is a lot of noise. You can’t rely on Liquid Death as an outlier to pattern match across the category, however I’ve always believed that Big Alcohol is going to come after these brands to acquire them (ref: Diageo bought Seedlip, 2016).
If you have a strong brand building a strong community, you will have a higher chance of winning. I think the most effective beverages today have a unique pov to what they’re putting in a can. You can’t just create another sugar water, bottle it, and hope it sells. In a new category, we’re responsible for educating the consumer, the distributors, the whole ecosystem on WHY you deserve to get shelf space next to larger alcoholic brands with a proven track record.
It’s a very tough market to be a beverage founder and I have deep respect for everyone I know who’s in the arena.
- Anything else you’d like to share?
I first found Spirited Away not long after it opened on Ludlow Street in the LES and I remember walking in, seeing a few shelves of drinks, and Ruby Warrington’s book. I couldn’t believe something like this existed, and I felt so seen. I want to capture that feeling for everyone who tells me they want to explore sobriety and follows up with any doubt, fears, or worries. I want to give people the same feeling that that store gave me – visibility, and hope. One of the first foundations that gets stress-tested in our lives when we quit drinking is our relationships, and sense of belonging. Spirited Away gives people that sense of belonging, even if their colleagues, friends, parents don’t and that’s something to be really proud of.
New on Dry Atlas
- Sentia’s Red GABA spirit for non-alc hedonism
- Atopia spirits, founded by Hendrick’s Gin’s master distiller, Lesley Gracie
- No Ghost in a Bottle novel spirits from Belgium
- Improv Cocktails from a founder who’s been called the LeBron James of mocktails
- St. Agrestis of Brooklyn’s new Amaro Falso
What new brands and products are we still missing? Send them to us on Instagram!
Odds & Ends
“Free Spirits” is a top trend for 2023, says Pinterest Predicts. In their words, “Enough with the drinking judgement. Sometimes people want to drink, sometimes they don’t, sometimes they only want to drink a little—it’s not that complicated. Gen X will drive this trend, demanding mocktails, cocktails and low-ABV options for all. Now that’s refreshing.”
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In high spirits,