The ‘Low and No’ alcoholic beverage space has boomed in recent months. A YouGov survey found that 62% of UK alcohol drinkers had tried low-and-no products at some point. This market has received an extra boost during Covid, with many drinkers reconsidering their alcohol intake in an effort to save money, lose weight or improve their wellbeing.
While the increase in demand for low-and-no spirits is encouraging, suppliers are still facing availability challenges. The same survey revealed that while more than half of UK drinkers would order low-and-no in a pub or restaurant, just 24% had seen this type of beverage on offer.
Addition client Avnish Babla is working to bridge this gap with his premium low-and-no cocktail brand, Savyll Beverage Co. We’ve asked Avnish to talk about his mission to break barriers in our latest feature for When It All Adds Up.
What was your key driving force to become an entrepreneur?
I had the desire to start my own business as a young child, but after many years of working in the corporate world, my dreams quickly became a fleeting fantasy. I also never really had any good ideas that I thought would be worthwhile enough for me to leave a well-paying career for.
Savyll started as a curiosity, and whilst the concept started to take shape in my kitchen, the ‘Low and No’ space was booming in the background. Being in the right place at the right time was definitely a big factor for making the jump from the corporate world to entrepreneurship.
What do you look for in an employee?
Curiosity is important. I look for someone who’s willing to ask the right questions and dig down into the details. If they don’t understand something, they will take the initiative to figure it out. Desire to make an impact is also essential, and having someone who is very much a part of the ‘Low and No’ movement.
We’re not a brand that preaches sobriety; but rather we’re a brand that talks about moderation and balance. Ideally, I’d look for someone who actively lives a balanced healthy lifestyle, and can live and breathe the brand ethos when they’re speaking to our customers.
Can you describe your typical working day?
Every day is a working day. It involves planning out the day before my daughter wakes up, solving endless problems across production, marketing and sales throughout the day, then spending a few precious hours with my daughter before getting back to work for the rest of the evening.
Working non-stop has become an unwelcomed habit of the work-from-home culture, but it’s also expected from an entrepreneur in the early stages; especially when you’re the only one doing it all by yourself. Being able to break away for a couple of hours a day and spending time with the family is essential for keeping me grounded and focused.
How has being an entrepreneur affected your family life?
For many, the main objective of being an entrepreneur is to build a better life for their family’s. I used to tell myself that I’m sacrificing my time now for more quality time later on. I quickly changed my perspective when I started to miss little milestone events – like first steps, or first swimming lessons.
I now prioritise family above all else – and make the business work around my family’s schedule. The business may not grow as fast as I would like it to, but we’re all much happier this way.
How did the idea for your company come about?
I spent the first 12 years of my career working as a consultant for many large banks across North America and Europe. When my wife and I moved to London seven years ago, we realized that the drinking culture was very different in the UK versus North America. In Canada, drinking is more or less reserved for the weekends – you go big on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. Whereas in the UK, people just drink all day every day. There is always a reason to head to the pub.
We were very much involved in that lifestyle for a few years, and enjoyed being immersed in the British culture, but 3 years ago my wife and I were trying for a baby. We vowed to live very healthy lifestyles. She was able to cut out alcohol very quickly. I had a more difficult time because I was working in the city, entertaining clients, and attending team meetings all the time. Every occasion led to drinking at the pub.
I like to have a gin & tonic every now and again, but when I was trying not to drink I wanted to keep that same sense of occasion and experience as everyone around me. I found that there were no premium alcohol alternatives that recreated the flavours of an alcoholic cocktail very well.
Seedlip had been on the market for a couple of years and was gaining traction in the on-trade quickly. It’s a great product, but it wasn’t a flavor that I really enjoyed. So I took it upon myself to experiment in my kitchen to create a quality alternative that was convenient to serve.
I used readily-available ingredients to see if I could recreate the flavours of popular alcoholic cocktails, but without the alcohol. It took about 12 months of playing around in the kitchen to get the recipes right.
In the meantime, the Low&No space was growing rapidly, so I decided to take the concept a step further by commercialising the recipes with the help of a development kitchen, and building a solid brand. After many positive public market studies, I made the bittersweet decision to leave my job and focus on Savyll full time.
How did you find and build a client base?
We noticed that there were a lot of mocktails in the space, but no one was really delivering on premium quality alcohol-free cocktails. We wanted to cater to a more mature, sophisticated audience. We believe our branding works very well to convey the image of a premium brand, and the quality of our flavours deliver as well. We’re hitting the right marks and really differentiating ourselves, but we also wanted the brand to be inclusive.
‘Everyone’s invited’ is our brand ethos. We want everyone to be able to enjoy the complex flavours of cocktails, whether you’re a drinker or an abstainer. That means targeting individuals or demographics whom have not generally been targeted by alcohol companies.
Typically, alcohol companies will speak to a certain demographic: middle-class white men and women. In the ‘Low and No’ space, we found the same messaging trend occurring.
No one is really speaking to the ethnic minorities who are missing out on quality alternatives to alcohol. They’ve just been ignored. This is a big part of our mission – to introduce the flavours of proper, high quality cocktails to these audiences.
The strategy has been working really well for us. We’re in markets like Singapore, South America and the Middle East. It has been very exciting to see the brand resonate well in these markets, and deliver something very different for them.
Avnish Babla is an Addition client and Founder of Savyll Beverage Co.