When people think of the brewing industry — and the wider liquor industry as a whole — the idea of men being the ones behind the bottle is usually the norm.
But as we’ve seen in our Dry July series this month, the Australian liquor industry is anything but what we used to consider ‘the norm’.
Nowadays, there are full breweries, distilleries and bottle shops serving a different kind of drop: the non-alcoholic kind.
And at the helm of many of these businesses? Women.
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Here are some of the females shaking up the liquor industry in their own ways, with various non-alcoholic offerings.
Van Nguyen, Sip & Enjoy
Van Nguyen launched Sip & Enjoy online in 2021, during the depths of Melbourne’s lockdown. She noticed the changes fellow Victorians were experiencing in their own lifestyle and habits, one of which was the move to non-alcoholic drinks.
Nguyen told SmartCompany she’s a foodie who “enjoys socialising and dining out, but 99% of the time will opt for a mocktail”.
Seeing dining experiences offering more non-alcoholic options made Nguyen realise the shift that was happening and, after operating online for a couple of months, Nguyen launched her brick-and-mortar store in Abbortsford, Melbourne in February this year.
Nguyen believes this space is dominated by women for a number of reasons, including: fertility and pregnancy, growing a family, consciousness around wellbeing, health issue awareness, and the want to provide diversity in the Australian drinking culture.
Irene Falcone, Sans Drinks
Irene Falcone is the powerhouse behind Sans Drinks, a non-alcoholic superstore which launched online during the pandemic before branching into the brick-and-mortar world.
Only a couple of years since launch and Falcone is already recording $10 million in revenue, has opened up national franchising opportunities for the physical stores, and has recently merged with Craftzero — a non-alcoholic store that largely catered to the male demographic.
As Falcone told SmartCompany Plus, she knows the secrets to “standing up against the big boys” in the industry like Dan Murphy’s.
Sam Manning, Monday Distillery
Sam Manning’s business journey started in her home kitchen eight years ago, where the self-taught brewer was experimenting with loose leaf teas. After learning a lot about botanicals, distilling, herbs, PH levels and all the nitty-gritty, Manning launched her luxury water brand — Lunae.
It was a business that proved customers were willing to buy a drink they had only seen online, if it was delivered to their door and presented beautifully.
“That gave me the data and confidence to invest in the non-alcoholic RTD space,” Manning told SmartCompany Plus last year.
“Non-alcoholic beverages are the next step in the wellness journey for health-conscious consumers”.
Jaz Wearin, NORT Beer
Jaz Wearin was already working in the brewing industry before making waves in the non-alcoholic space, as the co-founder of Modus Operandi Brewing in New South Wales.
But it was the enjoyment of a full-flavoured beer and having to forgo said pleasure while being pregnant that led Wearin to explore the possibility of creating non-alcoholic beverages at the brewery.
This was back in 2018, when non-alcoholic options weren’t as prevalent as they have become today. So Wearin jumped, pregnant and passionately into what we know as a side hustle alongside the brewery — a side hustle that has now grown to be one of the brewery’s strongest operations, Wearin told SmartCompany Plus.
Carolyn Whiteley, Seadrift Distillery
Carolyn Whiteley was working in London as an innovation director for a major spirit company, and recognised the “challenging parts of the portfolio” she looked after, including the reality of youth binge drinking and implications of this on longer term health, personal safety and mental health.
“I remember distinctly having my first baby and looking into his big eyes and finding it very difficult to reconcile my work and my deep desire to protect him from the world I worked in,” Whiteley told SmartCompany.
“It was at that point that I decided to take a career change”, and Seadrift Distillery was born.
Whiteley told SmartCompany it is a “bit of a surprise” that the Australian liquor industry still has a long way to go in terms of breaking through stereotypes and encouraging diversity.
But it’s women like herself, and the others listed here, who will help make that change happen.