Non-alcoholic beer brand Heaps Normal bags $8.5 million to accelerate its mission to change Aussie drinking culture

Heaps Normal

Heaps Normal co-founders Andy Miller, Ben Holdstock and Peter Brennan. Source: supplied.

Aussie non-alcoholic beer brand Heaps Normal has raised $8.5 million in Series A funding as it doubles down on its growth trajectory and onboards new, strategic investors.

But the funding is about more than money, co-founder Peter Brennan tells SmartCompany. It’s also about furthering Heaps Normal’s social impact goals, and moving the needle to change Aussie drinking culture.

New investors in the round include Simon Griffiths, founder and chief executive of ethical toilet paper startup Who Gives a Crap, as well as Bec Milgrom, executive director of impact-focused private investment firm Tripple, and AFL player and managing partner of Athletic VC Matt de Boer.

The round follows a $1.3 million cash injection in November last year, as Heaps Normal graduated from the Startmate accelerator program.

That allowed the team to onboard a few key hires, scale up production and start marketing.

While he doesn’t reveal any revenue growth figures, Brennan says the growth in the business since then “completely outweighed our expectations”.

“We very quickly became the category leader which is proper ‘pinch yourself’ stuff.”

Having launched initially with a range of independent bottle shops and focusing on building a community around the brand, the co-founders suddenly had big players in the sector knocking on their door.

It became clear, Brennan says, that they had to scale up production even further and fastrack building their own brewhouse.

The funding from this raise will fund the new brewhouse, as well as research and development for new products. There will also be yet more hiring and yet more marketing, he says.

Purpose before profits

However this funding is not all about the finances. The round has brought in a handful of strategic investors

Any young and fast-growing business has blind spots, Brennan says. So the co-founders try to surround themselves with mentors to help them fill in the gaps where their own skills are lacking.

These investors are also aligned with Heaps Normal’s values, and the founders’ desire to create a business that has a social impact.

Each of the co-founders had an incredibly personal reason for wanting to launch a non-alcoholic beer brand, Brennan says.

Brennan’s own father was an alcoholic, he explains. He lost him to suicide when he was only 11 years old.

“If we can launch a product that prevents that from happening to other families … that’s my ‘why’ for getting out of bed every morning,” he says.

Co-founder Jordy Smith is a professional surfer who was looking for a way to socialise with a beer without losing his competitive edge, while chief executive Andy Miller and head brewer Bennie Holdstock are both seasoned pros of the hospitality industry who were troubled by the heavy drinking culture within it.

“Changing drinking culture is fundamentally the reason that we’re doing what we’re doing,” Brennan explains.

“When you have a business that is really driven by a clear vision, mission or purpose, I think success is kind of just an added benefit.”

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