Sober October is underway, and while the idea of abstaining from alcohol for 31 days during the most dramatic and contentious U.S. presidential election of all time isn’t an endeavor I’m prepared to embrace, there are many brave souls who have already begun their journey.
So, in the interest of keeping my readers informed about of the latest alternative beverages aimed at nondrinkers, throughout the month I will be highlighting a few under the radar brands that just might help quench your thirst when you feel like reaching for the real thing.
First up: Kul Mocks, a handcrafted mocktail brand out of Wisconsin that launched this summer.
The company was founded by Danielle Goss and her husband Nate, who raised “a couple hundred thousand dollars” from friends and family to produce and launch three offerings — Strawberry Mock-Arita, Mock Mule and Blackberry Mock-Jito.
All three products are alcohol-free and contain fewer than 50 calories per serving.
The brand is currently sold throughout Wisconsin and Minnesota, and available for purchase via the company’s online store.
I caught up with the Wisconsin couple to learn more about their desire to launch ready-to-drink nonalcoholic canned cocktails, and to hear about their growth plans.
Below is a condensed version of our chat, which has been lightly edited for clarity.
Chris Furnari (CF): What’s your backstory? Why did you decided to start a mocktail brand?
Danielle Goss (DG): About a year-and-a-half ago, we found out we were expecting our first child, which was a super exciting time in our life. But it was also a time where I couldn’t drink alcohol. We’ve always been a couple that enjoys social beverages with family and friends, so this was new territory for me. As I began looking for social beverages without the booze, I quickly realized that there weren’t many options other than sparkling water or soda that give you the same social feeling as having a normal cocktail. So, I spent last summer crafting my own mocktails and continued to look for options that were truly alcohol-free. There were some beers that contained less than 0.5%, and as an expecting mother I just didn’t feel comfortable consuming those beverages. So, we tossed around the idea of starting a beverage company, talked to some vendor partners and ultimately made the decision to start Kul Beverages, LLC last fall.
CF: What did your at-home R&D experiments look like?
DG: We would buy non-alcohol ginger beer, mix in sparkling water, add fruit or mint leaves and try to keep it fun, flavorful and interesting.
Nate Goss (NG): That translated into us beginning formulation and working with a few partners. From there, we were able to actually work with formulation companies who were much more technical. They knew what we were able to put into it, and how to set parameters around calories and sugar. And then from Danielle’s summer mocktail mixing, we were able to select the three flavors we thought consumers were really looking for.
DG: The number one priority for us was to create the experience of drinking a cocktail without alcohol. You know, a handcrafted cocktail experience without the booze. Being mindful of health and wellness, we wanted to make sure it was a lower in calorie option that didn’t have a ton of added sugar, like most of the traditional mocktails on the market. Our craft mocktails have three-to-six times less sugar than anything else out there and they are also infused with spirits notes to mimic that real cocktail experience and mouthfeel.
CF: You mentioned that you wanted to recreate the experience of drinking a cocktail without the booze. Is that a mindset or is that more of a sensory experience?
DF: For me personally, we spent almost a year getting to the point where we could put ice cold Kul Mocks in someone’s hand. When we got the cans, and we met up with family at a small gathering, I finally had an opportunity to take the product for its first real test drive. Everyone was hanging out, having some craft brews and hard seltzers, and I remember driving home after the party thinking, “That was awesome!” I had such a great time, and never felt that awkward feeling of missing out.
CF: So, it sounds like it’s a combination of formulation, and product positioning where you articulate to the consumer when you’re supposed to drink a Kul Mock?
NG: That’s accurate. Some of the feedback we have received is that maybe it is a Monday night, and someone had too many cocktails over the weekend and they don’t want to drink but they want to fill that void. It helps with that — the social experience. You are still mixing something up and it helps fill the occasion.
CF: So, you have formulated these beverages to mimic existing cocktails, and you’ve talked about the lack of options in the marketplace for nondrinkers. But I have come across some nonalcoholic distilled spirits that consumers can use to make their own drinks. So why did you go the RTD route?
NG: For us, it was really about creating something that a consumer could easily pick up. Everything is already in there. You don’t have to get your limes, your spirit, or your ginger beer. It’s all right there in the can and ready to go. You can pick it up at the liquor store, and I think it is on trend with some of the ready-to-drink hard seltzers that are on the market as well. Consumers can just grab and go. It’s all about convenience. Also, one of our secondary sells is for bars and restaurants that can use these as a mixer as well as a mocktail. They have both options.
CF: How big of a focus will e-commerce be?
DG: We were initially not considering launching an online shop, just because we were focusing on in-store presence and working with beer distributors. But knowing that things are different now, we had to be fluid and shift to get the word out online. And it has created a really great opportunity for us, because we know there are people looking for this kind of experience all across the United States. It’s really offered a great way for us to connect with people from all over the country and we know it is going to be really important moving forward.
CF: Now that you’ve finally launched, where do you go from here?
DG: The next step is for us to continue to grow and expand, and to get the word out. We are looking to reach a larger audience online, ramp up marketing, grow distribution in Wisconsin and Minnesota and then consider expansions — whether that be on the coasts or in the Midwest.