How to spot a gap in the market: The minds leading the non-alcoholic drink movement

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Heaps Normal – non-alcoholic beer

Founded in 2018 – and officially launched in July 2020 – Heaps Normal brew “beer without the hangover”. Co-founders Peter Brennan, Andy Miller, Ben Holdstock and Jordy Smith, created the brand for four very different and deeply personal reasons. But as Peter tells us over the phone, they all had one thing in common: they wanted to reframe their relationship with alcohol. After discovering the lack of great non-alcoholic beer options, they committed to developing a delicious alternative. It’s led to their two offerings: Quiet XPA and Another Lager.

At first the team brewed 50-litre test batches in Ben’s kitchen. With the help of Brick Lane, a contract brewer, they scaled into a commercial volume setup. Then the hard work began. “We started blind taste-testing it with a lot of chefs and sommeliers and restaurateurs and publicans,” Peter says. “They all loved it and said, ‘Ah, this is like a 4%, 5% beer.’ And we said, ‘No, it’s non-alcoholic.’ Jaws hit the floor and we realised we were onto something.”

Peter tells us it wasn’t always smooth sailing: “We were laughed out of a lot of pubs in the early days.” But the feedback they were receiving, combined with experience of the growing “mindful drinking” trend spurred the team to follow their instincts. “We didn’t really go deep on research,” he says. “All of us had travelled a little bit before creating Heaps Normal. I’d recently been in Tokyo and the US and noticed some trends of younger people not drinking alcohol. So that was a bit of an eye opener. In my experience, things land in Australia a year so after they really take off everywhere else.”

When it comes to building their social media following, Heaps Normal take an organic approach. Peter explains that outside of using a tool called later.com to schedule their Instagram posts or putting a little bit of money behind a few campaigns, they don’t usually boost anything. He says their growth comes down to two things. “One, is the product itself. Benny’s a co-founder and the head of product and he’s an incredible brewer. He’s made a product that tastes amazing and some people can’t tell the difference,” Peter explains. “The other thing is the brand. We’ve never been preachy.”