Lisa King, founder of alcohol-free drinks company AF Drinks, didn’t start the company because she didn’t like drinking, but because she did.
For Lisa, also founder of Eat my Lunch and NZ’er of the year nominee, it was a bout of vertigo that was the trigger. She put it down to too much gin. Dizzy is good to a point. For Nick Worthington, founder of The Tuesday Club and co-creator of AF it was a fear of headaches. Brought on by a teenager running a red light which left Nick unconscious on the junction of Cook Street and Hobson. For James Hurman, founder of Previously Unavailable and strategic mind behind the brand, it was the feeling of running at 70% after a night on the booze - he wanted to know what it felt like to always run at 100%. The three, with different motivations had the same experience. When you're not drinking your favourite poison what do you drink? Open the fridge and reach for - what? Catch the waiter's eye and ask for what? Not water, please God not a coke. Something adult, complex, delicious, refreshing, please, anything but a Mocktail. Something like booze without the booze.
There was not so much a gap in the market, as a personal need for something decent to drink.
Now factor in that Lisa's previous life was in FMCG (fast moving consumer goods) no not Nike or Tesla, just the stuff you buy every week at the supermarket. James was previously a brand strategist and Nick was a creative director and you have the beginnings of the recipe for AF Drinks. Add the missing ingredients of Kyle Melnyk the ex-CEO of Stolen Rum and Arch MacDonnell, founder of award winning design shop Inhouse design. Both who had been questioning their relationship with alcohol, Kyle following the toll of 10 years of peddling rum and Arch who just loves to drink a little too much a little too often. Mix. Agitate. Iterate. And you have the team that set out to design the non-drinks for drinkers looking for a decent drink when they are not drinking.
The team created a credible G&T - which fooled a Herald staff writer who picked it as a Hendricks and tonic
- AF went on to win Gold at the Lo/No Spirits Masters awards in London. Then it was rum's turn with a Dark & Stormy and Cuba Libre. The drinks list is set to go on and on; Apero Spritz, Vodka Spritz…And the growing number of drinkers choosing to drink a little less booze a little more often has created the fastest growing category in the drinks aisle.
If you love a drink but want to cut back on the booze, welcome to ever-more-interesting world of the sober curious. Cheers.