Smashed: the booming name in alcohol free beer and cider

"Cool vacuumed distillation" is the secret reveals founder Richard Clark
BizAge Interview Team
founder Richard Clark

Hi Richard! Tell us about Drynks Unlimited and Smashed

Drynks Unlimited is a British alcohol-free brand which produces Smashed, the UK's only range of 0% beer, lagers and ciders. Drynks is the only British drinks business that have invested in a state-of-the-art cool vacuumed distillation plant which gently removes alcohol from fully alcoholic (around 5% abv) British craft beer, lager and ciders. Beginning life as real alcoholic drinks, this process gently lifts out the alcohol whilst making sure all the flavours and aromas are kept locked in. Treating its drinks with respect throughout the whole distillery process is what results in such a delicious multi-award winning product.

What's your biggest strength?

Our key USP is that we own the UK’s only cool vacuum distillation brewery which gently removes alcohol from premium craft (fully alcoholic) beers, lagers and ciders. This gives us a big advantage as we are completely unique in this market. This strength has enabled us to build a loyal fanbase and win many awards for our high quality tasting products. On top of this, we are lucky to have a strong Smashed team made up of experienced drinks experts who believe in the brand and the multi-award winning products.

What made you think there was money in this?

My Smashed team and I invested 18 months of our time researching the various ways to deliver our core idea; a range of alcohol free 0.0% beers, lagers & ciders that taste authentically like the real thing, that are low in calorie, vegan and gluten free (where possible). Smashed is the only brand in the world that uses real beer, cider & lager at 5% as a base liquid to deliver 0.05% alcohol free drinks. We are also the first brand to advertise on TV in the world that has no links to or heritage to alcohol brands. The brand does not fit within the Portman Group legalisation - it is governed by Trading Standards.

We invested in a range of mini trial production kits with ingredients suppliers working with brewers & cider makers across Spain, Denmark, Germany and in the UK. This also included speaking to as many consumers as we could about what they were looking for in alcohol free drinks.

Throughout our consumer research, we found that people were searching for genuinely 0% drinks and they wanted to buy from brands who weren’t affiliated with alcohol brands but instead, had their own distinctive brand persona that delivered positive messaging about choosing alcohol free. Our alcohol free competitors offer something different to us, delivering not fully alcohol free products but 0.5% drinks that are produced by bottom up methods.

The alcohol free options around when we first launched were limited and the ones which were available lacked in the taste and flavour that you’d expect. We knew there was a gap in the market for a craftily made range of alcohol free drinks that were packed with flavour, refreshing and a genuine alternative for when you’re not drinking.

Where is the business today? 

Drynks Unlimited which owns the Smashed brand works in distribution partnership agreements with Amber Beverage in the UK, St. Killian in the US, Spinney’s in UAE. Smashed is now also at the start of its distribution programme and we now have listings in Sainsburys, Booths, Co-op, Matthew Clark & LWC wholesalers, a range of independent bars, restaurants and retailers as well as online directly from our

What is the secret to making the business work?

It is all about believing in your team and your core concept. This takes time, so self belief is a prerequisite. This is also essential as new challenger brands are not only striving to influence consumers in the medium and long term to have a relationship with the brand, but also to redefine the thinking of the trade gatekeepers in the retail and wholesale channels.

Richard in his drinks plant

How do you market the company?

We work with a dynamic digital and social media agency and a specialist food and drink PR agency who collaboratively work together to keep us relevant in the conversation about no-lo drinks. We work as a team to come up with creative ideas for the brand and to collectively drive the vision forward for what’s to come next for Drynks.

Our trading relationships are key so this involves speaking to people and getting people familiar with the brand and our product. Our product is our number one currency so sampling is super important and is a key part of our marketing strategy. Social media also plays a role too for building that brand awareness but access to our product and getting it in front of people is the true door opener as I say.

What funding do you have? Is it enough?

Cash flow is a prerequisite for us - the same as many start-up brands. National brands have a structural advantage in this way as they can invest ahead of distribution. We are hoping to secure further investment which will help drive the business forward.

Tell us about the business model

We have invested ahead of the curve; 90% of our investment has been focused on the product quality and our USPs. We own the supply chain and have chosen to use only local suppliers. This allows for the control of our product, new product development, which is our long term strategy .

What were you doing before?

I am a drinks expert and I have invested 30 years of my career in working with big name drinks brands, leading the launch of the likes of Pepsi Max, Crabbie’s Ginger Beer, Caffrey’s & Whitley Neil Gin.

What is the future vision?

We strive for the Smashed brand to become a well known and truly loved as a lifestyle and flexi choice for consumers who want to drink and who usually drink but can’t drink or are choosing not to for whatever reason that may be. The brand is positively purchased by consumers and can now be found across restaurants, bars, hotels and coffee shops across the UK.

Written by
BizAge Interview Team
June 8, 2022
Written by
June 8, 2022