If you’ve ever watched an episode of Mad Men, you know all too well how many deals take place over a dry martini or a scotch on the rocks. Alcohol and networking… alcohol and celebration… They go together like Bert and Ernie. Yet it doesn’t have to be that way. Imagine if the next time you reached for a gin and tonic it was a non-alcoholic drop instead. One that not only tastes great but left you at the top of your game.
That was exactly the mission of Carl Hartmann and Mark Livings, co-founders of Lyre’s, a non-alcoholic beverage brand that is taking the world by storm.
“I used to travel 150-200 days per year. With that comes lots of networking pressure, and you can end up in situations where there is a social expectation to consume alcohol every day,” says Hartmann.
“I remember being in places like London, where it seemed like all meetings post 4 pm are at a pub, just wishing there was a drink that looked and tasted like a real drink, but just didn’t have the calories or alcohol. When I moved back to Australia a few years ago, Mark (Livings) my co-founder had been noticing the macro trend of declining growth of alcohol sales and hyper-growth of non-alcoholics as an emerging category, so it felt like with my background of ecommerce and his in FMCG, that if we put our heads together we could create something great.”
Thus, began Lyre’s journey to develop a beverage range with the taste and sophistication of an alcoholic drink without the hangover. Hartmann says Livings background in FMCG set him in good stead to develop the range.
“Mark knows more about the category than anyone I’ve ever met and is one of Australia’s best marketers. I’ve had the privilege of working with some of the world’s biggest retailers and seeing what has worked and not worked strategically, so when we launched Lyre’s we did so with a vision of being the most data-led and digital-first company in our category.”
The strategy worked: in under a year Lyre’s has launched directly to consumers in 11 countries – with more on the way. Thanks in no small part to a partnership with Amazon Launchpad which saw the brand makes its debut on the platform in Australia last year.
“Amazon Launchpad has been a key part of enabling our strong eCommerce growth,” Hartmann says. “And I think having Amazon’s support has been invaluable to achieving our long term growth aspirations, as we’ve been able to enter new markets far quicker than without being on Amazon Launchpad.”
“Launchpad’s allowed us to build an amazing community around our brand and [we] have had meteoric growth. I think in comparison to traditional players in our space – direct to consumer and digital is an afterthought, and that’s just not how you build a brand anymore – especially given the impacts of COVID,” Hartman explains.
Hartman encourages other businesses to embrace Amazon Launchpad as a vehicle to get their products seen locally and globally.
“Amazon is a big business with a huge global reach. I can’t stress how valuable it is to have white glove support for your business, it will both make your growth quicker and easier.”
He also suggests any small business or startup with a unique or innovative idea should consider applying for Amazon’s recently announced Launchpad Innovation Grant which provides more than $80,000 in support, including a $20,000 cash grant, Amazon and AWS marketing support, and exclusive access to mentors.
“I know most businesses can really use the financial support in these truly unique and testing times,” he says.
Hartmann has been tapped as a judge for the program and says he will be looking for the same things from entrants as he does from any business he might invest in.
“A unique product with a sustainable competitive advantage and strong unit economics, global potential in a large address market and ambitious founder(s) supported by a great team.”
Meanwhile, Lyre’s continues to go from strength to strength as more consumers embrace mindful drinking. Hartmann believes it’s a category that has only just begun to grow.
“Firstly, there is a lot more education about health and wellness compared to even a few years ago. A growing percentage of the population has become very mindful on what they put into their bodies, in terms of both food and drink. Mindful drinkers are looking to reduce the number of empty calories, avoid the negative effects of excessive alcohol consumption, or both – while still enjoying a premium adult drink, based on the flavours they already know and love.”
Lyre’s fits the bill perfectly. These are spirits with the same sophistication as their alcoholic counterparts. Aimed at discerning drinkers, Lyre’s non-alcoholic spirits can be paired with traditional mixers to create a homage to cocktails the world already loves. Every Lyre’s spirit looks, tastes and blends exactly like its alcoholic original. That’s due to both the development team’s unflagging quest for perfection, state-of-the-art technology and cutting-edge advances in food science using natural ingredients.
Some two years in development, Lyre’s now boasts a range that includes Gin, Whisky, Bourbon, Rum, Dry and Sweet Vermouth and Absinthe. Hartmann and his partners were uncompromising in their wish that the quality and authenticity of their drinks positioned themselves on the top tier
“We designed our product to be used one for one versus the original spirit. So to use Lyre’s all the bartender needs to do is reach for a different bottle to make a classic cocktail in a no or low alcohol format.
Hartmann says this approach made the education and adoption of Lyre’s simple, while the products’ taste speaks for itself.
“Lyre’s is the most awarded non-alcoholic spirit beverage company in the world, which in only the first year of launch, has been awarded 46 medals across the globe!
“Our products can be used to make the drinks you know and love in either a low or no alcohol format. Most of our recipes have 75-95 per cent calories than the original recipes made with alcohol, are low sugar, vegan, made with all-natural flavours, and most importantly – delicious!”
With a rep like that, it’s no wonder the punters are flocking to adopt the Lyre’s beverage range. As for the name, at the time of launch, Hartmann’s co-founder Mark Livings had this to say:
“We were looking at Australian animals to reference the fact that the brand was created in Australia. We came across the lyre bird, which is interestingly nature’s greatest mimic. It’s a bird that’s capable of reproducing the bird song of any other bird that it is exposed to. We thought it was such an incredible mascot for our brand because we’re looking for mimicry also, to craft homages to the original flavours we know the world already loves.”
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