The Buyer
Luke Boase how we re-invented 0% beer with Lucky Saint

Luke Boase how we re-invented 0% beer with Lucky Saint

This week’s One Step Beyond webinar is the chance to once again step outside the day-to-day of running of drinks companies and look for some inspiration from others. Be it other leaders in beers, wines or spirits, or voices and influences from other sectors that can help us look at our own companies in a different way. The theme for July 6’s One Step Beyond is ‘How to be loved online’ and what brands, businesses and individuals can do to tell their stories, build their profiles and create their own communities using all the various digital tools available to us. It also features an interview with Luke Boase, the charismatic founder of Lucky Saint, the fastest growing alcohol-free beer brand in the UK, about how he has built the brand from scratch, transformed it in lockdown from an on-trade brand to a massive success online and now has major distribution across multiple retailers.

Richard Siddle
6th July 2022by Richard Siddle
posted in Insight,

To sign up to the free One Step Beyond webinar, in partnership with the WSTA, between 4pm-5.30pm (BST) on July 6 featuring insights and panel debates tackling its central theme ‘Be loved: Using social media, digital and data insight to give your brands a virtual personality and engage with and entertain your consumer’ click here.

Luke Boase admits it was not his love for beer, or even the need to produce an alcohol-free beer brand, that initially inspired him to start Lucky Saint, but more a desire to launch his own start up business. Having come from a financial analyst background he had seen first hand the power, energy and excitement that can be created by start-up companies.

“I thought if did my own brand, what would it be?” he says.

Luke Boase was lucky for a start up business that could disrupt a category with huge potential and turned his sights on alcohol-free sector with Lucky Saint

That was in 2016 when he started to look around at categories that had lots of potential, but had not really taken off yet and was soon drawn to the rather “maligned” world of alcohol-free beer. He says he quickly became “very excited and emotional about re-inventing this dusty old category”.

Particularly when he looked at just how far alcohol-free beer sales were doing in other parts of Europe. Whilst it still had virtually 0% of the UK beer market, alcohol-free beers had got 6% share in Germany and as much as 13% in Spain. Surely there was an opportunity to try and launch a quality non alcoholic alternative to the UK?

“I was sure the category was there if I could find the right brand. A beer that would get people into the alcohol-free category,” he says.

From the start he was also quite clear this needed to be a brand that made people feel good about themselves. It was not made to be a beer just for those who don’t drink, but rather those who love beer, but also want to moderate what they drink at different times of the week, or month.

“It needed to be a brand that makes you feel positive about yourself,” he adds. A beer brand that would allow people to feel good about not having an alcoholic drink, to stop people thinking they “need to apologise for not drinking”.

“We wanted to build a brand that people would be proud to drink and talk about.”

Quality first

Sales of Lucky Saint have flown since it was launched first in the on-trade and now across all channels

To get that right meant travelling to Bavaria to find a brewery partner capable of creating an alcohol-free beer that tasted as good as it possibly could and had all the craft and ingenuity of any other traditional Bavarian beer.

Lucky Saint’s initial success was simply down to good old shoe leather and getting out and about and visiting bars and pubs and restaurants and selling the beer one venue at a time.

He also admits Lucky Saint was fortunate to come in to the market when bar operators where looking at no and lo alcohol products and were much more open to the idea of a quality alcohol-free beer if it was of the right quality.

It also caught the imagination of the in demand casual dining chains, most notably Honest Burgers that accounted for the majority of its initial listings. But soon the on-trade accounts started to pour in, 80 one month, followed by a 100 the next and within 18 months it had managed to get into 1,800 accounts by October 2018. That had then grown and grown up to 4,000 listings when the pandemic struck and the vast majority of that business was lost over night.

Lucky Saint also caught the imagination of in demand premium casual dining chains like Honest Burgers that could see its values also matched the values of its customers

But what that initial success had done for Lucky Saint was to build a community of new drinkers who had bought into the brand, its quality and what it stood for. A brand that made them feel good about cutting back.

When they were stuck at home they soon turned to Lucky Saint online and soon Boase and his team were trying to handle a DTC business that was doubling, and then trebling, by the week.

“We had built up good awareness for the brand by being seen in great locations like Honest Burger and the Ivy Collection.”

He says what made a massive difference to its new DTC offer was that it was already set up on Amazon and had started its own e-commerce website and was able to simply “turn up the dial” on them.

“We had a phenomenal rise in sales it was also incredibly cheap to advertise online,” he says.

Soon the major grocers came calling and by the end of summer 2020 it had got listings in Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Majestic and Ocado. From a business that had been operating going into the pandemic with six people, it has now grown to a team of over 40 people.

Strong management

Emma Heal was brought in at an early stage from her MD role at Graze Snacks to help drive the Lucky Saint management team forward

Boase, though, is quick to deflect any praise for Lucky Saint’s success to the management team that has been built around it. In particular he points to its managing director, Emma Heal, who joined the business from being managing director of Graze Snacks.

He says his chairman, Shilen Patel, formerly of Diageo’s start up business, Distill Ventures, urged him from an early stage of the business to recruit someone who is “disproportionately” senior to where the company was at that stage.

He has also encouraged him, where possible, to keep evolving his own position in the business to take on new challenges and roles that allow him to look at new opportunities rather than being bogged down in the day-to-day. He admits it can be quite a challenge for himself but it is certainly the right strategy for the company as a whole.

“You have to adapt and learn,” he says.

The success of Lucky Saint in a notoriously hard category to crack has attracted some high profile private investors from other major household grocery brands, most notably Jonathan Warburton, chairman of Warburtons, the innovative bread business, JamJar (the capital fund of Innocent Drinks’ founders), Facebook and Meta’s vice president for northern Europe, Steve Hatch and Wahaca chief executive & co-founder Mark Selby. Together they have helped invest over £3.5m in the business.

Boase says it is certainly a massive vote of confidence to have “such superstars in their own fields” backing the brand. He says they too can see the enormous potential the alchol-free beer category has and see Lucky Saint as being the driving force to make it happen.

“We are at the beginning of a fundamental shift in consumer behaviour that we are likely to see with alcohol. Human beings have built a relationship with alcohol over many years, but conceivably that relationship is going to completely change over the next 10 years. We are most certainly part of that and building a brand that resonates with people,” he explains.

“Our investors are also avid, almost religious consumers of ‘product’ and they like the brand and they drink it. So one of my roles now is to find ways to keep them engaged in what we are doing.”

Brand with a purpose

Lucky Saint has developed its own mental health programme that it offers and runs for its trade customers

Lucky Saint is also more than just a new drinks brand, it comes with a mission and a purpose. First to help people moderate and control their relationship with alcohol better and then leading on from that is how the brand can also play a part in helping people and their mental health.

Rather than just look to donate money to existing mental health charities, Lucky Saint has set up its own mental health training scheme, in partnership with Mental Health First Aid England, which it is offering to its customers where it can go in and help train staff in mental health support within their teams. It has already completed training with the Honest Burgers group.

It is also one of the first drinks companies to have its own mental health champion, Harry Corin, who has been instrumental in helping to drive its training and strategy through.

“We hope we can help make a difference and use our brand and our platform to do more than just sell a non alcoholic beer. But we could not have done it without Harry.”

All of which leads into today’s One Step Beyond webinar on how to build “love” for your brand through digital. Boase has two answers: using digital tools and skills to tell the story of your brand through good imagery, content and copy; and using digital to take your brand to another level, where you can go into your values and what you stand for and connect with people on a deeper, meaningful level.

  • You can watch and listen to Luke Boase discuss these themes in more detail in conversation with Richard Siddle during this week’s One Step Beyond webinar. Sign up here and details below. (Will include details of the event)

One Step Beyond Webinar July 6: 4pm-5.30pm (BST)

Under the banner headline of ‘Be loved: Using social media, digital and data insight to give your brands a virtual personality and engage with and entertain your consumer’ July 6’sOne Step Beyond webinar will include a combination of talks, presentations, interviews and debates.

It is the latest in a series of webinars co-hosted by The Buyer and wine consultant Sophie Jump that looks to help the drinks industry keep on top of developments, trends and insights across consumer behaviour, product innovation and technology.

The One Step Beyond events look to step outside the traditional drinks industry for its inspiration and also talk to industry leaders and innovators from other sectors to see what learnings we can take from the successes that brands and businesses are having in other leading consumer good sectors.

The line up of speakers is as follows:

Dan Ho0per from Yes More drinks marketing agency

  • Social Conversations for Social Branding, Dan Hooper, co-founder YesMore Drinks

Oliver Spark will look at how you can use data insights to grow your business

  • How to grow your D to C Business with Data, Oliver Spark, chief executive, Sweet Analytics

Some of the brands in the Aquilini Beverage Group

  • Discuss the above: Panel session including Paul Mabray, chief executive, Pix
  • Leadership Interview with Luke Boase, founder Lucky Saint