“With lunch, after a run, before the gym, during work… there are so many occasions that beer is relevant but alcohol is not and that’s what excites me about this category.” So says Duncan Keith, co-founder, along with Mike Gammell, of Days a new alcohol free brand that wants to offer an alternative to those who like a beer as part of their daily routine, but not with all the side effects that come with it.
Duncan Keith and Mike Gammell have gone from helping drinks brands innovate and find their place in the market to creating their very own alcohol free beer – Days.
What are your backgrounds?
Duncan Keith: I’ve always been around the consumer goods industry, my dad spent his career at Scottish & Newcastle (acquired by Heineken) and while I probably didn’t realise it at the time that undoubtedly shaped my interest in it. I love working with people and the craft and passion that goes into creating a tangible product is amazing. I’m still the guy who studies local supermarket shelves while on holiday just out of curiosity, much to my fiancées frustration.
I’ve had two amazing experiences over the last decade, firstly at Genius Foods and then at PROPER, the healthy snacks brand. In both cases we became the UK’s leading brand in the category and helped people make healthier choices that are better for them. When it comes to alcohol free beer, it’s a simple concept to have all the flavour and satisfaction of beer without the alcohol, but it’s never communicated like that.
That’s the message that we promote at Days, this idea of “guilt free satisfaction”. With lunch, after a run, before the gym, during work… there are so many occasions that beer is relevant but alcohol is not and that’s what excites me about this category.
Mike Gammell: I used to work at ABInBev and started out in the Corona marketing team before joining ZX Ventures its venture capital and innovation arm. ZX Ventures is traditionally where ABI sit anything “new” to the business so craft beers, emerging tech and new beverage lines.
I became a bit of a beverage nerd and started getting really interested in how new consumer trends shape drinking preferences. I learnt a lot at ABInBev but I also realised how hard it is to truly innovate within a huge corporate beast.
We think the opportunity for alcohol free beer is enormous, but for it to truly take off it requires authentic challenger brands and businesses that act with genuine purpose. We like the idea of creating a new category for alcohol free beer and believe that to truly evolve beer we can have a lot of fun creating a brand and liquids that are not tied to alcohol in any way.
How do you know each other and why did you want to get into business together?
Keith and Gammell: We met growing up in Scotland when we were 12 and 13. We played sport a lot of sport with and against each other and have remained good friends for a long time. We’d always shared a passion for consumer goods and when we started throwing ideas around about alcohol free beer and how we saw the opportunity we realised pretty quickly that our experience, interest and skillsets lended themselves quite nicely to launching a beer business.
Why did you want to get into brewing?
Keith and Gammell: We love beer and everything it stands for us. We love the ritual moment, the occasion and the range of flavours. Beer is the world’s oldest network, it brings people together like nothing else. It’s a really cool product and a fun industry to be a part of.
Why did you want to go into zero alcohol beer rather than making full strength beer?
Keith and Gammell: A lot of our friends were asking us that at the time. We felt there was an opportunity to help beer stay relevant for a modern consumer who still wants all of the beer flavour and occasion but not necessarily the “side effects” of alcohol all of the time. There’s no question that people are prioritising their health more than ever before and we just wanted to create something that helped people enjoy great beer and living a healthier lifestyle.
What was the inspiration for the business and the name?
Keith and Gammell: We wanted to create something that was inherently positive, productive and proud to be alcohol free. We wanted to create a business that stood for enjoying great beer and making the most of your most precious commodity- time. That’s the idea behind Days.
How are you marketing yourselves and looking to stand out in a busy category?
Keith and Gammell: It always starts with the product. Beer is a pretty competitive category but we are quite unique in that we are one of the very few independent beers brands that is 0.0% abv. That’s important . It means we are truly alcohol free and able to offer drinkers avoiding alcohol for any host of reasons complete confidence.
We speak to our consumers every day and it’s amazing how many have been looking for a great tasting beer that is genuinely 0.0% abv. We’ve managed to do that and it definitely helps us stand out.
As an independent brand not tied to any alcohol legacy we have the opportunity to speak about beer in a new way. We’re proud to promote the benefits of drinking less alcohol from sponsoring sport events, opening up conversations about mental health and celebrating the positive impact less alcohol can have on sexual performance.
We’re having a lot of fun taking beer to places it hasn’t been before. New places also includes marketing channels. We launched TikTok in February and are now the UK’s most popular beer (all beer) on TikTok which is great as it shows our brand is resonating with our modern consumer. It’s also completely wild.
During the World Cup we have been giving away beers for free for any goalless draws in selected pubs and bars.
We are also excited by the opportunity in new occasions. We are selling a lot of beer in venues like Wagamama where they weren’t necessarily selling as much alcohol free beer before and we’ve got a number of big businesses signed up to our beer subscription service. We love that because it’s taking that great “thing” about beer to somewhere new.
As a business we are B-Corp Certified and commit 2% of sales to mental health initiatives. We are the only 0.0% B Corp certified beer brand globally so we’d argue our approach to the kind of business we are trying to create makes us fairly unique in the space.
You say you have a brewing process that allows you to make `0% beer but keep all the flavour of beer – can you give us an idea of what that is ?
Keith and Gammell: Our beers are fermented at a lower temperature to alcoholic beers (cold contact fermentation) to deliver a light and refreshing style without the alcohol. We carefully select the hops to complement that process and ensure an authentic lager and pale ale taste profile. We also use locally sourced Scottish water which is softer and enables us to get all of that sessionable flavour whilst maintaining 0.0% abv.
What is your range so far and how are hoping to grow that?
Keith and Gammell: So far we have award winning 0.0% lager and pale ale in 330ml bottles and cans. We’re always looking at trends within the beer market, so watch this space on new launches as we grow.
What is your route to market?
Keith and Gammell: We launched D2C during the pandemic and now work with a range of distributors across the UK in both the on and off-trade. We’re also now listed in Tesco, Ocado, Planet Organic, WHSmith & Wagamama.
How does your subscription model work and how do you scale that?
Keith and Gammell: We launched D2C during the pandemic and built what we think is the world’s first 0.0% beer subscription service. We give customers the option to get cases of beers delivered to their door every month and have also worked hard to make it very flexible. Customers can change their delivery schedule or increase their beer order any time through their online portal or by texting us.
An early learning for us was that consumers want to keep their fridges filled with 0.0% beers because it helps reinforce that positive habit so the subscription service should enable us to do that as we continue to grow. Scale is all about continuing to offer great tasting beers and excellent customer service.
Are you working with the trade – selling to retailers/ on-trade ? If so how and are you working with distributors?
Keith and Gammell: We’ve got a range of awesome wholesale customers who give us access to retailers in the on and off-trade. They’ve really bought into the alcohol free beer opportunity and it’s important we continue to work closely with them to understand what their end customers are looking for.
You have a very interactive and easy to follow website and flexible way for people to buy your beers – how did you pull that together and did you take inspiration from other DTC sites?
Keith and Gammell: We had some great help early on across all things e-commerce and D2C. It was a learning experience for both of us because we hadn’t been involved in e-commerce before but we were able to lean on some brilliant creative and strategic partners. We wanted our whole user experience to be super simple and easy. That starts with web design but goes right through to delivery and customer experience which we place a large emphasis on.
The D2C landscape is fairly different to what it used to be and because we are (hopefully) a habitual product we want to make sure that consumers have an excellent experience with our brand and beer.
What are you main targets for the year ahead?
Keith and Gammell: Our target is to take great 0.0% beer to more consumers and more occasions. We’ve got some amazing customers who we want to work closely with to make sure we continue to grow this category which should help us to keep growing as a business.
What have been the biggest challenges so far and how are you getting over them? What have been your biggest achievements – what you most proud of?
Keith and Gammell: We first started working on this in January 2020. Since then we’ve been through a global pandemic, rolling lockdowns and much economic uncertainty. In that time we’ve also won World Beer Awards, become the #1 ranked 0.0% beer brand in the UK and picked up listings in major restaurant and retail groups nationwide. The main reason we’ve been able to get through all of that in two years is down to people. The team at Days, our suppliers and our customers. We’re both really proud to be building this business with a wicked bunch of people.
- If you would like to know more about Days then go to its website here.