ZAG offers a complex and unique-flavoured adult drink that’s low in sugar, low in calories and non-alcoholic. Unlike typical soft drinks, ZAG doesn’t contain high sugar or artificial sweeteners, so it isn’t sweet; rather, it is ‘sessionable’ and refreshing. Nor is it a replica of an existing traditional soft drink: its flavour is sophisticated and unlike anything you’ll have ever tasted before!
At ZAG, we are on a mission to make it possible for people to make healthier drinking choices and live life a little bit better by inspiring a better choice of non-alcoholic drink options. It’s our vision to for hospitality venues across the country to offer an exciting and varied non-alcoholic menu as standard.
What is your background? What made you get into this line of work?
Following a career in marketing, I set up my own marketing agency: Unicorn Studio. I was introduced to ZAG’s founders, Jerry and Fraser, through another client, and we worked together on a number of campaigns in the very early stages of ZAG’s inception.
As someone who recognises the importance of a balanced lifestyle, when they presented ZAG as a non-alcoholic drink alternative I could immediately see the opportunity for a new drinks category and a vision for a healthier lifestyle.
With Jerry and Fraser coming to me with a great product, I then presented back a lifestyle vision. Having convinced them to buy into the vision, they offered me the role of Managing Director as they believed I was the person who could deliver on it and bring the brand vision to life.
I’m using my marketing and business expertise to bring new, fresh perspectives to the table and I’m learning everything else as I go – it’s fantastic! I learn every day; proving that no matter what route you take to join a company, you always have the opportunity to be heard, to lead and to inspire.
If you could go back in time a year or two, what piece of advice would you give yourself?
Trust the process. When I was made redundant in 2018 I was devastated. I had so much passion for what I was doing and loved my job, so in that moment I lost my sense of purpose.
I didn’t have a five year plan; I barely had a five day plan. It was overwhelming and I didn’t know what to do next.
In the end, I took the opportunity to set up both a small marketing agency and a bootcamp – I ran both at the same time, and the agency flourished quicker. I loved the variety of both but couldn’t continue to do both really well, so retired the bootcamp. In trying both routes, the bootcamp had identified my passion to work with people and the agency had helped me narrow in on exactly how I wanted to help small businesses grow.
Plus, without setting up the agency on my own I’d have never met my business partner Jasmin, who I quickly joined forces with to run Unicorn Studio which in turn led me to meeting the ZAG team. I could never have planned this series of stepping stones to lead to where I am now, and I wouldn’t change a thing. Trust. The. Process!
What problem does your business solve?
There is a problem with the drinks industry. The non-alcoholic drinks category is saturated with alcohol-free versions of alcoholic drinks or sweet and sugary soft drinks. Our recent survey, which we conducted with OnePoll, identified that 62% of 35-44 year olds would like more choice. Even 58% of Londoners – where you might think there is endless choice – are looking for better non-alcoholic alternatives.
Something’s been missing. If consumers don’t want a poor alcoholic replica or a sugary soft drink, what do they choose when avoiding alcohol and socialising? Recognising this surge in demand, a new category has emerged that we’ve termed ‘Social Softs’. A social soft is a long drink without alcohol, targeted at adults with a less sweet, more challenging flavour; designed for social occasions but not a copy of an alcoholic drink.
Thus, ZAG is the first social soft and offers customers a complex recipe of familiar flavours, lime, lemon, mint, cucumber, that is blended with less familiar ingredients such as kombucha, green tea and natural hemp flavouring. The result is an exceptionally refreshing drink – unlike anything you’ve tasted before – for those who appreciate more sophisticated flavours.
What is the inspiration behind your business?
To summarise; to offer people a healthier drinking choice without sacrifice.
How do you differ from the competition?
There is no one doing what ZAG is doing. The soft drink market is saturated with Alcohol-Free drinks (copies of alcoholic drinks with the alcohol removed) and sweet soft drinks (either full of sugar or artificial sweeteners); neither of which are sessionable or exciting.
Our passion, and where the joy and opportunity lies, is in finding those forward thinkers who, like us, recognise that there is a missing product category for socialising without alcohol; ZAG and the ‘Social Softs’ category address this. It’s truly game-changing and we’re here leading from the front; it doesn’t get much more exciting than that!
What is the plan for the next 5 years? What do you want to achieve?
Alongside growing both the brand and our team, it’s our aim to continue to educate both consumers and trade contacts around the importance of offering a diverse range of non-alcoholic drinks that cater to a broad spectrum of preferences and palettes, which fall under our brand new drinks category: ‘Social Softs’.
Non-alcoholic drink menus should be prioritised just as much as alcoholic choices and we’re determined to be change drivers within this area of the industry. We’re taking the pressure out of social occasions by offering a healthier, tastier alternative to other drinks on the market and are really excited to explore new avenues, flavours and more in the coming months – watch this space!
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far? What has made you have to change course? What issues have you run into?
Launching a drink into the hospitality industry just as we were hit by a global pandemic and lockdown was certainly a challenge! Although, in some ways the pandemic may have been a blessing in disguise as being a small business we were able to pivot, using the lockdown period to our full advantage
First and foremost, we deliberately opted to run a low-cost base business: for example, we out-sourced everything. If we had not taken this approach, we could have found ourselves running out of cash and going under. Revenue interruption doesn’t affect you quite so much if you have a low-cost base!
When you have plans and timelines – as we did back at the start of 2020 before Covid struck – you don’t have time to stop and put your foot on the ball, to pause and evaluate. The pandemic gave us the space to isolate the main issue we faced within our production line, which we solved quickly by changing the tea variety.
Other than that, we’re challenged with peoples’ preconceived notions around the drinks market. Henry Ford famously said “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses,” rather than recognising a need for the motor car. And, similarly, we hear people asking for “better alcohol-free beer” rather than identifying that a completely new drinks category would open up a huge opportunity for entirely new products!
So the challenge has been to educate consumers and help them to understand that there is more choice and there are more categories available than just your run-of-the-mill options. However, this is also motivating as it pushes us to reach as many people as possible to introduce ‘Social Softs’.