'We are creating a completely new product category'

UK start-up aims to transform alcohol from beverage to staple seasoning ingredient

By Niamh Michail

- Last updated on GMT

© iStock/oneinchpunch
© iStock/oneinchpunch

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UK start-up Just A Splash is on a mission to change the way consumers see alcohol with its individual cooking pouches of premium, seasoned alcohol. "We approach alcohol as a food ingredient and not as a beverage. Our products are an essential cupboard staple, just as salt, pepper or stock cubes,” says its founder Pia Varma.

The alcohols are formulated to contain a slightly lower alcohol by volume (ABV) which, according to the company, allows the natural flavours of the dish to come through without being overpowered by the taste of alcohol.

Contrary to popular belief, not all the alcohol burns off - when you flambé, 75% of it is retained​,” it said.

The pouches allow for cost- and storage- savings – consumers don’t have to buy a whole bottle of expensive alcohol that sits unused for years.

Available in five flavours - rum, port, sherry, marsala and brandy -, the alcohols are slightly seasoned to enhance the flavour and have a shelf eight weeks. They are sourced from the producing countries, with the brandy imported from France and the Marsala from Italy, for instance.

Future launches will include reduction sauces and glazes.

jas x5 flavours RGB
© Just A Splash

Tapping into the foodie culture 

The start-up is targetting 'foodie' consumers who enjoy cooking in the home.

Varma told FoodNavigator: “The huge growth in the popularity of TV cooking shows and celebrity chefs has spurned a massive growth in interest in all things food and the ‘foodie’ and that translates into what this community cooks in the kitchen – they’re more creative than ever.”

The product also fits nicely into the rising popularity of meal kits, she added.

Pia Varma

It has the potential to widen the recipe repertoire available in the boxes [and] we have already had some companies approach us for this exact concept. But the ethos behind the meal kit trend, of not having ingredients constantly in stock, of one-use ingredients, does align with our purpose also.”

Meanwhile the firm originally intended for Just A Splash to retail at £2.99 (€3.45) for a 100 ml pouch but Varma said the product received such a positive response at IFE show in London last week - where it was awarded first prize at World Food Innovation Award for Best Ingredient - she believes the start-up will be able to produce larger volumes and therefore bring the cost down.

Unlike other start-ups for whom crowdfunding has become a typical way to secure both funding and awareness, Varma funded this business entirely from savings. The biggest challenge so far, however, has been regulatory compliance. "There are rules and regulations associated with alcohol and also those associated with food products, which we’ve had to learn and develop around. As we are creating a completely new product category, we have had to navigate our way through all these issues and also educate potential consumers."

Just A Splash is currently in the process of seeking out new markets beyond the UK and has been approached by distributors in Canada, Asia and South America as well as closer to home. Ireland, Holland, Germany, Finland, Iceland and even one producer country - Italy - have all expressed an interest.

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