Michael Yourison has been in the business of importing olive oil, pasta products and wine from Italy to the US for nearly 11 years. And after giving up drinking alcohol five years ago, he came across a zero-proof wine in Italy that he wanted to bring to the US.
Yourison - now CEO of Buonafide Foods - found the US market to be underserved when it came to drinks that are totally alcohol free (as opposed to those with up to 0.5%): opening up a market for Buonafide 0.0.
Dry, low-cal 'true' wines
The beverage is fermented the same way wines are traditionally produced. The alcohol is removed with a reverse osmosis process, sent to a lab to verify it is completely free of alcohol, and then the bottles are dipped into a heated vat to pasteurize the drink and prevent future fermentation.
The process makes Buonafide a true wine that still contains polyphenol micronutrients - yet without the effects of alcohol, said Yourison. The drinks also have around half the calories and less sugar than regular wine.
While many non-alcoholic wines tend to be sweet and sparkling, Yourison wanted to create a dry wine that works with food pairings.
Buonafide’s seven varieties are made with with Montepulciano d'Abruzzo and Passerina grape varietals. They include Bianco, Sparkling Bianco and Sparkling Extra Dry Taste Bianco, which are young, dry white wines. Rosso and Sparkling Extra Dry Taste Rosso are ruby red in color and everyday Italian table wines.
"Alcohol-free alternatives continue to become increasingly popular and in demand for those who do not consume alcohol for any reason," said Yourison. "They provides the same ritual experience and sense of occasion that brings a feeling of inclusiveness and enjoyment with meals and entertainment without the negative effects of alcohol."
Bar partners and sober concepts
When entering the US market, Yourison wanted to partner with retailers that serve the health-conscious, alcohol-adverse consumer. Whole Foods stood out to him, and the Florida region is the first step. The wines are also available on the Buonafide website and in select bars.
Buonafide has been connected with Austin, Texas sobar bar Sans Bar since its launch in 2017: a venue that offers “live music, a vibrant, upscale environment, and sober drinks that you won’t find anywhere else.” Sans Bar is taking the brand on its national tour of pop-ups this year; and Buonafide will serve as sponsor of the upcoming events.
Yourison said that consumers appreciate Buonafide for being a dry rather than sweet, grape-juice like product; and also work well as an accompaniment to food.
“We do have some traction, and we’re just looking to fill a need and a void for the people who are looking to have an alternative beverage to wine that doesn’t have any alcohol,” Yourison said.