International potential: Kåska low-alcohol spirit sells more abroad than at home
At 15% ABV, the spirit is around a third of the strength of many other spirits – yet still retains enough alcohol to capture the full flavour experience, according to the brand.
The brand is focusing on Hong Kong as its main international market: with other countries such as the UK on the brand’s radar.
The sweet spot: 15% ABV
Kåska was founded by two Helsinki-based friends, Eetu Topo and Fred Karlsson. They saw an opportunity for a spirit that fits somewhere between traditional strength spirits and alcohol-free products; believing that ‘low’ – i.e. sub 20% ABV distilled spirits – will become ‘normal’.
“Our name, Kåska, comes from the Finnish word meaning ‘because’. Because drinking has changed, and it’s time for spirits to change too,” explains Karlsson. “We think that in the future, more and more general spirits are going to be lighter on ethanol, and focusing mainly on flavour and experience. Kåska is just one of the first companies to do that.”
The spirit is a light, sugar-free and distilled spruce and lemon product, designed to be mixed into low-alcohol cocktails. The entrepreneurs went through 70 prototypes and recipes before they settled on a creation they were happy with.
Making the spirit takes a few weeks more than traditional spiced distillates due to their own individual manufacturing method – the duo are keeping their methodology under wraps but explain: “Kåska is a distilled spirit… We use a combination of traditional and modern distillation methods and a few secret tricks, and the way it’s all done is unique.”
Kåska decided on a 15% ABV for its spirit: “a sweet spot for multiple reasons,” explains Topo.
“It’s about a third of traditional spirit strength, which means that the drinks you mix still have enough alcohol in them for you to feel it, but still stay relatively moderate.
“When it comes to flavour, that alcohol content also is enough to capture full flavour experiences – if you find the right way to do it. It took us a ton of trial and error to discover this. 15% also happens to be the European Union low-end limit to calling something a “spirit”.
“In general, there are already alcohol-free options which is great, and there are traditional spirits which are also great.
"It’s been either all or nothing for a while now, which to us is a bit silly if you’re just aiming to be a little bit more conscious with your drinking, and don’t want to fill your system with sugar either (liqueurs, vermouths etc.).
"That’s the majority of us after all, just trying to be a little bit more sensible without losing the great flavour of a mixed drink.”
Hong Kong: cocktail capital
Kåska received interest in its product before even launching – and sold out its initial batch locally in just a few hours. Most of its upcoming second release is headed to Hong Kong, where 15% of sales revenue will go to human rights organization in the area. (In Finland, 15% of sales revenue is used to support organizations working against loneliness).
“We wanted to focus on Hong Kong for multiple reasons, but mainly because we have faith and trust in our partners in the area,” said Topo.
“Our philosophy is to grow through finding the right people, building strong relationships with them. We believe that by growing a family that shares our mission to create change is the strongest foundation to international success, and to creating effective impact in people’s lives. Hong Kong happens to also be one of the major cocktail capitals of the world, a cultural mix of world citizens, and the early signs are looking very promising when it comes to interest in Kåska despite the local situation being extremely difficult at the moment.
“There are definitely plans to launch in other countries as well - when we are ready for it. We want to make sure that we know enough about the markets we enter, or find a trustworthy partner to really familiarise ourselves in those regions.”
Kåska has already had to accelerate its production schedule but is confident that in the near future it should be able to keep up with demand. “Right now, selling out is just a positive problem to have,” concludes Topo.