Entrepreneurs tap into Canada's low-alcohol movement: ‘It all started with a chemistry set we ordered on Amazon…’

By Rachel Arthur

- Last updated on GMT

Canada's low2no movement is following in the footsteps of the UK & US - and Good Sunday are ready to be pioneers in the category as it emerges.
Canada's low2no movement is following in the footsteps of the UK & US - and Good Sunday are ready to be pioneers in the category as it emerges.

Related tags NABLAB Canada Entrepreneurship Gin RTD alcohol

Aged just 26, two childhood friends and beverage entrepreneurs are ready to lead the charge in Canada’s lower alcohol movement with their 3% ABV premium gin soda brand, Good Sunday.

The brand taps into two key trends: RTD cocktails and the movement towards lower alcohol beverages.

The duo fell in love with the beverage industry with their first jobs at a craft cidery – where they benefited from the mentorship of its founder – and have already navigated a pandemic launch for their own brand.  

‘We found amazing local suppliers of gin and grapefruit juice'

Sat firmly in their own target market, Christian Karayannides and Dylan Corson were hearing from their own friends what consumers wanted: something they could drink without regrets the next day (the name Good Sunday is drawn from the idea you can enjoy a Saturday night and yet still have a Good Sunday), but that wasn’t overly sweet and sugar-filled.

So the duo set out to achieve the holy trinity for sessionable drinks: low alcohol, low sugar and great taste.

“To be honest, it was a huge challenge!” ​Corson told BeverageDaily. “To make a beverage that is low in sugar, calories and ABV is not easy, especially when we wanted to prioritize taste and flavour. It all started with a chemistry set we ordered on Amazon, a group of five friends and lots of trial. We found amazing local suppliers of gin and grapefruit juice and the rest was history.”

Good Sunday Grapefruit Gin Soda is a premium gin soda that is low in alcohol (3% ABV), low in calories (110 per 473ml can) and low in sugar (1g sugar per 473ml can). The drink is crafted using a squeeze of grapefruit juice, fresh carbonated water and small-batch gin: creating a drink that is ‘perfectly balanced with a full-citrus mouthfeel, crisp acidity, and dry finish’.

Not just another student job: ‘This is where we fell in love with the beverage industry’

The duo’s career in the beverage industry started while they were still at university, when they started working for a cider company in Toronto.

“We started working for a small new local cider company called Brickworks Ciderhouse (now not so small – it was sold to [AB InBev subsidiary] Labatt in 2015). This is where Christian and I fell in love with the beverage industry,” ​said Corson.

“We saw first-hand the passion that Chris Noll, founder of Brickworks and our mentor, showed with building the brand from the bottom up. Chris always says, "Being in the alcohol industry is just the industry of bringing people together”. This quote has stuck with us forever.

“The experience also allowed Christian and myself to gain valuable information and learn many lessons in building a company from the bottom up.”

They added to their experience with a stint running a local seafood company, which supplied national retail chains with CPG products. Having reached the ripe old age of 25, the duo decided to take the plunge. “After seeing the rapid growth of the RTD category and about a year of pondering the idea of starting our own company, we finally did it: Good Sunday was born!”

Leading the charge in Canada’s low to no movement

good sunday inset

Like many entrepreneurs before them, the duo’s determination comes from faith in their product and a conviction of the market opportunity.

In Canada’s fledgling low to no alcohol market, that means getting in early with the hope of being a pioneer in the category. With Canada trending slightly behind the US and UK in terms of market trends, the duo is tracking the growth of the category abroad – and sees the opportunity to be a pioneer in the country’s category as it emerges.

“The low-ABV segment in Canada is in its infancy,” ​said Corson. “You are starting to see more non-alcoholic options, but nothing really in that low-ABV space. The market is saturated with 5%+ RTDs and with that in mind, we wanted to create our own avenue. We only see this segment growing in Ontario and Canada over the next few years.

“3% ABV is our sweet spot because we can pull market share from the higher 5%+ ABV drinks and the low-to-no ABV segment.  Especially during the pandemic, we found consumers wanted to extend their drinking hours and Good Sunday allows them to enjoy a drink perhaps a little earlier in the day, without the kick of a higher ABV beverage. As we always say, don’t regret your weekend, have a Good Sunday.”

Pandemic launch: 'Our 360 marketing plan was completely cancelled'

In launching in April this year, Good Sunday has already had to deal with its first curveball: a global pandemic.

“Launching in April was definitely a challenge – the game plan was just thrown out the window!"​ said Corson. 

"Our 360-marketing plan (events, billboards, tastings, festivals) was all cancelled. Being a new brand, we had to rely on our can design, taste and minor marketing to help promote Good Sunday.

“We had to completely pivot our plans and are continuing to learn and make changes as we go!

"We are lucky enough that the LCBO (where you buy alcohol in Ontario) remained open during the pandemic, so consumers were still able to buy and trial Good Sunday.”

‘We’re often overlooked as inexperienced – which is funny because our age is one of our biggest assets’

The duo say they’re happy with how their first five months in the market have panned out and the brand’s success so far – promising lots more is to come in 2021.

Having learned how to launch with the pandemic, the duo are now turning their attention to the challenges familiar to any start up.

“There are so many challenges we face day-to-day,"​ said Corson. "Being two 26-year olds, we are often overlooked as inexperienced. It’s funny because we see our age as one of our biggest assets. Christian and I know the market, know what people are looking for and have been working in the alcohol industry since we were 19.

“Other than that, there is of course the day-to-day struggles of any start-up. Are we producing enough product each month? Are we budgeting properly? Should we do this marketing spend? We face these questions every day, but we are starting to figure out what works for Good Sunday. We LOVE being entrepreneurs and love these challenges we face. It keeps us busy and learning.”

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