Laura is co-founder of Club Soda, the Mindful Drinking Movement - helping people drink more mindfully and live well. Club Soda now has over 70,000 individual members and nearly 80 brand members who it supports through research & collaborative projects. It's built a drinks guide and runs the UK’s only Mindful Drinking Festival (now in its 8th edition). She is Imbibe’s No & Low ambassador and judge for the IWSC awards.
Her latest project is Club Soda's new Tasting Room and Shop: which boasts a curated collection of over 150 of the 'best and brightest' low-alcohol and alcohol-free drinks brands. The in-store range features products from partner brands Everleaf, Lucky Saint, Sentia, Crodino, Oddbird Wines and Double Dutch. The broader range in the shop includes alcohol-free beers, wines, spirits, premixed cocktails, sodas, and kombuchas, and a selection of low-alcohol products coming soon.
BD: Tell us about Club Soda - and your latest initiative with the Tasting Room and Shop...
We have been promoting mindful drinking since 2015, running festivals, supporting individuals and brands and generally shouting about choice in the hospitality sector.
But our first permanent venue opened at the end of 2022 in Covent Garden (after a successful pop-up earlier in the year)
We are the only brick and mortar low and no alcohol specialists in the UK.
We have an excellent team that know alcohol-free drinks like the back of their hand, ready to advise individual and retail customers.
We also have a training space so we can support venues, retailers and the consumer to learn more about low and no alcohol drinks.
What low/no categories do you see resonating with today's consumers?
In the shop, wine is the most sought after category, we are really proud of our selection and can’t keep up with demand.
Our mood enhancing drinks shelves are also beginning to fill and there is a lot of curiosity in this category from the consumer.
We should get our licence this month so are really excited to be bringing on a range of low alcohol products.
What are you going to be working on over the coming weeks and months?
We have a lot on to support people not drinking this January - it is our busy month! We are running an alcohol-free cocktail trail with a community of 20 Covent Garden and Soho restaurants and bars, including Swift Soho, Mr Fogg's Society of Exploration and Cahoots.
Plus we have a full program of flights, cocktail masterclasses, quizzes and Queer Night! You can see everything at https://joinclubsoda.com/events
Looking further ahead, we hope to open more stores in the UK as well as launch our online store and other exciting ways for the consumers to connect within low and alcohol-free brands.
How have you seen the low/no alcohol market change?
In 2015 there was not even a market: now it is the fastest growing area of drinks. I sometimes have to pinch myself at the change in choice and what that means for the consumer. I feel really proud to have been a small part of supporting so many innovative entrepreneurs grow their brand. It is what I like doing best.
You've been encouraging mindful drinking for many years in many different ways. What's top of your agenda for 2023?
I still work on the strategic goals to achieve our mission of helping people drink more mindfully and live well. This year that will involve more work with the DIT [UK Department for International Trade] to help brands export, showcasing the best of low and no at trade shows as well as developing more services to help retailers and venues expand their low and no alcohol range. We will also be producing more research to help everyone navigate this new area of drinks.
What inspires you on your low/no alcohol journey?
I am really excited by the new World Alcohol Free Awards - they are going to be mega.
What’s your favorite product in the Tasting Rooms?
That would be telling. I love everything we stock and beyond - it is actually hard choosing!