My Drynuary: 'Our aim is that you can walk into any venue, anywhere, and ask for a Lyre’s'

By Profile series: innovators in low/no alcohol

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My Drynuary: Lyre's on its global expansion

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Non-alcoholic spirit Lyre's is now available in more than 100 markets worldwide. In our series of interviews profiling innovators in the low/no alcohol industry, CEO Mark Livings shares his secrets to success.

BD: Introduce us to Lyre's! 

After seeing a graph, charting Australians’ relationship with alcohol (and its decline) in 2016, I realized there could be an opportunity to develop a range of alternatives to traditional spirit in a non-alcoholic format.  After some investigation around the potential scale of the market and how consumers may accept such a range of products, I soon after started working on the liquids, the brand and how we could shape a company.

It was clear to me that there was a desire to make better choices around alcohol consumption - not necessarily through abstaining completely - but through moderation. I soon came to understood also that the vast majority of people whom I spoke with shared my experience around when I wasn’t drinking, I desperately wanted something more than just a soft drink. What became clear is what they really wanted was to be able to enjoy their drink of choice, be that a single serve G&T or a delicious cocktail - but without the alcohol.

Lyre’s was born with a view of producing not just a single spirit, but an entire portfolio of spirits designed to mimic the flavor profile of their alcoholic counterparts.  I wanted a range that could help recreate the entire cocktail list.

From the conception of this idea, it took a further three years to perfect our initial product developments.  In this time I also recruited my best friend and fellow entrepreneur Carl Hartmann as my Co-Founder to help bring the brand and business to life.  Once ready, the brand hit the market in 2019.

Unlike most brands that launch with a single product, we hit the market with nine different spirits, immediately putting Lyre’s on the map as a brand that offered consumers the choice they’d been looking for. We’ve stuck to that core ethos ever since, constantly innovating to expand our range of spirits (now at 16) and introducing a non-alcoholic Italian sparkling and series of 5 ready-to-drink cans.

Today, Lyre’s is now the world’s most awarded non-alcoholic spirit brand, is recognized as the global category’s most trending and second best-selling non-alcoholic spirits brand (Drinks International Annual Brands Report 2023).

Where can we find Lyre's?

Lyre’s is now currently available in more than 100 markets including Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Hong Kong, Singapore and throughout Europe. Earlier in 2022, we launched into eight countries across the Middle including the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Kuwait, Iraq and Jordan.  You can also find us in the Caribbean and through some countries in Central and South America.

What sets your brand apart from the rest?​ 

Mark Livings 2 (002)

What really sets Lyre’s apart from the rest of the category is the range of products in our portfolio.

It was about giving consumers the choice of liquid they were looking for and not just catering to one type of drinker - i.e. the gin lovers. We knew that if we were going to meet the needs of all drinkers, then we would need to go further and aim to recreate a non-alcoholic version of almost every spirit we could.

Our spirits enable moderate drinkers to get as close as possible to the original spirit in terms of flavour, experience, intensity, and so on. That takes work. It takes time and constant innovation. Some of our products have been worked on for years before they come to market, but it means we can offer an unrivalled range that no one else can. 

Earlier in 2022, we launched the tequila-inspired Lyre’s Agave Blanco spirit, as well as a zero-ABV version of a pink gin. We also expanded into the sparkling wine category, with the launch of Lyre’s Classico, designed to provide Italian sparkling wine lovers an option in non-alcoholic form.

We are also the most widely stocked non-alcoholic spirit in the UK on-trade also. For us, it’s about showing up in all the places where you’d typically want to enjoy your favourite alcoholic serves and sitting alongside them on menus and back of bar, to show people that they now have the alternatives they’ve been looking for. 

What does your job involve? 

My job has evolved significantly over the last few years.  Across the last year, it’s become more media, market and investor facing than it’s been in the past.  Additionally, I’m moving away from working on the day to day operations aspects of the business and focusing on strategy, particularly now across the medium and longer-term.  

One of the more interesting aspects of my day to day work is helping ensure we share best-practice within our business.  As the CEO, you have unique visibility of every challenge and every amazing thing that happens within the business – making sure any learnings make it from one market into the next is something I’m doing constantly.  I think we’re a better business for it.

How have you seen the low/no market change since you founded Lyre's?

I think we’ve moved from unawareness to discovery and then to acceptance in a very quick five years. I think we can safely say that the next phase for our category is mass adoption.

Non-alcoholic spirits follows, we believe, very closely what’s happened with the beer market.  Patrons now switch in a frictionless way between the alcohol containing originals, and non-alcoholic alternatives are finding their way into people’s portfolio of choices for what they drink and when on a higher frequency basis.  This is evidenced by the fact that the overwhelming majority of our patrons, we estimate some 95% plus, also continue to enjoy alcohol-containing products. 

So for us, it’s about delivering on choice and in doing so, this shift will deliver to the non-alcoholic category growth that we believe will exceed the traditional categories for the next twenty to thirty years.

Success for the category globally lies in greater distribution and increased exposure, and this has very much been at the forefront for many non-alcoholic brands this year. Low-and-no ‘spirits’ are now showing up across a range of channels, such as retail, in the on-trade, across food service, sporting and music venues, as well as travel stations. 

Anything special going on this month?

We are now entering into our second year in partnership with Alcohol Change UK - the charity behind Dry January®, and this year, Lyre’s is both the Official Spirit and Wine Sponsor of the global initiative. 

It’s a key time for us for sure. Mindful drinking has of course become far more prevalent all year round, but initiatives like Dry January® allow us to tap into new audiences who may not have heard of us or explored much of our range before. It’s a time when people are really receptive to the concept of non-alcoholic, so for us, it’s about showing up in all the same places as our alcoholic counterparts and showcasing the versatility of our products. The liquids really do speak for themselves, so it’s about driving trial and showcasing the possibilities when it comes to the serves.

A huge focus for us in Dry January® this year is about showing up in key on-trade accounts. Having Lyre’s listed on cocktail menus and sitting on the backbar alongside their alcoholic counterparts really starts to cement to drinkers the options they have available to them and how seamlessly they can switch in and out of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. We’re working with over 700 venues across the UK to giveaway 10,000 free Lyre’s cocktails this January, as well as sampling a further 10,000 bottles of our spirits for those who sign up to do Dry January® through the ACUK Try Dry app. 

And what should we look out for from your company in the rest of 2023?

New product innovation has been at the heart of everything at Lyre’s over the past few years, but now, with the largest portfolio of non-alcoholic liquids on the market, our focus for 2023 has shifted towards increasing our distribution and supporting rate of sale globally.

The key to success in an increasingly competitive market relies on discoverability of our products in all the same venues and outlets that people would typically enjoy alcohol.

On and off trade distribution is of course instrumental, and we’ll continue to work on securing high quality retail distribution globally. We’re also now looking to shift our focus and start to explore new channels also – think gyms, stadiums, airlines, cruise lines and travel retail as examples. Our aim is that you can walk into any venue, anywhere, and ask for a Lyre’s. 

What inspires you on your low/no alcohol journey? 

Disruptive and truly innovative brands that have emerged as part of the broader health and wellness macro-trend are certainly what we look towards for inspiration as well as helping us understand the challenges on what comes next. The best examples from the food and beverage category include Oatly, Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods and Magic Spoon. 

I look very fondly at Athletic Brewing Co as well – I don’t think Bill Schufelt will mind me saying that we both feel we’re on a similar journey and we talk to each other a lot, compare notes and work through our challenges together from time to time.

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