Profile series: Innovators in the low/no alcohol industry

My Drynuary: ‘One of the most common questions we receive is ‘Are you sure this is alcohol-free?’ That's the best compliment we can get!’

By Rachel Arthur

- Last updated on GMT

'I love seeing proud bartenders put the effort into creating a non-alcoholic cocktail. That always makes me incredibly happy': ISH founder Morten Sørensen
'I love seeing proud bartenders put the effort into creating a non-alcoholic cocktail. That always makes me incredibly happy': ISH founder Morten Sørensen

Related tags My Drynuary Dry January alcohol-free NABLAB non-alcoholic Denmark Us

ISH Spirits offers a range of alcohol-free sparkling wines, spirits and cocktails: using a proprietary technique so that drinks mimic their alcoholic counterparts as closely as possible. In our series profiling movers and shakers in the industry, founder Morten Sørensen tells us how the brand is constantly innovating.

The ISH portfolio includes three spirits that mimic rum, gin and tequila (Caribbean Spiced Spirit, London Botanical Spirit and Mexican Agave Spirit);  two alcohol-free sparkling wines; and four canned cocktails (spritz, G&T, Daiquiri and Mojito).

In 2024, the brand will also launch a new Spanish-style sparkling, ISH Espumante and a Strawberry margarita canned cocktail.

The brand’s technology uses the hulls of chili seeds to create the bite or edge of alcoholic drinks.

Founded and based in Copenhagen, the brand has 25 export markets and Sørensen tells us a big project in 2024 will be expansion in the US.

Introduce us to ISH!

ISH caribbean spiced rum
Caribbean spiced rum

I decided to embark on a 100-day alcohol-free challenge back in the fall of 2017.

I was honestly tired of alcohol. Literally. I felt slowed down when I consumed alcohol and with the ambition of wanting to be the best version of myself it was pretty clear to me that alcohol was limiting that ambition. 

The purpose of ISH is to make it easy for anyone to drink more mindfully. We believe that’s done best by crafting products that are so close to the alcoholic versions that they actually trick the brain.

And that is our best selling point: superior taste. We have record high return customer rates and hundreds of 5-star reviews. That is our success criteria, knowing that we are giving people the world’s best alcohol-free experiences.

What should we expect from the drinking experience?

We take our products incredibly seriously. We can easily spend over a year nailing the right composition. 

When we have launched a product, we immediately start the process of creating the next generation of that same product. Our NA Gin and Rum, London Botanical and Caribbean Spiced, are now in their third generation, where the latest upgrade to Caribbean Spiced was the inclusion of real de-alcoholized Rum sourced from the Caribbean. 

When enjoying the ISH range you can expect your brain to play a little trick on you – one of the most common questions we get is: “Are you sure this is alcohol-free?” which is the best compliment we can get.

You use a proprietary technique to mimic each original spirit as closely as possible. What can you reveal about this?

ISH lime daiquiri
Lime daiquiri

We definitely haven’t chosen the easy way. It’s quite a complicated process that requires a lot of resources from our inhouse R&D and procurement team.

We use a bunch of different techniques to develop our products like distillation, extraction, and steam to extrude the right aromas and molecules from the ingredients.

Our wines undergo additional processes to add additional layers of complexity and mouthfeel and our premixed cocktails are continuously being upgraded as we continue to innovate.

What’s the alcohol-free scene like in Copenhagen – and indeed Denmark?

In Copenhagen and Denmark, the alcohol-free scene is growing rapidly and if we look beyond beer, Denmark is a top-10 NA market. The funny thing is that Denmark also is a top contender in the consumption of conventional alcohol, so we got our work cut out for us. 

ISH launched in the US in October 2022 – how’s that going?

Yes, we did - and we’ve been growing ever since. We have a great setup with our trusted partners at The Zero Proof who continue to secure distribution points. Recently we launched in all Delta Lounges across the United States and also secured full distribution with a top hotel group. US will probably be our largest market in 2024 which is pretty exciting. 

In the US, we operate in 10 states currently and expect to add two more states in 2024. In this market, ISH is on the shelves mainly in the on-trade channel. Our first account in the US was Eleven Madison Park in New York so that kind of set the bar. We do love retail though as that really helps us gain access to a broader consumer group.

What does your job involve?

'The biggest challenge is time. We have so much opportunity, but only so much time, which makes it hard to prioritize'

I’m a fortunate founder because I’m surrounded by a great team of experts in their respective fields.

My job is mainly securing that the brand as a whole is moving in the right direction.

That includes product development, marketing, team constellation, and everything in between.

I spend a lot of time supporting our sales team as we onboard new partners and enjoy speaking at relevant industry events and contributing with my view on our fantastic category. 

The biggest challenge is time. We have so much opportunity but only so much time which makes it hard to prioritize. 

What does January look like for ISH?

We see great interest in January which is awesome because it drives trial, but honestly we enjoy focusing on the consumers who makes a lifestyle out of mindful drinking. We are here for the long term and so are our core customers. 

And what should we look out for from your company in the rest of 2024?

We have some exciting new product launches for 2024 that we look forward to introducing and some pretty heavy activations for the summer, so stay tuned. 

What inspires you on your low/no alcohol journey?

ISH morten 2

I love seeing proud bartenders put in an effort when creating a nice alcohol-free cocktail.

That always makes me incredibly happy on behalf of our category.

On a macro level I love the fact that we are able to bridge playfulness and mindfulness.

That makes me very proud as we are able to be there for the conscious consumers who loves the experience of a drink and now actually can have it too, without compromising on experience nor intention.

That’s my driver and the more we can inspire others to have that experience for themselves, the better we can create a healthy balance the alcohol category as a whole.

Sharelle Headshot1 (1)

Yesterday, Sharelle Klaus - the force behind DRY Soda Co. - revealed how the alcohol-free market in the US has changed​ since she launched the brand way back in 2005 (spoiler alert: it's changed a lot...)

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