Growing an alcohol-free brand: Days Brewing talks TikTok triumphs and pint bottle launch

By Rachel Arthur

- Last updated on GMT

Duncan Keith and Mike Gammell left jobs at AB InBev and Propercorn to start Days Brewing.
Duncan Keith and Mike Gammell left jobs at AB InBev and Propercorn to start Days Brewing.

Related tags alcohol-free NABLAB non-alcoholic My Drynuary Uk Scotland

Alcohol-free beer Days Brewing has grown the brand through witty advertising and cheeky TikTok videos. Co-founders Mike Gammell and Duncan Keith tell us about their 2024 plans to drive brand awareness, availability and the right formats for modern beer consumers.

Building on a rich history of brewing in Scotland, the brand is led by Mike Gammell (‘wannabe influencer’) and Duncan Keith (‘accountant at heart’): with their brews using water from the Scottish Lammermuir hills and premium malt barley grown locally to the brewery outside Edinburgh.

Having launched four years ago, the company's focus is now on building the brand and reaching more consumers. TikTok is a key part of the company’s marketing strategy ('we thought if we were about modern beer, we had to be on that platform') and a crucial part of helping reach the 18-35 year old age group. In fact, a viral post last year saw the brand’s following increase by more than 1,000% and resulted in the brand’s best-ever week of sales in Tesco​, and the brand now has some 56k followers on the platform.

And the brand is exploring packaging formats that resonate with modern beer consumers: this year launching a pint bottle to offer the same 'pint down the pub' experience as alcohol drinkers.

BD: Introduce us to Days Brewing!

Days Brewing: Days is a 0.0% beer brand brewed for all those who love great beer and living a healthier lifestyles.

We (Mike Gammell and Duncan Keith) left our jobs at ABInBev and Propercorn before the 2020 pandemic with the goal of creating a business that keeps beer relevant for modern consumers.

days inset 3

We set out to build Days because we couldn’t find a brand or liquid on the market that didn’t feel like a compromise. Side kick versions of big beer brands didn’t resonate with us as consumers and beers that still contained 0.5% alcohol felt like a short cut.

We brew award winning 0.0% beers at our brewery in Scotland and are committed to building a brand that makes alcohol free beer accessible, fun and mainstream.

We are B Certified and commit 2% of all our sales to Mental Health initiatives.

Where can we find your products?

You can now buy our beer in pubs, bars and restaurants across the UK as well as in Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose, Wagamama and Ocado. 

Having launched online during the pandemic you can now buy our beers in 2,000+ distribution points across the UK. We are evenly split between Online, On Trade and Off Trade and are working with some of the largest groups in the UK.

Tell us a bit about how you make your alcohol-free beers – and what should we expect as a result?

We use premium locally sourced barley and water from the Lammemuir hills to brew light, refreshing and sessionable 0.0% beers. Our Lager is lightly malted with well balanced floral and citrus notes whilst our Pale Ale is slightly bolder, punchier and has a satisfyingly clean grapefruit finish.

We never set out to replicate the flavour profile of an alcoholic beer brand- we just wanted to brew the best alcohol-free beer possible. We’ve won numerous awards and have over 1,500+ 5 star reviews online. 

What do your jobs involve?

It’s unbelievably varied. One of the exciting things about building a business is how frequently your role as a founder adapts and evolves.

We each look after separate sides of the business and an average day can include everything from connecting with customers, chatting to consumers, visiting stockists, aligning with our brewers and working on marketing plans with the team.

We’re learning all the time and as the business continues to grow our job as founders is to make sure our team has everything they need to be brilliant in their role.

That has been one of the best bits so far. Finding awesome people who are miles better at their role than we would be and getting out of their way!

What’s on your radar this year?

January is always an exciting time for the category as a whole because with so many people making healthier life style choices at the start of the year there’s tons of interest & demand for alcohol free beer (and other non alc drinks).

But the exciting thing about the category is it’s growing so quickly and is definitely no longer just a flash in the pan one month moment.

For us, 2024 is about continuing to invest with our key customers to drive greater visibility and availability of our beers which will help us deliver on our aim to help our community make healthier life style choices whilst continuing to enjoy great beer and all it brings. We’re lucky to now be working with some of the biggest grocery customers in the country and have plans in place to continuing bringing modern consumers into the category.

Most of what we’re up to (plus embarrassing videos of us) will be available to see on TikTok.

@daysbrewing This app ain’t big enough for the both of us @Waitrose Maidenhead #daysbrewing#alcoholfreebeer#afbeer♬ The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (Main Theme) - Ennio Morricone

You launched your packaged 568ml pint format last month. Take us through the opportunities you believe there is for this alternative packaging size (and why hasn’t it existed up to now?!)

The opportunity here is enormous. 1/3rd​ of all pub and bar visits are now alcohol-free so clearly there is demand for a pint size format.

That said, what we’ve learnt from speaking directly with our trade customers is that the traditional way of delivering pints – Draught - is not necessarily the best customer-centric proposition. Tap space is at a premium and we recognise that an alcohol free beer won’t currently deliver the same volume as an alcoholic beer meaning that getting a pub, bar or restaurant to take off a performing alcoholic beer line is a big ask.

We’ve also heard a fair share of negative feedback about the quality of alcohol-free beer currently running through tap lines due to poor pull through and product instability. Being a genuinely 0.0% beer brand we are obsessed with product quality and we also want to deliver a solution that works best for the customer (bar owner) and end consumer. It was actually one of the biggest pub groups in the UK who suggested we look at doing a 568ml packaged format. So we did.

It’s the world’s first alcohol free beer pint bottle and honestly - now that it’s in the market - we can’t understand why it hasn’t been done before. It’s a truly customer centric proposition.

Our ambition is to be the most widely distributed pint of alcohol free beer in the country and we’ve now learnt that the 568ml pint bottle is the only product in beer that can offer the perfect alcohol free pint in every occasion, at every pub in the UK.

There’s quite a few alcohol-free beer brands out there in the UK now! Is there room for everyone – or has the competition really heated up? What’s the secret to standing out from the crowd in this category?

Yes, it’s definitely a competitive space. But that’s for good reason. The market potential is massive so it’s only natural that you’ll have brands entering from big and small beer companies.

For context, alcohol-free beer is currently only 2% of the beer market in the UK whereas in other European countries like Spain and Germany that number is closer to 10%.

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Moreover, when you strip it back and think about a weeks worth of drinking occasions we actually believe there’s more moments when an alcohol free beer makes more sense than an alcoholic one so we’re really confident we can help get the alcohol free category to 10%+ of total beer in the UK in the near term.

There’s definitely room for plenty of players in this space and it’s exciting to see how the category is starting to mature and take shape. We are enormous fans of the category overall and we’re pleased to be building it with some of the biggest brands globally, plus some independent players like ourselves doing some really cool things.

The key thing for us is to be focused on who we are building the business for and consistent in our product quality and messaging. We really speak to a modern beer consumer who is prioritising their health and also is unlikely to have the same relationship with the big beer companies as older generations.

We’ve got an irreverent tone of voice and aren’t afraid to celebrate the benefits of drinking less alcohol which definitely resonates with our community.

You’re a 0.0% ABV brew. How do you feel about the UK’s proposals to up the ‘alcohol-free’ definition from 0.05% to 0.5%?

Honestly, if it does go through, we’d be a tad disappointed as it would go against the fundamental reason for having labelling rules and regulations - namely consumer safety.

Alcohol is such a sensitive topic and what we’ve realised from speaking to literally tens of thousands of customers over the past few years is that people avoid alcohol for a range of reasons- health, lifestyle, religion etc and changing the definitions to allow 0.5% brands to call themselves “alcohol free” would serve to either cause confusion or (most worryingly) cause someone to consume alcohol by mistake.

We’re aware that 0.5% of alcohol in a beer might not be a big deal to some people: but for those who it does matter (the people that most need protecting) it’s a really sensitive issue and it would be a shame for those safety concerns to be ignored. We know overall that consumers are more and more conscious about what they are putting into their body so why shouldn’t we be as clear as possible about the ABV contained within the beer?

0.5% brands have been mislabelling themselves as “alcohol free” for a while though: so if the regulations do change it’s unlikely to have a big impact as the status quo so far has been 0.5% brands ignoring the rules anyway. Regardless we know that 0.0% is important to the majority of consumers and allows us as a business to cater to all of the alcohol-free need states here in the UK but also abroad.

What inspires you in building an alcohol-free brand?

The speed at which this category is developing is pretty inspiring and it’s definitely growing and maturing quicker than we predicted when we quit our jobs and got on the last flight out of London pre covid.

That growth all stems from consumer demand and this unwavering movement towards living and drinking healthier. Speaking to our consumers on a daily basis and really appreciating the impact that our product (it’s just a beer at the end of the day) is having on their lives is really inspiring.

I’d say that is what gives us and the team the most energy – really believing that what we are building is having a fundamentally positive impact on peoples’ physical and mental health (whilst enabling them to enjoy everything great about a few beers!).

@daysbrewing In our relatable meme era #daysbrewing♬ original sound - ★

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