The launch also serves as a course-correction for the company after a brief detour into the better-for-you soda space with the short-lived 2018 launch of the now discontinued DRY Zero Sugar line of organic colas, which company CEO Sharelle Klaus says threatened to take the company down the wrong path.
“I didn’t start DRY Soda Co. to be a soda company. I started it with a mission of making social drinking for everyone and making zero-proof a viable lifestyle, so that nobody feels weird when they are anywhere and they’re not drinking alcohol,” Klaus told FoodNavigator-USA.
But, she explained, DRY’s brief foray into the better-for-you soda category deviated from this mission because it removed the social component from the drinking component and instead became “something for people to drink whenever, but which had nothing to do the zero-proof lifestyle.”
While discontinuing the line was a painful decision, it also paved the way for Klaus to engage with emerging players in the zero-proof beverage space and reconnect with the rising number of no- or low-alcohol consumers through writing ‘The Guide To Zero-Proof Cocktails.’ She explained, the book’s deep dive into the world of mixology and ritual of layering textures and flavors to be savored with others ultimately inspired the new line of Botanical Bitters & Soda as a ready-to-drink, alcohol-free – and, yes, zero-sugar – option that was rooted in social drinking and the company’s original mission.
Bold botanical flavors
“When we started talking about this, I said we needed to do this the DRY way. And the DRY way is using really innovative flavors and is super courageous in how we put them together. So, we are not going to just be a bitters and soda. We’re going to really de-construct what that means and take these different botanicals that are a little bit more risky and put them together with some that are a little less risky,” Klaus explained.
The result is a line of three flavors that are just as distinct from each other as they are from other products on the market, she said.
“Our Bright/Herbal is probably the closest to something familiar. It is pretty approachable” with a blend of ginger, lavender, orange, cardamom, sage and citrus that “wouldn’t be too surprising to people,” she said.
But, she added, the Aromatic and Sweet/Spicy options are bolder with the first combining cloves and orange and the second blending citrus, lemongrass and “some really strong pepper botanicals in there for something really fun.”
The bold flavor combinations recall the strong taste profiles of the brand’s Botanical Bubbly line, which focus on one flavor at a time – lavender, vanilla or cucumber.
“I think we have always been at the forefront of using botanicals and I really pride myself personally on the fact that we have the courage to do that and bring these really interesting botanicals forward” at a time when few others were, Klaus said.
Reaching new consumers, usage occasions
At the same time that the Botanical Bitters & Soda line helped return DRY to its roots, it also marked “a huge departure for us, because it’s a whole different kind of drink” that appeals to a different consumer segment and usage occasion than the company’s DRY Botanical Bubbly, Klaus said.
She explained that while the company’s original DRY Botanical Bubbly line was designed with foodies in mind as a non-alcoholic option that could be paired with dishes the same way that wine is, the new Botanical Bitters & Soda line serves more as a “session extender” for cocktail connoisseurs who either don’t want to drink alcohol or want to drink less, but who still want the ritual the beverage offers.
“During COVID, we found many of us needed that evening ritual of drinking to break up the day and working at home from the evening. But you can’t drink every night … and so this is about filling that ritual and occasion,” Klaus explained.
She added the company plans to launch another “innovation before the end of the year that hits a different occasion and potentially a different consumer, but still provides the ritual or feeling of celebration and connection.”
To further expand the company’s reach and promote the zero-proof lifestyle, Klaus also is working with other players in the space to cross-promote and to create in-store destination sets for non-alcoholic options.
Even as the brand partners with others in the space, Klaus is confident DRY can stay ahead of the competition because she has a well developed distribution network, is a trusted authority in the space and once again is mission-focused so that she can successfully appeal to her target consumers to increase sales and basket size.