Meet Danielle Bekker. As a supply chain professional with over 20 years’ experience in the brewing industry, she waved farewell to the corporate world and set out on a mission to innovate in the drinks sector. With Binary Botanical, she’s certainly achieved that.
“I cannot believe our Surrey start-up is now three years old. Three years since we decided to make a wine-lovers’ beer. Three years since we took the plunge and decided to do something a bit different. Three years since we packed away the corporate life and embarked on the start-up journey.
I love beer but I have never enjoyed having beer with food and would typically switch to wine to have with dinner, which is far more alcoholic. So the original idea was to come up with a beer that would go well with food – and we have done everything to turn beer on its head. We infuse it with hop leaves (which are normally a waste product) and brew with a wine yeast to give a product which is aromatic, tangy like prosecco aromatic but not at all bitter. We have a 4 percent ABV version which is the low alcohol alternative to wine and the 0.5 percent which is the perfect adult drink when you aren’t drinking.
My real passion is the 0.5 percent ABV – it took a lot longer to get this recipe right. A lot of non-alcoholic beers are quite bitter and it took a lot of experimentation to develop something which was aromatic and flavourful but without the bitterness. My favourite tipple at the moment is actually the binary 0.5. I don’t drink very much and I love having an adult alternative to lime and soda.
In terms of inspiration there are quite a few – the range of delicious gins that are out there with the various botanical infusions shows the range of flavours that can be achieved with different botanicals. I think Seedlip have paved the way for elevating the non-alcoholic cocktail.
Because binary is so different, it’s not aimed at the traditional beer consumer. When people taste the liquid they invariably love it but it does confuse the brain. Is it a low alcohol sparkling wine? Is it a beer?
Beer can be premium, drunk out of a wine glass with a meal by men and women. And, as Binary demonstrates, it can also make delicious low calorie cocktails.
It’s been a rollercoaster three years. Like so many businesses, we were forced to make huge adjustments during the pandemic. With the impact of Covid on pubs, restaurants and festivals our key revenue streams evaporated overnight.
But Covid forced us to focus on our online sales which had never been a priority before. We quickly pivoted to setting up our e-commerce and delved into the world of digital advertising and we haven’t looked back. Our lovely loyal customers still wanted the product and were happy to come to us directly. A few weeks in and we saw our demand rise. People are becoming more comfortable with online shopping.
As the pandemic progressed we were also amazed to see the rise in sales of our non-alcoholic binary. What was our smallest SKU now accounts for almost 70 percent of our online volume. This just shows how there is a real demand for adult, non-sweet, non-alcoholic beverages when you are looking to cut down.
Sustainability is something that is core to our ethos. We use a waste ingredient to deliver the unique tangy taste to our wine-lovers’ beer and we are passionate about living lighter on the planet. We have been very chuffed to win several sustainability related awards. The Surrey Food and drink Sustainability award (2020), World Beverage Innovation award (2020) and the CREST Transformation of Food Award 2021.
We aim to work to lower our footprint with all we do. Plain cardboard boxes for shipping, our bottles are made from over 80 percent recycled glass, and we partner with brands who share our sustainability ethos.
Up until now, Binary has been available in a sharing 660ml glass bottle and a single-serve 250ml glass bottle, for both the 4 percent and 0.5 percent versions. However, we have just launched a new 330ml canned version. We’ve noticed a real shift towards canned beverages over the last year or so. They are much lighter and with a good recycle rate, we wanted to offer consumers a new packaging format to experiment with.
The way the Binary team approached the design was particularly interesting. Rather than simply opting for an internal favourite or conducting expensive consumer research, we took to social media to share the concepts and hear from followers about which design they preferred. Who better to provide feedback than the binary tribe themselves? Every few days new designs were polled and revised, based on the feedback. With this approach, the team were able to settle on a final design within just one month. It was a real bonus to launch the can in time for summer picnics.
Our highlights (on the journey so far) have included our listings in Harvey Nichols and Ocado – both said they were excited about genuine innovation within the beer industry.
Another highlight was being included in Craft Gin Club as the cocktail mixer for their cocktail of the month – they took a big risk including us as their first ever beer and the feedback has been really positive.
However, perhaps the biggest highlight still is any time someone says ‘I don’t like beer’ and ends up loving binary!