PODCAST: Sober so good – AF Drinks Founder on leading New Zealand’s non-alcoholic cocktail trend

By Pearly Neo

- Last updated on GMT

In this episode of our Food and Beverage Trailblazers podcast we speak to Lisa King, Founder of New Zealand’s AF Drinks.
In this episode of our Food and Beverage Trailblazers podcast we speak to Lisa King, Founder of New Zealand’s AF Drinks.

Related tags F&B Trailblazers Podcast

In this episode of our Food and Beverage Trailblazers podcast we speak to Lisa King, Founder of New Zealand’s AF Drinks, about how the firm is leading the domestic non-alcoholic cocktail category as well as her challenges in making the switch from MNC’s such as PepsiCo and Heinz.

AF Drinks is one of the first non-alcoholic cocktail firms in New Zealand and currently has a range of G&T’s, a Dark and Stormy and a Cuba Libre in its portfolio. Lisa herself is a well-known local entrepreneur, having represented New Zealand in competing for the International Woman Entrepreneur of the Year title in 2019, and also previously a New Zealander of the Year finalist.

“So far the response to products in this non-alcoholic cocktail category has been really positive - we've been one of the first to launch into this category in New Zealand and in the last six or seven months it's really exploded,”​ King told FoodNavigator-Asia​.

“It’s been growing, and growing so quickly, which just shows that there's such a massive consumer demand for it.”

One of the potential drivers behind the growth in demand for non-alcoholic cocktails is a parallel growth in the sober curious movement, where consumers practise a reduction in intake or complete avoidance of alcohol for health or personal reasons.

“The sober curious movement which has been gaining a lot of momentum globally, a recognition of people who are becoming more mindful of their drinking and their relationship with alcohol,”​ said King.

“We’re seeing this trend really pick up, particularly amongst younger people – and that’s where AF sits, to help provide better choices for when people might not want to drink whether it’s just once a week, a few times a week, or when they can’t drink e.g. as designated driver for the night.

“The big goal for AF Drinks is to move really quickly, because this category is growing so fast and we really want to be at the forefront of that not just in New Zealand, but globally, as well.”

King has some 15 years of experience in the F&B industry with big food companies from Heinz to PepsiCo to Fonterra, but opted to give up the corporate life a few years back to start her first firm Eat My Lunch which provides free lunches to schoolchildren who cannot afford it, and is now one of the most well-known social entrepreneurships in the country.

“I learned a lot from working with the big food firms, but there was a real disconnect for me selling chips and chocolate and salt and sugar to the New Zealand public, but going home and not letting my own children eat any of that – it felt a bit hypocritical,”​ she said.

“So I made that big move leaving my well-paid corporate job – everyone thought I was crazy.

“The challenges are immense as there are a lot of difficulties balancing being commercially sustainable and sticking to your core purpose and values, in addition to not being able to just switch off after work – but there’s also the joy of knowing every minute you spend on your business results in something [which makes it all] fulfilling and worthwhile.”

Listen to the podcast above to find out more.

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Food & Beverage Trailblazers

F&B Trailblazers Podcast