‘Not replicating booze’: How Australia’s So Soda is seeking to blaze a trail in adult non-alcoholic beverages

By Pearly Neo

- Last updated on GMT

So Soda is hoping for success amid the thriving non-alcoholic beverages category by focusing on flavourful and sophisticated drinks. ©So Soda
So Soda is hoping for success amid the thriving non-alcoholic beverages category by focusing on flavourful and sophisticated drinks. ©So Soda

Related tags Australia non-alcoholic

Australia’s So Soda is hoping for success amid the thriving non-alcoholic beverages category by focusing on flavourful and sophisticated drinks that don’t seek to replicate existing booze products.

So Soda’s main target consumers are adults in the twenties to forties age range looking to reduce alcohol consumption, but with an increasing number of non-alcoholic adult options emerging in the market, the firm has decided to go down a less-travelled route.

“We saw a very big gap in the current market for non-alcoholic beverages targeted at adults – most of these drinks now are trying to be replicas of existing alcoholic products like beers, wines or G&Ts,”​ So Soda Founder and Director Daniel Hastings told FoodNavigator-Asia​.

“The thing is that consumers that are choosing not to drink at a given time may not want to be actually holding something in their hand that needs to look like alcohol – it’s already hard to shift habits, and relating that drink in your hand to alcohol even if it’s not can be something of a limiting factor as it can bring that fear of missing out (FOMO) factor into play.

“In addition, it also tends to limit the occasions for these non-alcoholic beverages to those where alcohol is consumed as it is seen as a direct replacement – but what about the other times of the day when they might want a sophisticated adult option to replace say coffee, sparkling water and of course soft drinks?

“This was the gap we felt we had to address, to create a drink that was not limited to only certain occasions due to the alcohol link, but also target these to adults.”

So Soda’s focus is on being non-alcoholic and low sugar, but also sophisticated enough to be clearly targeted at adults – this is visible via its packaging and the names it has given its drinks i.e. Splash Dance, High Frequency and Strange Bedfellows.

“The other very key aspect to standing out here is our all-natural flavours – Splash Dance is a watermelon mint spritz that brings with it a natural prosecco flavour; High Frequency has yuzu, lime and chilli with a natural vodka flavour; and Strange Bedfellows has ginger, fig, cinnamon and cardamom which has spiced ginger beer vibes,”​ said Hastings.

“We consider these much more sophisticated adult flavours and will continue innovating in this direction, and to utilise ingredients that give those natural alcohol flavour extracts so there’s always an adult twist to it.”

Try before buy

So Soda’s base is in Sunshine Coast, Brisbane, but its range has already gotten significant traction nationwide, being ranged in supermarkets such as Coles and IGA MetCash, as well as on-premise in multiple cafes and bars.

“We have found that direct-to-consumer DTC strategies have been the most effective for us, so in addition to retail we’ve been participating in lots of events, festivals and so on – sampling is really key here and we’ve seen that allowing people to try before buying is a big way to get them on board,”​ Harding added.

“We do also have a digital strategy, but although there’s wide reach there the path to purchasing is much more fragmented unless there’s already significant incentive, so really getting the drinks into more mouths is the way to go.”

The firm also has major plans to go international, with Asia as its first target.

“What’s important for us is to have the right levels of support on the ground, as I’ve seen way too many drink brands take it too fast and rush the process and end up having to leave a market, which we definitely want to avoid,”​ he said.

“Asia is most likely our next step as we know buyers are interested here and also that places like Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea and Japan already have the developed markets we need.

“There needs to be a solid foundation for both alcoholic and non-alcoholic demand, as it’s important to have both of these to get that crowd looking for reduction and moderation.”

So Soda also recently signed on as the exclusive non-alcoholic drinks sponsor of local professional men’s basketball team Brisbane Bullets.

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