Nish Jain BAdmin’17 and Liam Nystuen BAdmin’17 (pictured) have been friends for nearly 25 years, growing up just a few blocks away from each other in Regina. It’s hard to know exactly when the two met, but photo evidence shows the two attended pre-school together. Since then, the two have attended the same elementary and high school, even attending the University of Regina together. The dynamic duo recently founded Alchømy Alternatives, a beverage company that produces non-alcoholic drinks. We asked Nish about being in business with his long-time friend.
- What was the genesis of your company?
- We have always half-joked that if one of ushad a business idea, they would pitch it to the other. As Nish was exploring non-alcoholic options, he noticed the non-alcoholic beer market growing, but was having a hard time finding quality alcohol alternatives in the spirits and cocktails space. One day, in the spirit of our long-standing "pact", I pitched the idea to Liam of starting our own non-alcoholic spirit alternatives company. We both saw the need for quality alcohol alternatives beyond non-alcoholic beer or overly-sugary "mocktails" and we have been working on creating complex spirit and cocktail alternatives since then.
- What does your research show about alcohol consumption trends today?
- Alcohol consumption is declining across the board, but especially among younger demographics prioritizing both their physical and mental health and wellness. Even large alcohol brands in the beer, wine, and spirits spaces are taking notice and starting to launch their own products, or are investing in companies that are creating non-alcoholic alternatives.
- Why are your products right for the market at this time?
- As more guidelines are released concerning alcohol consumption, there has never been a better time to offer spirit alternatives that are complex and great-tasting. The non-alcoholic market, especially the spirit alternatives segment, is still in its early years. There is a huge opportunity to offer products that capture the essence and emulate the experience of enjoying a complex spirit or a well-crafted cocktail, and at a price point that makes sense for the consumer, whether they are totally sober or simply looking for different options and alternatives to consuming alcohol.
- How do you formulate your beverages?
- We first started by working with the Saskatchewan Food Industry Development Centre on developing a "base" that could offer the same weight and mouthfeel of a traditional spirit. From there, we worked with a flavour house on developing custom, all-natural flavours that we could combine to create a unique and complex flavour profile. This approach allows us to create a zero-alcohol product, as opposed to a product created through distillation techniques that can still contain up to 0.5% alcohol. Finally, we consulted with a restaurant and cocktail bar in Regina, The Cure Kitchen + Bar, in order to get the right proportions and balance of flavours in a way that would work well in non-alcoholic cocktails.
- What products do you currently carry?
- We currently offer one product called "Oak", a zero-alcohol spirit alternative designed for bourbon and whiskey-inspired cocktails.
- Where are your products available?
- We are available for retail sale in Regina at Urban Cellars on Quance Street as well as Lakeview Fine Foods.
We are on the menus at several restaurants in Regina and Saskatoon:
- Crave Kitchen + Wine Bar (Regina)
- The Cure Kitchen + Bar (Regina)
- Cathedral Social Hall (Regina)
- Avenue Restaurant (Regina)
- F&B Restaurant (Saskatoon)
- What are some of the challenges of trying to run a business while heavily invested in other pursuits?
- We are both fortunate that we are in professions that allow us to juggle the demands of growing a startup while also working in order to provide for ourselves and our families. I am a lawyer that left the Toronto law firm I worked at in order to pursue Alchømy Alternatives and now I practise law as a sole practitioner. Liam is a CPA that also works as an independent consultant. A major challenge is dedicating time and energy to ensure we are doing everything we can to move the start-up forward, even if that means late evenings and working on weekends after we've taken care of our other life and professional responsibilities. At this stage, since the company is fully boot-strapped, i.e. self-financed, another major challenge is allocating the funds we do have in the most efficient and effective way until we grow the company to the stage where we can take in external investment and fully dedicate our day-to-day to the business.
- What does the future hold for Alchomy Alternatives?
- We are in the process of working on new branding, including a new logo, packaging, and an e-commerce website. We are also testing two potential ready-to-drink canned beverages that we hope to launch in Saskatchewan in the coming months. At the same time, we are working on an exciting new product development approach in collaboration with a chef and bartender in order to break down the flavour profiles of new innovations and build recipes and products from the ground-up, ingredient-by-ingredient. Over the next 12-18 months, as we introduce new innovations we plan to expand across the Prairies (including Alberta and Manitoba) and eventually into larger markets like British Columbia and Ontario.