In a culture where alcohol consumption is heavily promoted and normalized, the choice not to partake is radically different than the norm. Sobriety from alcohol is a topic that is coming up more often lately—and non-alcoholic beverage brands are getting in on the opportunity to provide tasty, enjoyable beverages to the many consumers looking to drink something fun that is healthy and hangover-free. As a non-drinker, Becca Gardner was inspired to found Keyhorse-backed ALT Distilling, a zero-proof alternative beverage company. We asked her a few questions to help share her founder journey and the insights gained along the way.
How did you become interested in the beverage industry?
My interest was initially sparked by my personal experience as a non-drinker in a world that didn’t seem to accommodate this decision. But more specifically, three summers ago, I was interviewing for a job in London, and I was blown away by the non-alcoholic scene in the city. It was the first time I did not feel alienated by my choice to abstain. Instead of taking the job, I decided to move back from New York to Kentucky to build a non-alcoholic brand that addressed what I saw as an unmet need.
What inspired you to co-found a company?
Initially, I considered working as a “consultant” in the non-alcoholic category since strategy consulting had been where I had spent the prior decade. But when I realized that the larger problem was the quality and branding of the sparse existing options, it became evident that starting a consumer products company was step one—obviously easier said than done! While I am a sole founder, this would not be the company it is today if it wasn’t for the advisors, mentors, and partners I have met along the way.
an individual's decision not to drink alcohol should be as easy, enjoyable, and emotionally rewarding as ordering a cocktail or glass of wine.
Tell us about your team: Who’s on it, and how did you meet?
Today, we work with a variety of consultants, contractors, and advisors on the administrative, production operations, and sales fronts. In addition to myself, our core team includes my administrative assistant, Robin, a close friend who used to work in higher education administration, my sister, Jenny, who is an architect and graphic designer by training and serves as my chief of staff; and Carrie, who is a non-drinker like myself and heads up trade and education. She was most recently at Michter’s, where she worked for over three years as the head of their bar program.
Where do you see the beverage industry headed in the near future?
Non-alc and health-focused beverages have proven to not just be “nice to have” but a need that, if not accommodated, is leaving dollars on the table for both producers and the hospitality industry. As a result, you will continue to see many new brands in our category emerge as we see the larger players (distributors, beverage conglomerates, and big box retailers) adjust to accommodate shifting consumer preferences. I also anticipate seeing regulatory bodies become more involved in the distribution side of the house.
What does success look like to ALT Distilling in the short term and long term?
I set out to make the culture surrounding drinking more radically inclusive, and I’d love for us to play a key role. In my mind, that means an individual's decision not to drink alcohol should be as easy, enjoyable, and emotionally rewarding as ordering a cocktail or glass of wine. In the short term, this means that we will be available at folks’ favorite bars in Louisville and Nashville and select non-alc bars in major metropolitan areas, but longer term, I hope NKD LDY is listed on every cocktail menu across the country.
Find out more about ALT Distilling at www.altdistilling.com. Are you a startup based in or looking to relocate to Kentucky? Keyhorse’s current quarterly investment cycle is open until Sept 30th! Apply now.