Happy Hour is supposed to be a time to decompress after a long day's work. Jen Batchelor, founder and CEO of Kin Euphorics, says that’s rarely the case.
“People were telling me that when they go to happy hour, they’re exhausted. If I see a date on the books that's like drinks with clients, I’m usually groaning. I have to pound an energy drink, I have to get an espresso and then move onto cocktails just so I can be present with these people,” Batchelor tells the Business of Business. “After a few drinks they were less themselves than they wanted to be.”
A 2020 cocktail trends report found that 83% of bartenders found low/no alcoholic beverages to be popular. Mocktail brand Lyres in September reported 400% monthly recurring revenue growth since the beginning of 2020.
Batchelor grew up in Saudi Arabia, a country still steeped in prohibition. Her father, an expat, started home brewing. The art of beverage making is intertwined with her cultural identity and family history. Inspired by her heritage and a longing to put the happy back in happy hour, she founded Kin Euphorics in Austin, Texas.
Kin’s focus is on feeling good. It’s about recreating the ritual of drinking. Working with everyone from neuropharmacologists to those dabbling in the world of nootropics, Kin Euphorics has developed a sophisticated alternative to the cocktail. The company uses adaptogens, nootropics, and botanics instead of ethanol, making it a healthy alternative or accompaniment, rather than a substitute. For those unfamiliar, an adaptogen is a plant that helps the body deal with stress, regulating one's cortisol levels. Nootropic herbs and botanicals enhance cognitive function.
With this plant-based formula and health-focused approach, Kin Euphorics stands fairly isolated in the mocktail space. But the trend is growing. IWSR reportedly expects a 118% volume increase in the sector by 2024. The Business of Business spoke with Batchelor about how Kin Euphorics stands out, its position in the non-alcoholic beverage industry and the pandemic’s impact.
BoB: Kin Euphorics makes non-alcoholic drinks and your website says that you’re "elevating the world’s oldest social tradition: drinking." How are you doing that without alcohol?
JB: Essentially what was happening in my own life is that I was moderating my drinking habits. I started looking at alcohol exactly as it is. If [alcohol] were to launch into the universe yesterday, if Elon Musk was like “I invented this thing it gets you really fucked up, you’re going to love it,” knowing what we know now, the FDA would've had a field day. The FDA would be like, excuse me this is sending kids to the hospital. This raises cases of domestic abuse and all kinds of problems in society and it would've been rejected. But because we have 10,000 years of social ritual around drinking, we don’t question it. We don’t question the actual mechanism that lets us achieve relaxation or sex or whatever we're doing or feeling post-drinking.
We thought, let's do away with this. Let’s just look at the motivation. Let’s look at what we are trying to accomplish and reverse engineer the process. Let’s find out what biotech we have available, what herbs we’ve been able to dabble in for the last three thousand years, five hundred years, fifty years. We are really playing into the social ritual. There is so much about the drinking ritual that is worth preserving. When you’re at dinner and the bottle of champagne comes around there is a different energy than when they bring around the water...toasting… being with friends. We don’t think a life of moderation or abstinence should remove the fun.
How has the pandemic affected business?
In 2020, something unlocked for the company. People had more time online. We are natively a direct to consumer brand. The idea that people were learning about how these drinks were affecting others and taking a risk on something they would have delivered at home. They ultimately embraced Kin immensely. We saw huge growth and retention more than anything. There is something to be said about top line growth for a Kin because there is so much curiosity and buzz around it but the proof is in the guests coming back? Are they making changes in their lives? Are they exploring other brands?
That positions you as a market disruptor?
We don’t see anyone in this adjacent category of mocktails to be a competitor. We really want to see that category expand across the industry and within Kin 3x.
What about the rest of the marketplace?
Well, the category is growing. There are a number of reports that were released at the end of the year. Nielsen put out one about a big boom in the alcohol industry, yet spirits declined its market share. So, what’s taking up the market share? What they found was that most of the companies in the category of non-alcoholic beverages have grown immensely.
And where would you say Kin Euphorics fits?
Kin startles that world of alcohol alternatives as well as functional, better-for-you alcohol options. That’s how the market sees us. That’s how we’re placed on shelves. Both categories are explosive right now.