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BevZero with CEO, Debbie Novograd

Debbie Novograd, CEO of BevZero talks about introducing cannabis-infused non-alcoholic beverages and about her plans on increasing the brand.

20/05/2022

Debbie Novograd is a quick thinker with a vision for the future. She was able to manage leadership roles in marketing and business development for food and beverage global players such as Starbucks and Aramark in the last 25 years due to her ability to look at existing problems both internally and externally and identify future market opportunities. BevZero has risen to the forefront of beverage innovation in the dealcoholization and infused beverage space under her leadership, helping global beverage brands in developing new products and improving current ones by leading them through a step-by-step process that enables them to produce premium quality products. Debbie will continue to use her long-term vision, her team's expertise, and their innovative technology as she leads BevZero into the next stage of beverage innovation to expand next-gen beverage products and transform the perception of social beverages and consumers' relationships with non-alcoholic and lower-alcoholic drinks.

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Tell me about yourself and your current role

I am currently the CEO of BevZero, and I oversee all operations across our three global offices (California, Spain, and South Africa). I’ve spent the last 25 years in leadership roles in marketing and business development for food and beverage companies like Starbucks and Aramark, which have positioned me for my role with BevZero.

BevZero, which was fully rebranded in September of 2021, is a global leader in beverage services, equipment, expertise, and innovative solutions. From low alcohol wines to rapidly aged spirits and non-alcoholic beer, wine, cider, and spirits for traditional use or cannabis-infused drinks, BevZero uses its expertise in formulation, supply chain management, and exclusive access to advanced equipment to service a wide range of global clients fulfilling their needs across all stages of beverage development.

We have a team of dedicated winemakers, brewers, distillers, and scientists, and can serve as a one-stop shop for beverage brands of all sizes to take a product from brainstorm to bottle, producing the highest quality low and non-alcoholic beverages. 

BevZero

Image Source- BevZero

How did you come up with the idea to launch BevZero. what inspired you?

BevZero was founded over 30 years ago by Tony Dann (under the ConeTech brand) with a singular mission, to bring an innovative solution to the wine industry. Since pioneering a process in 1991 using vacuum distillation for alcohol removal in wine, hundreds of winemakers around the globe have used our innovative solutions as a standard winemaking tool to remove excess alcohol from traditionally alcoholic beverages without the slightest loss of aroma or flavor.

We’re inspired by the continued growth of the no and low market, realizing that we are offering a valuable service to our customers. We are also inspired daily by the team of expert winemakers, brewers, distillers, and scientists that work for BevZero. We will leverage their expertise along with the company’s cutting-edge technology to not only develop next-gen beverage products but to change the overall perception of social beverages and consumers’ relationships with non-alcoholic and lower-alcoholic drinks.

Who were your first customers and how did you get them?

Our first customers 30 years ago were winemakers who were looking to adjust alcohol levels in wines without the loss of aroma or flavor. Our founder had built strong relationships in the wine industry with leading technology.

BevZero

Image Source- BevZero

Where do you see the non-alcoholic trend going?

Market trends show consumers moving toward healthier alternatives in place of traditional alcoholic beverages, as well as immense consumer interest in infused functional beverages. Initiatives like Sober October and Dry January, along with movements like Cali-sober and sober-curious, continue to grow in popularity with millions of consumers participating. These numbers are forcing established brands to shift their business model toward the non-alcoholic segment.

We anticipate an increase in the popularity of non-alcoholic beer, with more craft breweries developing products and creating a wider variety of flavor profiles. The branding of these non-alcoholic beers is also becoming indistinguishable from the other products in the product lineup, thus reducing the social stigma of drinking non-alcoholic beer. We believe that the US will continue to follow Europe’s lead in the popularity of non-alcoholic beer, which is approximately 4% by volume (source). There will also be an increase in nonalcoholic options available in both on and off-premise locations.

Consumers will also begin to express more interest in non-alcoholic wine as technology for dealcoholization continues to innovate and the stigma of non-alcoholic wine dissipates.

BevZero’s mission over the next 30 years is to continue to leverage our expertise, efficient processes, and innovative equipment to enable our customers and clients to capitalize on these trends and successfully enter the market with the highest quality non-alcoholic beers, wines, ciders, and spirits.

What trends are you seeing in cannabis beverages?

We have been seeing several trends in the cannabis beverage segment. One of the most impactful is that cannabis beverages are continuing to improve in quality. Innovation in flavor profiles and emulsion processes are allowing for standards that are comparable to any other beverage market. Brands are becoming more sophisticated in their ingredients.

Another trend that is relevant to the BevZero business is that there has been an increase in requests for dealcoholized wine, beer, and cider so that they can be infused with cannabis. With the continued trend of reduced alcohol consumption paired with the growing consumer interest in alcohol alternatives, cannabis-infused dealcoholized beverages continue to increase in popularity. For example, through our partnership with Harmony Craft Beverages, BevZero

created a dealcoholized cider that was infused with a live resin to create Malus, California’s first cannabis-infused cider.

Give us 2-3 business challenges you faced in growing BevZero and how you managed to overcome them?

One of the largest challenges that BevZero has faced was how to effectively brand and position our diverse service and equipment offerings. Prior to the rebranding of BevZero in September of 2021, we were mainly known to the industry as ConeTech with Advanced Beverage Technologies being the parent company. We also had our equipment brands, PolarClad, Vinfoil, and GoLo that were distributed by ConeTech. We consolidated under BevZero and 

Another challenge that BevZero, as well as the rest of the industry, faced, and continues to face, was how to maintain the flavor profiles of the dealcoholized product. Our continuous focus on innovation allowed us to bring to market GoLo Technology, which created a single-step process that allowed for dealcoholization down to <0.05% abv due to very low-temperature distillation (VLTD). This evolutionary step in the dealcoholization process provided the added flexibility of removing alcohol from the finished product in a single pass and at lower temperatures than they could achieve with previous systems, preserving the subtleties of aromatics without added manipulation of the product.

BevZero

Image Source- BevZero

What type of solutions does BevZero provide and to whom?

BevZero provides a full suite of solutions across both services and equipment to a variety of clients in the wine, beer, cider, and spirits markets throughout the world out of our offices in the US, Spain, and South Africa. 

We take a holistic perspective leveraging our deep, global, functional expertise to drive value and innovative growth for our clients. We provide alcohol adjustment solutions across wine, beer, cider, and spirits along with a variety of other more specialized services like Cross-Flow Filtration. Wine Destruction/Disposal, VA Removal, Stuck Fermentation Services, and Sale of High Proof Alcohol which was very popular over the past few years due to the pandemic.

We offer Product Development services where we create custom innovative products and provide supply chain management. BevZero can provide dealcoholized bulk products or finished formulas for branding, infusion, or white label needs.

BevZero uses the most innovative equipment and operational efficiencies to ensure the highest quality of dealcoholized beverages. BevZero Equipment is the distributor of GoLo dealcoholization technology, and we also distribute Vinfoil mixers and Polarclad Insulation. We continue to refine these products, and technology innovation is critical to our business model and staying ahead in this competitive industry.

 Interviewed by Sid Patel, Beverage Trade Network

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