We noted in our article about Toronto Distillery Co that the Junction had prohibition on the books until 1997. It was downright mind blowing to learn about this. The irony wasn’t lost on Ted Fleming when he claimed to be ‘bringing prohibition back to the Junction.’
Ted Fleming is the owner of Premium Near Beer, a bastion of quality flavour in an industry clouded with what most would call beer flavoured water.
Below is a quick Q and A session with the Toronto based entrepreneur that made it happen:
Q: How did you get the idea for Premium near beer?
A: I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease almost a decade ago. As time went
on a began to experience more negative reactions due to alcohol consumption
and eventually decided I needed to eliminate alcohol from my diet. I enjoy
my beer for both the taste and the social aspect of having a drink among
friends. I found the quality and variety available in traditional retail
did not meet my needs and thought “wouldn’t it be great if there was a
place where you could find a variety of high quality non-alcoholic beer?”.
I looked around and there was no such place in Canada so I decided to see
if I could change that.
Q: Did the selection of non-alcoholic beers around the world surprise you?
A: I had some idea based on articles I had read but I quickly realized that
there were many more out there and I am still finding new ones.
Q: What is your current favourite non-alcoholic alcohol?
A: I am primarily a beer drinker and our store reflects this in its name
and the number of beers we carry compared to wine, cider, or spirits. The
spirits (Whisky, Vodka, Gin, Tequila, etc…) that we just brought into
Canada were a real surprise in terms of how closely they taste and smell
like their alcoholic counterparts so I expect to be drinking more of those.
Q: What kind of response have you been getting since you began?
A: The customers we have are extremely enthusiastic about what we are
doing. As a group they have been largely ignored in the marketplace up
until now and we are the first company to cater specifically to them. In
general people are receptive to the idea and can see who might drink it or
situations where it might make sense for them personally. We also get some
predictably negative comments too like “what’s the point” and “who would
ever drink that”.
Q: Where do you plan to move your business to in the future?
A: We have plans to move to the US market and would like to have a Western
Canada distribution centre as well.
Q: What are the most common reasons people buy non-alcoholic beer?
A: Our customers are about evenly split between those that don’t drink at
all an those that do but the common thread is often a recognition of the
health consequences of alcohol and an understanding that they drink beer
for the taste rather than to get a buzz.
Q: Do you see ‘near beer’ becoming a major niche?
A: I was recently at the Ontario Craft Brewers conference and they were
talking about craft beer accounting for 7% of the beer market. By
comparison, in Europe, non-alcoholic beer can account for up to 10% of some
markets and averages between 3-5%. In Canada we have a long way to go to
get there but by exposing people to our high quality products I hope we can
start on that path.
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