No and low-alcohol entrepreneur wins £125,000 Dragons’ Den investment

By Stuart Stone

- Last updated on GMT

Enter the lair: Drynks’ Richard Clark says pitching in Dragons’ Den was “incredibly exciting”
Enter the lair: Drynks’ Richard Clark says pitching in Dragons’ Den was “incredibly exciting”

Related tags Alcohol Beer Alcoholic beverage Public house

Former Halewood, Bass, Molson Coors and Whitbread Brewers sales manager-turned-drinks maker Richard Clark has won £125,000 investment for alcohol-free business Drynks on BBC TV show Dragons’ Den.

Drynks’ Manchester-based founder and managing director, Clark, was joined by his UK sales director Paul Briscoe in asking for £125,000 investment from entrepreneurs Sara Davies, Deborah Meaden, Peter Jones, Tej Lalvani and Touker Suleyman in exchange for a 5% stake in the low-alcohol brand.

Ultimately, the pair’s venture into the den proved successful after Davies, the founder of Crafter’s Companion – a company that sells craft-related products through retail stores, online and TV shopping channels – offered the full £125,000 sum for 7.5% equity in the business based at Robinsons Brewery in Stockport, Greater Manchester.

It’s hoped that Davies’s investment will help Drynks build on an initial £1.5m sum that helped formally launch the producer of four 0.05% ABV Smashed variants: Cider, Citrus, Hops, Berry, plus its latest addition, Smashed Lager, in November 2019.

Brilliant experience

Davies’s investment in Drynks comes as about three quarters (72%) of those who consumed less alcohol or stopped drinking during Dry January​ revealed that they planned to do so in the long term​, according to Drinkaware.

What’s more, it’s now believed that one in four pub visits are now alcohol-free​.

Discussing his fruitful foray into the den, Clark said it had been a “brilliant experience” that had reinforced the “powerful story and proposition” underpinning his fledgling brand.

“I am passionate about producing 0% ABV drinks that taste as good as their alcoholic counterparts and that are genuinely sessionable. My aim is to get more people to start rethinking drinking,” he added.

“Having the chance to pitch to the dragons was incredibly exciting, and a little bit nerve-wracking, but they know their stuff and the experience was invaluable.

“The experience in the den really helped spur us on and resulted in us investing over £1m in our state-of-the-art cool vacuum distillation plant in Robinsons Brewery, in Stockport.”

Drynks (1)

Aiming for national distribution

Before his venture into the den was screened on BBC Two on Monday 9 March, Clark told The Morning Advertiser ​he founded Drynks off the back of two decades of “tiptoeing” over the bar on his long days driving between pubs in the north-west for Bass, Molson Coors and Whitbread Brewers.

“I didn't like the low-and-no offer,” he explained. “I didn't drink high-sugared soft drinks. ‘What do you drink when you can't drink?’ became a lifestyle question for me because of work and family, and going out with my friends and socialising.”

He added that he hoped Drynks’ range of products would achieve nationwide presence within 12 months.

Currently distributed by wholesale supporters Matthew Clark and LWC Drinks and stocked across Brunning & Price’s estate of around 70 pubs as well as 2020 Publican Awards-winning Best Pub Brand/Concept Hickory’s sites, Clark explained: “Rather than going out with a ‘spray and pray’ approach, we’ve focused on the north-west and the Midlands so we could manage them well.

“We are talking to pub groups at the moment but we've got a solid base and are just starting now to go into the cities of Leeds, Manchester and Liverpool, using the support network of our two wholesalers.”

Related topics Soft & Hot Drinks

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