Andrea Grand Is Elevating Non-Alcoholic Beverage Options
In 2020, Andrea Grand’s sister Katie Fielding experienced a seizure that led her to stop drinking for a period of time. Spurred by Katie’s situation, the Toronto-based siblings founded Barbet, a sparkling-beverages company that aims to destigmatize non-alcoholic drinking. Here, 34-year-old Andrea shares her journey of starting a business despite having zero entrepreneurial experience and how she hopes her product reduces the social pressure to drink.
I remember March 2020 not only for the pandemic, but for a second health scare. My sister Katie, who has epilepsy, suffered an intense seizure. It was a frightening time for the family, but we are grateful that she eventually made a full recovery.
The incident compelled Katie to prioritize her health and to quit drinking alcohol for a period of time. During the rare social gatherings of 2020, she drank pop from colourful cans that she felt made her look juvenile. People would also constantly ask her, “Why aren’t you drinking?” which made her feel uncomfortable and excluded.
In the months following Katie’s episode, I was let go from my marketing job at a cannabis company. (Katie was also laid off, by her fashion forecasting agency, earlier in the pandemic.) The layoffs gave us the chance to focus on a business opportunity we had entertained all year: to create a low-sugar, non-alcoholic beverage for adults to confidently bring to parties. We struggled to find one like that on the market, so we thought, Why don’t we create one?
We decided to fundraise and did a small friends-and-family round and used the money to develop our brand. We didn’t have a background as entrepreneurs, and with no experience in the beverage industry either, this venture came with a steep learning curve. We had to learn how to produce sparkling water, find the right flavours, bring a product to market, plan our launch and meet with restaurant owners to try to get them to serve our beverage—all through trial and error. In January 2021, we engaged with a brand-design team to create what is now Barbet: a full-flavoured sparkling beverage in a cool-looking striped can, meant for people who want to hold something that looks good but isn’t alcohol.
Once we launched, we immediately created an Instagram page and a website. After a few months, we realized that timing was on our side. Booze sales in Canada decreased in 2022, and nowadays, it is becoming more common for people to drink both non-alcoholic and alcoholic beverages over the course of a night out, or just cut out drinking altogether.
We differentiate ourselves by staying true to our ethos. We are not an anti-drinking brand; we just believe that drinking should be an option on a night out, rather than a given. We hope that our product helps people fit in regardless of their drinking decisions, and that, eventually, people do not have to justify their choice to not drink alcohol altogether.
Competing for shelf space with brands that have been around for decades and have more capital is a challenge. This year, we are pushing to grow our brand and distribution. We hired a part-time operations manager and an administration assistant, and put some friends and family members to work as brand ambassadors. Our three core flavours—Light Wave (cucumber, pineapple and lavender), Love Bite (pink grapefruit, ginger and juniper) and Wild Card (blood orange, calamansi and jalapeno)—are available at several cafes and restaurants in Toronto like, Boxcar Social, Cafe Zuzu and Paris Paris, as well as in specialty grocery stores in Ontario, like Summerhill Market, Fiesta Farms, McEwan and Healthy Planet. We are even available in the U.S. at Foxtrot, an American delivery market with locations in Chicago, Houston, Austin and Washington.
This new line of work is busy and exciting. These days, we are focusing on expanding across Ontario into cities like Ottawa, and have our eyes set on expanding to more Canadian cities and locations. And, Katie is doing a lot better—she’s been seizure-free since March 2020. There is lots to look forward to inside and outside of work.