As more people become interested in health and wellness, there has been a growing demand for non-alcoholic alternatives to traditional alcoholic beverages. It has created fabulous new opportunities for entrepreneurs to develop innovative products that cater to this market including Alli Briarlis, 52, from Weston-super-Mare, founder of Drinks Kitchen, an award-winning non-alcoholic British drinks brand.

Alli wanted to find an alternative to alcohol, after giving up alcohol herself, but discovered there was very little choice that appealed. She explains: 'I gave up alcohol at the start of lockdown in 2020, as I thought my consumption habits of wine weren’t healthy. I also gave up my job as head of marketing for a drinks company. I’d work in the drinks industry pretty much all my life 10 years in alcoholic drinks and 15 years in soft drinks.

'Trying to find a grown up alcohol alternative coincided with a new food and drink development centre - The Food WorksSW - opening in my home town, and the pieces of the jigsaw seems to fit. It seemed like fate.'

Alli invested £45k, including £20k from a start up loan, into creating and marketing a new non-alcoholic beverage the business, and by June 2021, she was ready to launch, initially working with her close friend Neil Merrick, who has since left the business to pursue other interests. Combining her knowledge of the drinks industry with a love for cooking they created Orange Cinchona, Spiced Rhubarb and Herbs Verde, the core products of the business, and arguably Somerset’s most delicious, non-alcoholic, premium drink. They are made with botanical distillates and extracts, and then blended with sugar to create a concentrate which can be bottled.

Alli explains: 'The mix is key to its point of difference

- it’s a concentrate. If bars and restaurants have a soda pump, they don’t need a secondary mixer. They are cheaper to make at home too as all you need is soda or a soda stream, which is more environmentally friendly. The drinks are super adaptable too.You can serve them with sparkling water for a simple spritz, with tonic for a bitter twist, non-alcoholic Prosecco, or you can use them as a base for cocktails. Herb Verde is lovely with cranberry and soda.'

For Alli creating the concentrates was the fun part, the hard work was finding retailers and distributors to stock her products.

Great British Life: Alli Briaris, founder of The Drinks Kitchen. Photo: Alli BriarisAlli Briaris, founder of The Drinks Kitchen. Photo: Alli Briaris

She says: 'I pulled together a sales pitch and created some sales tools; leaflets, mailings or presentations which you can go through with potential customers.

'Then I started to reach out to potential customers. It can take time to get a response and in my experience face to face always works best especially when they get to try your products.'

In her first year, Alli made the concentrates in 25L batches, using the drinks development kitchen at The Food WorksSW, and her turn over was £30,000. Now she’s making 200-300L batches and turning over £70,000. She expects to double her output within a year.

The Food WorksSW has played a key part in the growth of her business helping formulate, adapt and review plans for her business. She also decided to make the drink herself on-site, hiring The Food WorksSW Drinks Kitchen on an as-needed basis.'

Encouraging others to embark on their own entrepreneurial journey, Alli advices: 'Stand back and assess unemotionally how good your product is and get lots of feedback. It’s a lot of hard work with knock backs along the way, so you need to build your resilience!

She adds: 'For good ideas to becomes reality, you need to play around with making your idea, in your kitchen, first and then start working through how that’s going to work on a bigger scale. It might not be perfect or right first time around and you might have to do lots of recipe development to get it right. This could take days, weeks or even months depending on how complex it is, how experienced you are and what ingredients you find and use to make it. But you will get there and you’ll be amazed how much you have learnt along the way.

''I think about flavour all the time. I think about the ingredients and how they taste. In my head, I think that this ingredient and that ingredient will work wonderfully together. But it doesn’t always work out. Sometimes one just overpowers another. Some recipes just need the quantities refined and it works!'

All three products were awarded Great Taste Awards in 2022, with Spiced Rhubarb achieving two gold stars, Herb Verde achieving one gold star, and Orange Cinchona achieving an award for the second year running (2 stars and 1 star). Herb Verde was also the Taste of The West Champion (cold non alcoholic drinks) in 2022.

Great British Life: Drinks kitchen HQ. Photo: Food WorksSWDrinks kitchen HQ. Photo: Food WorksSW


The only centre of its kind in the south west, The Food WorksSW is based in the heart of the Weston-super-Mare Enterprise Area. It’s less than 30 minutes from Bristol, and in close proximity to Junction 21 of the M5 motorway.

It has proved a game changer for more than 130 food and drink brands with established and new businesses all benefitting from the use of outstanding facilities and resources.

The Food and Drink Forum, which operates the facility on behalf of North Somerset Council, encourages people to get in touch if they have a concept that could become the next shooting star of the food and drink industry, saying it can help turn good ideas into viable and scalable propositions.

It has state-of-the-art facilities including five product development kitchens which are available for flexible short-term contract hire for food and drink businesses of all sizes to test, develop and manufacture their products – prices start from just under £100 per day.