If you are taking part in Dry January but want to drink something just a little bit more interesting than water, then local non-alcoholic drinks brand Haelu can offer some tasty alternatives. Eileen Leahy meets its co-founder Stuart Coleman to discover more…
Last year Stuart Coleman, his brother Rod and friend Jamie Kelly launched Haelu, a drinks brand with a difference. It not only looks and tastes like some of your favourite cocktails, it also offers added feel-good benefits too.
If you haven’t spotted the trendy metallic cans which sport a pretty navy and floral motif lining the shelves of hospitality hotspots in Tunbridge Wells such as the Old Auction House, The Allotment, Chapel Place and Even Flow, then chances are you soon will, as the two varieties available – Salerno Spritz and Havana Heat – are proving to be incredibly popular since their official launch in March last year.
I met Stuart for a chat at another of the brand’s key stockists – the Tunbridge Wells Hotel on The Pantiles – in order to discover more about this success story, which was borne out of a desire to drink less alcohol but still have fun doing so.
Stuart says the catalyst for creating the non-alcoholic functional drinks brand spawned from the initial Covid lockdown in March 2020.
“Like a lot of people we were getting into a rut of drinking every night in order to soothe the pain of the pandemic, but I had also lost my business, an events company. So in a way creating something was done pretty much out of necessity.”
Stuart says that initially the trio had set up a charity – in just four weeks – with the aim of feeding frontline NHS workers. But the plug was pulled at the eleventh hour by MTW NHS Trust and they found themselves back to square one.
“The idea felt like such a good thing to do. We were firing on all cylinders and had so much momentum, so after we’d licked our wounds we got talking and said why don’t we try setting up a business together,” explains Stuart.
“We’d been drinking two or three glasses of wine a night and were all wanting to become healthier, so selling alcohol didn’t fit in with those values. We thought why don’t we create a drink that we’d like to drink, that makes you feel good, that looks like an adult drink but without the hangover! And that’s where it all started.”
Stuart explains they were put in contact with a company called Alkemista and spent 18 months working with them to perfect the product.
“The guy who started Alkemista used to be Head of Innovations at Diageo, so he totally knows what he’s doing and we felt like we were in really good hands. We presented them with our market research, and our desired flavour profile – which was citrus based – and they went away and created the recipe.”
But Stuart adds that the vision for Haelu extended to more than creating a non-alcoholic drink. Its founders wanted to also create what’s known in the ‘No and Low’ sector of the drinks industry as a ‘functional drink’.
“There are two sides to Haelu: there’s the flavour side of it and the functional aspect of it. This is what we call the Haelu Happi formula, which was created to stimulate people’s happy hormones thanks to both drinks being made up of a slew of natural and botanical ingredients.
“We have 11 functional ingredients in the mix, including key adaptogens such as ashwagandha and lemon balm which are natural relaxants. Then we have five types of Vitamin B, Vitamin D and iron.”
Currently Haelu boasts nearly 30 stockists, the majority of which are local, but there are some in Surrey and London too.
“It’s been so good selling this product because people are really receptive to it. They like the story and understand its purpose. And then when people actually taste it they’re like ‘Oooh, we actually really like it!’ They’re pleasantly surprised.”
For more details, visit: www.haeludrinks.com