By Dana Darley Daily
Photos by Andrea Hutchinson
Welcome back! July is our “Women in Business” theme, so as the woman representing the Daily duo, I am happy to be hosting the column for this issue. This month Daily Libations sat down with Becca Gardner of NKD LDY, who is part of a quickly growing line of alcohol-free spirits options. I picked her brain on the growing trend and being a woman in beverage and life. Let’s jump in!
Becca, Non-Alcoholic Spirits are growing quickly and are an exciting space. What made you take the leap into this project?
I was at a point in my career where I was ready to pivot. I had been dealing with some personal hardship and was ready for something new. While traveling and interviewing for prospective new jobs abroad, I discovered mocktails. Recently sober, this was a game-changer for me, and I knew I had to be a part of the movement to bring high-quality, great-tasting adult beverages–which just happen to be non-alcoholic–to the US. True to form with how I approach most things, I was not content to use conventional methods to create a product but dove head-first into the science of distillation and creating a whole new beverage category.
Which expression was the first to be created, and how many do you have now?
When I first started NKD LDY, the plan was to launch with a whiskey alternative. It seemed the obvious choice, given we are located along the Bourbon Trail. However, as we spoke with more prospective customers, I realized that if our mission was to make the drinking experience more inclusive, we also needed to consider individuals’ varied preferences. Gin, tequila and whiskey stood out as the building blocks of spirits in cocktails, so we resolved to start with these three and hope to expand further in the future.
What was the inspiration for the name NKD LDY?
The alcohol industry is often masculine and saturated with products named after men. I considered the names of strong women, but none quite fit, so I returned to my own experience. This brand is a celebration of being comfortable in one’s own skin! Without the booze, there is a sort of “nakedness” in so many moments I had previously taken for granted. There was undoubtedly an adjustment phase as I grew comfortable living life free of social lubricant, but today I would have it no other way. I get to show up present, engaged and confident in my choices.
What excites you most about the brand?
Despite spending most of my time thinking about NKD LDY and the non-alcoholic category, I’m learning something new every day. Now that we have products, many of these new insights are about our customers, some of who we expected, but many we did not. I love meeting people who had never considered non-alcoholic distilled spirits, then seeing their surprise and delight when they try our product and realize they can enjoy their favorite cocktail free of compromise. Today, I’m most excited about continuing to meet these new individuals and, through these interactions, understanding new profiles of customers who would personally benefit from a product like NKD LDY.
What do you see as the most significant trend in the alcohol-free industry?
Over the past several years, we have seen strong and consistent growth in the non-alc category. This really started with non-alc beer, followed by wine and now spirits. Today, the most significant trend I have noticed is the sheer variety of products and diverse flavor profiles that have recently emerged. I’m excited to see which products stand the test of time because while there are many well-branded products, there is still a lot of room for innovation around flavor and quality.
What is the biggest challenge you face as a woman in business?
Entrepreneurism, in general, is a challenging space that is not for the faint of heart. Sometimes it’s difficult to pinpoint which challenges stem specifically from being a woman, but I know they exist. The alcohol industry, especially in Bourbon Country, is still primarily dominated by men. While there is an element of breaking the mold to create a more gender-inclusive brand, I think people are excited to see more women entering this space, and we’ve received tremendous support. Having other female founders in our corner has been so encouraging.
What is your favorite part of being in the beverage industry?
A tremendous amount of change and disruption is currently impacting the beverage industry across all sectors. While this sometimes presents challenges and frustrations (i.e., supply chain disruption), it also is the perfect environment for innovation and creativity, especially for new brands and categories of products – we happen to be both! I love working in rapidly evolving and dynamic environments, and I couldn’t have picked a more exciting place to be.