On 6 May, Speciality & Fine Food Fair invited three drinks suppliers, chosen from over 25 applicants, to pitch their product in a live webinar to a panel of industry experts.

The winning product – Berczy hard seltzer – was awarded a stand at the 2021 edition of the Fair and a free consultation with Herchelle Perez Terrado, Founder of Drinks Partnership.

We caught up with Berczy Co-Founder Nick Johnson to learn a bit more about their prize-winning product range.

Tell us the origin story of Berczy.

Taking you back to the summer of 2019, in a time when you could travel freely to see friends and loved ones in other parts of the world – oh how we miss it! Two old friends and I travelled to Toronto to meet up with another old friend of ours. We had the most amazing week exploring but there was one moment in particular that stood out for us.

One evening we sat in a beautiful park in Toronto's old town and watched the sun set behind the towering high-rise buildings that surrounded us. We shared a calm, serene moment whilst we sipped on these light, super refreshing drinks which were unlike anything we'd had in the UK. We were told that these were 'Hard Seltzers' – we'd never heard of it!

We could not believe they weren't a thing back home. At that point, we looked at each other and had a eureka moment: we wanted to make our own version of these drinks, curated for the British people, and share our experience of that amazing park with our friends back home.

This beautiful place was Berczy Park.

What was the process of creating the product, flavours and packaging you currently have?

When we started Berczy Hard Seltzer, our aim was to recreate that amazing concept from North America, but also challenge the status quo of the UK drinks market. For too long, the alcohol industry and UK public has been comfortable with a massive sugar overload in drinks, and we wanted to change that.

Our main principle was to create something delicious and refreshing, but also minimise our impact on the environment, which is why we built a compact UK supply chain and eliminate plastic use wherever possible.

In terms of the packaging and flavours, the overall concept is vibrancy and intrigue; both the way Berczy looks on the shelf and the way it tastes. All of our ingredients are natural, and we love bold flavours. This is why we made the decision to produce our latest flavour: 'Passionfruit & Turmeric'. Exotic, yet with a subtle kick. It's recently won us awards which we're amazingly proud of, especially since we're such a young company.

Hard Seltzer is a relatively new product to the UK market, what's been the customer feedback?

'Hard Seltzer' doesn't mean much to the British public, but in layman's terms, it's flavoured alcoholic sparkling water. In the drinks industry, people love to talk about 'mouth feel'... (which is a term I don't really like). Certain alcoholic drinks just have that presence – whether it's gin or vodka, you know exactly what you're getting.

With Hard Seltzers, it's a bit different as the alcohol is quite mild in flavour. The alcohol in Berczy is a four times distilled spirit derived from sugar beet. We've had some amusing comments where some people can't believe there's actually alcohol in the drink, which is surprising considering it's 4% ABV.

Generally, people find it very refreshing and love it. It's clear that the British public are warming to it rapidly; it's the fastest growing alcoholic drinks category in the UK, forecast to hit £600 million in sales as a category by 2025, 30 times larger than the current market size. So big things are on the horizon for Hard Seltzer!  

Tell us about your partnership with UKHarvest.

Berczy provides 1% of sales revenue to our charity partner UKHarvest. Both UKHarvest and Berczy are on a mission to eliminate hunger and food waste in the UK through education and the redistribution of quality surplus food.

Fun Fact: 70% of UK food waste takes place in the home! So, to all the readers out there, please do what you can to reduce this and check out UKHarvest's social channels to learn more about how you can reduce and reuse. With lockdown easing, we can't wait to get involved in more of their amazing initiatives in the coming months.

What will be your message to buyers at Speciality & Fine Food Fair?

If you're bored of sugary G&Ts, heavy beers and canned cocktails, come and try Berczy – it's refreshment reimagined!

Finally, describe Berczy in three words!

Bold, Curious, Distinct.