We talk with Winston Lau, nutritionist and founder of Mindful Sparks, about revolutionising the Hong Kong non-alcoholic beverage scene.
As we approach the silly season and full tilt, you might want to pause and reflect on what your body endures during this celebratory period. In addition to stuffing yourself with turkey and gorging yourself at Christmas office parties, chances are you’re also likely to hit the sauce like it’s judgement day.
However, there are alternatives at hand for those looking to teetotal under the mistletoe, including the innovative sodas of Hong Kong’s Mindful Sparks. We chat with company founder Winston Lau to find out what he thinks we should be sipping this season.
What inspired you to make craft sodas?
There are lots of alcoholic options readily available for the consumer, ranging from cheap to expensive. In Hong Kong, for example, the non-alcoholic offering consists of commercial soda, lemon tea, coffee, and other options that are not very exciting and don’t have that wow factor. Consumers who do not like, or choose not to have alcohol, need a premium choice.
My vision is to create a premium range of sodas with a complex aroma, colour, taste, and body that people can appreciate mindfully.
Hong Kong is seeing a craft spirit revolution – you weren’t tempted to go with something a little stronger?
It is great to see the craft revolution taking off in many forms, including spirits and beer. However, our focus is on creating premium craft sodas. Mindful Sparks is built on mindfulness, and we promote wellness and enlightenment through our products and we are proud to offer a premium, non-alcoholic option that caters to those seeking an alcohol-free alternative.
It wasn’t long ago that we were pretty limited in choice for low ABV options. How is demand for non-alcoholic beverages evolving?
As people pay more attention to their lifestyles and dietary choices, we see an increase in demand for alcohol-free beverages, particularly at the premium level. To meet the demand for more complex, high-end sodas, we are constantly innovating to bring a unique selection of seltzers, mocktails, and sparkling beverages with exciting and curious flavours to awaken the senses.
Tell us about some of the experimentation that goes into creating a new craft soda? Which has been your favourite flavour journey so far?
The tasting part is the most important. Scientifically, it’s called sensory evaluation. We test our products through focus groups before we release them to the market. The focus group volunteers taste our products and give feedback on various criteria, such as flavour, mouthfeel, aroma, and other important factors to the consumer experience.
I’ve found that everyone has their own thoughts, preferences, and feedback when it comes to tasting and sampling new flavours. Some people may find a product too sweet; some say it is just right. Some may find one ingredient dominates the palate; some say it is perfectly balanced.
The sensory evaluation is a key component to finding the right mix of flavour and aroma when bringing a new product to market.
You recently opened a new manufacturing plant in the New Territories; what are your expansion plans?
Our immediate priority is building a strong brand, a dedicated team, and establishing a solid place in the market. Looking ahead, as demand for our premium craft sodas continues to grow, we will look at expanding our production capabilities to have more of our products available in more venues.
Furthermore, we may implement our Mindful Sparks concept to other food products or non-food products or services. We are passionate about encouraging our customers to take a pause in the hustle and bustle of city life and we are coming up with new ideas to promote mindful enlightenment.
What ingredients are you playing with for future releases?
We recently re-launched our popular Liquid Gingerbread Man spiced ginger ale to celebrate the festive season. The seasonal beverage fuses non-alcoholic ginger ale with dark, warming spices for a silky, perfectly balanced flavour blend that dances across the palate.
We are doing many innovative things in terms of future releases, but we must keep them a secret. Without giving away too much, we are currently working on a very unique flavour combination that you may never have thought of or heard of – a flavour that is based on a combination of curiosity and innovation. You’ll just have to watch this space to find out more!
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