ClearMind has been importing some of the world's best non-alc beverages for over 25 years now, making us one of the country's pioneers in the alcohol-free space. And though the quality, and variety, of non-alc offerings has changed considerably over that time, the team at ClearMind hasn't. As one of our founders, Frank has witnessed the evolution of Australia's drinking culture, and these are just a few of his insights:
Frank, tell us – who are the people behind ClearMind?
"There were originally four of us involved in this crazy little business. Joe and Michael, who are twins, then myself and Margaret, who sadly passed away in 2016. Marg is the one responsible for the ClearMind name, and we've thought of ourselves as a family since we all met through a shared interest in meditation. I actually got to know Joe and Michael at a meditation workshop in Mount Abu, an incredible town in Rajasthan, India. Now Amelia has come aboard as our Operations Manager, so we're back to being a family of four."
Can you talk us through the early days of ClearMind?
"We were all non-drinking vegetarians in Australia, and in 1995, that wasn't a common thing. We'd tried non-alc wines before but there was no quality – everything just tasted like grape juice ...or worse. I was travelling to the US at the time for various work conferences, and it was there that I tried a Napa Valley chardonnay that I couldn't believe was alcohol-free. I asked the waiter to bring the bottle over to confirm it, then I bought a case before flying home to Sydney. The others tried the wine and loved it too."
"We couldn't get any of the local bottle shops to import the wine, so we ordered a pallet of it on our credit card and months later, a hundred cases of chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon turned up at the door. We couldn't store that much wine at home forever, so we set about trying to sell it. Joe was looking for a career change at the time, so he began selling the wine on the side and eventually left work to concentrate on it full time. When Joe told his boss, a Frenchman, that he was leaving to sell non-alcoholic wine, his boss told him he'd be back in two weeks, but 26 years have gone by and Joe is still here selling."
What convinced you to enter the non-alc market in 1995, when there wasn't even a market to enter?
"It started out as a passion, I guess. As an interest. We just bumbled along, bringing a small amount into the country for our personal enjoyment, but then we recognised that there was something more we could do."
"We wanted to live a healthy lifestyle, but didn't subscribe to the idea that alternative ways of living had to be boring – eat rice, drink water and all that. We wanted to participate in all areas of life, including wine, even if it meant bringing a crate of non-alcoholic wine out from California ourselves. We still went out for dinner, we still enjoyed fine dining, we were still socialising with friends – so why shouldn't we have enjoyed a drink? We certainly weren't going to have a cup of jasmine tea with our cheese platter. And we knew there were others out there who agreed with us."
Why does ClearMind focus on products from Europe and the Americas?
"It's not that we're against Australian products; we've just found that the international markets have more experience, and more competition, in the alcohol-free space. There are more and more Australian producers entering the game, but back when we started, Australia's version of non-alc wine really was just juice with some bubbles added. In Europe, there were well-established wineries who identified the non-alc space as an opportunity early on and had been de-alcoholising wine for years, both for regular consumers and for religious purposes. So, you know, there's already that tradition within the wineries."
"Over the past 25 years, I think we've become really skilled at identifying emerging markets and products in the non-alc space, so we bring in a lot of products to try before selling them. And to be honest, a lot of it is poured down the sink because it's just not up to standard. But when we come across a good product, we try to capture it because we think that it adds value to the Australian market. And now, because we've built a broader position over the years, we're becoming more well known and can bring more and more quality products in."
Ready to discover the wines, beers and spirits that Frank and the team have loved? Head to the online shop to browse the full range, purchase individual products or put together your own custom mixed pack of premium non-alcoholic beverages.