A sweet (sugar-free) success story

In a category dominated by a variety of ingredients, strong flavours and bright colours, a 100 per cent natural RTD makes for an intriguing product. Clean Collective founders Holly McGrath and Dan Benoy talk to Chantelle Tournier about how they turned their clean idea into reality

Clean Collective’s drinks boast beautiful eye-catching branding and are very, very drinkable. But they’re also preservative-free, sugar-free and contain a tiny 86 calories per bottle. How is this magic possible?

Clean Collective founders Holly McGrath and Dan Benoy started by recognising the gap in the market – people who enjoyed a drink, but who also valued health and wellbeing highly.

“There was nothing out there,” says Holly. “We wanted a clean RTD. A healthy lifestyle matters, but so does being able to grab a drink with mates. So we decided to give it a go.”

clean collective

The pair poured all their savings into this new idea. They experimented to figure out if it was possible to produce something sugar-, carb- and preservative-free that was drinkable – let alone delicious.

Fortunately, it is.

With backgrounds in health and nutrition, Holly and Dan had a strong foundation – but being entrepreneurs in your early 20s comes with challenges.

“We found it hard getting people to take us seriously,” Holly recalls. “We believed in our product – it was just trying to get everyone else to believe!”

The next big challenge the duo faced was production. How does a small-scale start-up even begin to get a foothold in an industry that’s all about volume? “We had to commit to a lot up front before stores would even stock us.”

Luckily, some were able to see Clean Collective’s potential. Key brands were on board from the beginning too. “Liquorland has been supportive from the start,” Holly says. “They were one of the first to stock our first product – the Mandarin and Lime Mojito. They’ve been awesome with helping us expand.”

‘Expand’ doesn’t really do justice to the incredible scale of what Dan and Holly have achieved so far. More than 750 liquor stores across New Zealand now stock Clean Collective, and more than a million bottles were sold last year.

Clean Collective began as a partnership, but Holly explains that they’ve involved more family members to help them manage as the business grows. Holly laughs as she says the word ‘family’.

“Two words spring to mind,” she says. “Supportive and challenging! But it’s so amazing to share victories together, and they’re so much sweeter because you’re sharing them with the ones you love.
We wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Since the team launched in December 2017, they’ve introduced three new delicious flavours – Wildberry & Lime Vodka Mojito, Watermelon, Cucumber & Lime Mojito, and Gin & Tonic with a Twist of Lime. They also have a pink gin that recently hit shelves, and will be available in cans just in time for summer. Featuring a burst of strawberry with vanilla undertones, it’s smooth and subtle with just the right amount of sweetness.

“We have worked so hard on this,” says Holly. “For us as a brand, being original and authentic is hugely important. We want to be market leaders, and create trends.”

Clean Collective are committed to taking risks while continuing to provide for customers. They’re all about celebrating life each day, and finishing the week with a well-deserved – clean – cold one.

"We couldn’t be more proud,” Holly says. “It’s been a whirlwind.”

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