Case of Freestar low-alcohol beer

Source: Freestar

Freestar has nationwide listings with Tesco and Sainsbury’s

Freestar has become the latest low-alcohol beer brand to attract investment to the blossoming category.

It hit a £350k crowdfunding target on Seedrs in less than 48 hours, with in excess of £400k raised so far from more than 150 backers. The campaign values the brand at £4.8m.

Launched in 2019 by ex-Sipsmith staffer Felix von Hurter and Edward Dallas, formerly of Propercorn, Freestar is stocked nationwide with Tesco and Sainsbury’s, as well as a listing with Ocado.

Co-founder Felix von Hurter said he was “thrilled” to hit the crowd target in a short space of time.

“We’ve come a long way since launching in 2019, facing many challenges along the way, but we’ve never lost sight of our mission to make great-tasting alcohol-free beer,” he added.

The brand also operates in the on-trade channel, supplying restaurant chains such as Dishoom, Pho and Kricket.

It plans to use the money from the crowd round to target further draft listings in hospitality, expanding the sales team to push the brand into 100 pubs by the end of 2023. The business has ambitions to be stocked in 2,750 pubs in the next five years.

“We’ve got a great product, in a white-hot market, with a strong distribution footprint and run by an experienced team,” the pitch on Seedrs said. “Furthermore, we believe we have the know-how and the vision to put our award-winning beers on taps up and down the country.”

Freestar is also planning a marketing push to raise brand awareness, sampling its 0.5% beers at festivals this summer.

Von Hurter added that part of the funds would go towards supporting its retail foothold.

“We’ll invest in sampling, extra visibility and targeted media,” he said. “We’ll also be pushing our world-class IPA into more retail distribution as we see a real thirst from consumers to explore styles beyond lager in alcohol free.”

The brand has sold more than 500,000 of its beers since launch and is growing rapidly, reporting a 427% uplift in sales during the first week of 2023 as drinkers looked to give up alcohol for Dry January.

Freestar secured £1.1m in 2020 in its first funding round, winning backing from founders and executives at the likes of Sipsmith, M&S, Crussh, and Gleam Futures.

Freestar’s raise follows the likes of Big Drop, which smashed a multimillion-pound crowdfunding target last year, and Havabier, which raised more than £175k in February.

Other brands in the no & low beer space to bag investment include Lucky Saint, which secured a “record-breaking” £10m, and Shandy Shack, which sold a minority stake to Jeremy Clarkson’s partner Lisa Bentinck, deepening ties with Diddly Squat Farm.

It comes as retail sales value in the overall no & low category jumped 26% to £207m, with beer up 7.7% to £112.4m, driven by gains from big brands such as Guinness 0.0 and Peroni Nastro Azzurro 0.0%, according to the latest Grocer category report, published this week [NIQ 52 w/e 28 January 2023].