A few years ago, co-founders of Kåska Drinks Fred Karlsson and Eetu Topo were looking at the beverage industry and thinking about how they could respond to the change they saw in people’s drinking habits by introducing new low-alcohol products to the market. They both had previous experience in the industry.
“We had both been working with beverages before. When we met at Ägräs Distillery in Fiskars, Finland, we brainstormed all kinds of ideas. In addition to working in the beverage industry, I have always enjoyed tasty drinks despite the fact that I can’t really hold my booze,” Eetu says.
The idea of creating the spirits of the future began to take shape in 2018, and the company launched its debut product Kåska Casual Spirit in 2020. This gin-like low-alcohol product was designed to show the markets what the future of alcoholic beverages could look like.
“We knew that we were in a fast-growing but an extremely niche market. Especially with low-alcohol transparent spirits like our first product. This whole time, we have had a clear vision of where we are headed but, at the same time, we have been aware of the fact that a breakthrough might take some time,” Eetu says.
We have had a clear vision of where we are headed but, at the same time, we have been aware of the fact that a breakthrough might take some time.
Working together with other industry partners
Because the Finnish market is small and has many talented players, working together seemed like the right thing to do instead of competing.
“We have created all of our products in collaboration with our Finnish partners – sometimes with several small players involved. Today, we have seven products on the market. Most of them are sold in Finland but some also abroad. We’re constantly analysing the market and testing new alternatives in our online shop, for example. From the start, our products were designed to work both in Finland and beyond,” Eetu says.
Laura Kaunisto from Nordea’s Startup & Growth unit in Finland has been following Kåska closely throughout its journey.
“From the beginning, I could sense that Kåska was determined to succeed. Our relationship has been built on openness and trust, and together we have been mapping out the company’s prospects and how we as a bank can support their growth,” Laura says.
From a drinks brand to an experience company
Kåska is still waiting for the right time to go global. The company launched its first product during the pandemic and the last few years have been challenging in terms of expanding the business.
“We have always wanted to be in the business of experiences built around drinks; to create and own experiences. In general, we would like social interactions to be as human, casual and relaxed as possible. And low- and no-alcohol drinks go very well with this kind of thinking. Our ambition is to one day become the most impactful drinks company in the world. Our next step is to expand our B2B and event sales as well as build our own production facility and experience centre,” Eetu says about their future plans.
Experiences are already a big part of Kåska’s operations, as half of the company’s turnover comes from the sale of experiences.
“When the worst of the pandemic was over, we quickly noticed that there was a lot of demand for high-quality Finnish low- and no-alcohol products, especially when it came to corporate parties and events. Tasty drinks keep the guests happy and when less alcohol is consumed, the atmosphere at events is calmer and more responsible. We have delivered catering to a number of events from cocktail making classes for 10 people to customer events for a thousand people, and we are now investing in expanding this part of our business,” Eetu says.
We wanted to set up a business that would create a positive impact. From the start, impact work has been an integral part of our purpose.
Responsibility sits at the core of the business
Kåska’s existence is based on being a responsible business. Eetu and Fred have had their sights set on a future-proof market ever since founding the company.
“We wanted to set up a business that would create a positive impact. From the start, impact work has been an integral part of our purpose. For example, 15% of our sales margin made on selling our first product, Kåska Casual Spirit, goes to supporting organisations that focus on issues like reducing loneliness and social isolation. In our product chain, we also want to support the employment of partially disabled people as well as various community activities. Our products are inherently social, which means we want to have people interacting with each other over tasty low and no alcohol drinks and, at the same time, enable new positive interactions through our impact work. We work closely with organisations that address loneliness and social isolation,” Eetu says.
Kåska’s relationship with the environment stems from a desire to be eco-smart.
“We want to minimise the environmental impact of our products whenever possible and strive to make choices that have as small an environmental footprint as possible. For example, our bottles were selected with the main goal of using less glass compared to traditional spirit products, and we use biodegradable elements made of side stream waste in our packaging. All of our packaging is designed to be as effective as possible in terms of logistics so that we can reduce emissions from transportation. We also produce concentrated spirits, which allow huge numbers of low-alcohol drinks to be made from a small amount of liquid so that we don’t need to transport excess water around the world. One key reason why we want to have our own production facility is to have better control over our materials and spoilage, enabling us to make our production even more eco-friendly”, Eetu concludes.
How to get started with sustainability work for your business?
Working actively with sustainability can create opportunities for your company to stand out from its competitors. Demands from consumers and stakeholders are stricter than before, and sustainability factors are increasingly being considered by all stakeholders in your company. We have created a five step guide for you to get started with your sustainability efforts.