How Heaps Normal turned a shared vision into business innovation
Heaps Normal co-founders Jordy Smith, Peter Brennan, Andy Miller and Ben Holdstock.
Founded in 2018 – and officially launched in July 2020 – Australian small business Heaps Normal brew what the brand refers to as “beer without the hangover”.
Co-founders Peter Brennan, Andy Miller, Ben Holdstock, and Jordy Smith created the brand for four very different and deeply personal reasons. But as Peter shared with us, all the co-founders had one thing in common: they wanted to reframe their relationship with alcohol.
After discovering the lack of great-tasting non-alcoholic beer options, they committed to developing a delicious alternative. This pursuit led to the brand developing two new beverages to introduce to the non-alcoholic beer market: Quiet XPA and Another Lager.
How Heaps Normal turned their business idea into a reality
At first the team brewed 50-litre test batches in Ben’s kitchen. Then, with the help of Brick Lane, a contract brewer, they scaled into a commercial volume setup. According to Peter, that's when the hard work began.
“We started blind taste-testing it [their beverages] with a lot of chefs and sommeliers and restaurateurs and publicans,” Peter said. “They all loved it and said, ‘Ah, this is like a 4%, 5% beer.’ And we said, ‘No, it's non-alcoholic.’ Jaws hit the floor and we realised we were onto something.”
What Heaps Normal learnt about starting a business
Peter tells us it wasn’t always smooth sailing. “We were laughed out of a lot of pubs in the early days.”
But the feedback they were receiving from the people tasting the brand’s new products, combined with experience of the growing mindful drinking trend, spurred the Heaps Normal team to follow their instincts.
“We didn’t really go deep on research,” Peter said. “All of us had travelled a little bit before creating Heaps Normal. I'd recently been in Tokyo and the US and noticed some trends of younger people not drinking alcohol. So that was a bit of an eye opener. In my experience, things land in Australia a year so after they really take off everywhere else.”
How Heaps Normal incorporates social media in their marketing plan
When it comes to building their social media following, Heaps Normal take an organic approach. Peter explains that outside of using a tool called later.com to schedule their Instagram posts, they don’t usually invest a lot in boosting their social media posts. Although, the brand does sometimes put a little bit of money behind a few key campaigns.
Peter says the brand’s social media growth comes down to two main things. “One, is the product itself. Benny’s a co-founder and the head of product and he’s an incredible brewer. He's made a product that tastes amazing and some people can't tell the difference,” Peter explains. “The other thing is the brand. We’ve never been preachy.”
"Our whole thing has always been, what's normal to you might not be normal to me and that's totally okay."
- Peter Brennan, co-founder of Heaps Normal
How Heaps Normal are planning for business growth
As Heaps Normal approaches its two-year milestone, they’re stocked in approximately 4,000 venues around Australia and on shelves in New Zealand and Singapore. The brand is also embracing strategic business planning to expand further afield this year.
The Heaps Normal team has also been named the ACT State Winner at the 2022 Telstra Best of Business Awards in both the Embracing Innovation and Outstanding Growth categories. As for Peter’s take on their success? “People are really resonating with what we’re doing. We’re just grateful that people are into it.”
Peter has also observed a huge amount of business innovation happening within the market, with many customers embracing Heaps Normal as well as the brand’s competition.
“I think the stigma around non-alcoholic beer is definitely going away and I think that's down to a lot of different brands and businesses operating in this space,” Peter said.
“For every competitor we have, there's another person that's aware of it and giving non-alcoholic beer and drinks a go. They’re realising it's not that bad waking up without a hangover.”
Lessons you can learn from Heaps Normal’s brand story
- Work with products you have a personal connection with when developing new business ideas.
- Remember the power of market research when starting a business. Don’t be afraid of testing your products with willing and honest participants.
- Embrace social media advertising campaigns when appropriate to help you reach more customers online.
This article does not necessarily reflect the views of Telstra or its staff.
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