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Brewing a Message in a Can

1 March 2017 at 8:14 am
Ellie Cooper
Young female brewers and winemakers are producing all-natural alcoholic beverages with socially-conscious messages inscribed on the can.

Ellie Cooper | 1 March 2017 at 8:14 am


Brewing a Message in a Can
1 March 2017 at 8:14 am

Young female brewers and winemakers are producing all-natural alcoholic beverages with socially-conscious messages inscribed on the can.

The Sparkke Change Beverage Company, a social enterprise run by nine young women in Adelaide, is targeting millennials with delicious drinks and slogans to get people talking.

“I guess we could have gone about things in an easier way, but we all believed that we had to do something with purpose, and that no one had really built a product around a message,” founding shareholder Anouk Darling says.

“For us, the brand is the social disruptive messages that we carry around gender equality, marriage equality, diversity, inclusion, asylum seeking.”

The first run of drinks includes apple cider with “consent can’t come after you do”, pilsner with “change the date”, alcoholic ginger beer with “boundless plains to share” and alcoholic lemonade with “nipples are nipples”.

“When you think about where you have conversations, they tend to be around the dinner table, and not many people are doing that, families now are sort of disconnected, everyone’s connected into digital,” Darling says.

“One place where people do talk, and I think especially in the millennial market, is when they’re having a drink and with friends, and… the cans actually are a conversation starter.”

Since launching in late 2016, Sparkke’s achieved national distribution and has its first festival, Tropfest, under its belt.

Darling says the response so far has been positive.

“Everyone’s really engaged,” she says.

“The ‘consent can’t come after you do’ is obviously about violence against women and consent needs to be mutual, and there’s only been positivity and support. And from guys as well, it’s not meant to be alienating, it’s for people who believe in universal fairness. So far so good.

“It’s disruptive, it’s probably a little bit surprising, but at least it starts the conversation… about social issues that really matter.”

Sparkke purchases also give back to charities. Every message is aligned with a related charity and 10 per cent of retail sales are donated to their cause.

Darling says Sparkke represents a whole lot of Australian firsts, including conducting the most successful alcohol crowdfunding campaign in the country’s history.

“We hit the $100,000 target in [a] four week period,” she says.

“And everyone that contributed, they could either just make a straight up donation or they could have product delivered, and most of them chose to have the product which is great because we wanted everyone to taste it, so that was really starting it off.”

She says product quality is just as important as Sparkke’s social message.

“It’s aimed towards the millennial market, and we try to carry as much sustainability and ethical production as we can through everything,” she says.

“The products are all natural ingredients, there’s no nasties, no extra sugars, they’re gluten free, vegan, they’re made from homestyle recipes, so it was about really great quality product as well.

“We want what’s inside to be just as important as what’s on the outside of the can, so we talk about delicious, sessional beverages.”

Sparkke also intends to shake up the male-dominated beer industry in Australia.

“To change the corporate code for good, you often need to be where there isn’t good behaviour,” Darling says.

“One of them, particularly when it comes to gender equality… is the beer industry, which is predominantly… ‘male, pale and stale’.”

The brand supports young female brewers and winemakers, including Sarah Lyons and Agi Gajic.

Sarah Lyons and Agi Gajic

Sarah Lyons and Agi Gajic

“Agi… brews our pilsner, the ginger beer and the cider, and then we’ve got Sarah Lyons who is also a young female winemaker… and she’s been making, our next product will be sparkling in a can,” Darling says.

The sparkling wine will carry a message on marriage equality, with the aim of collaborating with Mardi Gras suppliers

“It will be something around that: ‘we won’t I do until we all can’, ‘just say yes’, we’ll come up with something and we reach out into the community and ask for ideas and designs and slogans,” Darling says.

“That’s the beauty of it, we can do runs that are absolutely unique and contributed to by the millennial customer, or any customer really.

“We’re working with other festivals around Australia because the best thing about the brand, it’s all about collaboration, so we can carry out the messages.”

Along with making it in the festival market, Sparkke has big ambitions for its home base.

“The next phase is obviously we want to scale, we’ve got big ambitions, hopefully for a brewery in Adelaide,” Darling says.  

“There’s big ambitions for Sparkke to own the festival space, to be a very unique place in the Australian landscape for those who care about causes and actually want to give back and commit to doing things that are sustainable and are built around social enterprise.”

Ellie Cooper  |  Journalist  |  @ProBonoNews

Ellie Cooper is a journalist covering the social sector.

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