Bodega Bay

with Charlie Markland, Founder

In this chapter of Start-Up Stories we got a unique insight into the drinks industry from someone who’s been working in it for well over a decade: Charlie Markland. He’s the founder of Bodega Bay, a new drinks brand with a twist… 

What’s Bodega Bay all about? 

Bodega Bay is a Hard Seltzer (a refreshing alcoholic drink trend, hot footing it over from the States). 

It is a blend of Crafted Clear™ alcohol, sparkling water and fruit extracts for a burst of flavour. With no added sugar, sweeteners, or nasties. Naturally low in calories & sugar. Gluten free & vegan. Just 72 calories a can and 4% alcohol. 

You’ve had lots of drinks experience, where did you work? How long for? 

I’ve done a couple of years each here and there at Diageo, Budweiser and Asahi/Peroni but it was being the 4th person into Kopparberg that gave me the best ride and insights over the 7.5 years I was there. 

How did this help you when starting your own business? 

“My time at Kopparberg really gave me the faith that you can change the way people think about what they drink.” 

In early 2007 I must have sounded like I had a head injury trying to persuade people to drink a Swedish Pear Cider, when everyone else was talking about UK orchards and apples…but once they tasted it, they were sold. I believe the same is true for our Hard Seltzer, taste it to understand it and drink different. 

How has the drinks market evolved since you first started working in it? Can we expect more low-calorie alcoholic alternatives in the coming years? 

Well at 4% alcohol I tend to classify Bodega Bay as having a ‘modest’ amount of alcohol…the true low alcohol brands (Buyers will tell you 3.5% ABV. or less) are definitely here to stay too as ’modesty’ is the right word for it. Younger Millennials and Gen Z’ers are more aware of what goes into their bodies than any generation before them, function now outweighs hedonism, but they still enjoy the same low tempo ‘catch up with friends’ occasions as any other generation has. This is why we like to call them ‘Healthy Hedonists’ 

What does a typical work day look like for you? 

“The beauty and the curse is that it is never the same.” 

At this exact moment it’s just me and a couple of part-time people (my heroes) in the business, so I can go from trekking around London speaking to perspective investors, or buyers, in that order… Or spend the day buried in new product line forms, working on content for social media, fighting to get sense out of HMRC, subscribing to every IT software imaginable to help ‘simplify’ our business, while always trying to understand food labelling guidelines and lugging ice buckets to sampling events! 

Describe Bodega Bay in 3 words 

Delicious, Refreshing and Guilt-Free (sorry, cheated on that last one) 

If you could have one celebrity advocate for the brand who would it be? Why? 

This is a tough one as the appeal of Bodega Bay, and the people we want to serve are neither predominantly male or female and I‘d hate to pin the brand to one over the other. However, so as not to be a complete spoil sport I would perhaps say Joe Wicks. He embodies an active lifestyle without complete abstinence from alcohol. He is charismatic, refreshing and balanced…like a Bodega Bay 😉 

Where can people find your delicious drinks? 

We are in Harrods, live on Amazon and through our website, with a listing in Harvey Nichols due to go live any moment. If you are out and about in London pop into any of the Pergola on the Roof group’s sites and you’ll find us there. 

What’s next for Bodega Bay? 

We are in final talks with a couple of major grocers who see the potential in offering a naturally low cal, low sugar option with no added sweeteners or colours. 

“A partnership like that would allow us to sample with the nation and raise awareness of this exciting new offering.” 

After that, a crowdfund in the new year to invite people on the journey as fellow Bodega Bay Pioneers, then we want to make Summer 2020 the Summer the UK met Bodega Bay Hard Seltzer. 

Check out their website here and be sure to grab yourself a few cans here.