Q&A: The Duchess’ Johannes le Roux and Inus Smuts
We chatted to the founders of The Duchess about their brand story
WHAT STARTED THE JOURNEY?
Johannes le Roux: I came up with the idea on a trip to Amsterdam when I realised that there was a huge demand for non-alcoholic drinks that taste and look like adult beverages. In addition to the gin craze, I noticed that people are more health-conscious, which made me ask myself if I could create a beverage that speaks to both these challenges and opportunities.
Inus Smuts: Johannes called me to collaborate with him and his aunt, who is a part-time botanist, and together we developed The Duchess. We wanted to mimic the classic taste of a craft gin and tonic, and from there we created different variations.
WHAT CHALLENGES HAVE YOU FACED ALONG THE WAY?
Inus: In the beginning, our biggest challenge wasn’t finding sober-curious consumers, but rather the fact that people didn’t quite understand the concept. We often got the question, “What is the point?” This required quite a bit of consumer education. Our challenge now is to convey this message to ourinternational audiences while keeping our core brand values intact.
DO YOU THINK THERE HAS BEEN A PERMANENT SHIFT IN THE WAY PEOPLE CONSUME ALCOHOL, AND IF SO, WHY?
Inus: Most certainly. The digital age gives us a wealth of information in terms of health, and the benefits of limiting your alcohol intake are undeniable. This doesn’t mean people have stopped drinking altogether. They simply choose to drink less, but drink better. I think the social stigma of not drinking has been one of the biggest challenges for people. Fortunately, new options like The Duchess offer an elegant solution.
WHAT IS NEXT FOR YOUR BRAND?
Inus: I think the next few years are going to be incredibly exciting for The Duchess. The non-alcoholic sector is growing at a rapid pace and we have just partnered up with the global innovations arm of AB Inbev, ZX Ventures, which will allow us to scale our drinks on an international level. We also have some very exciting new products in the pipeline and we will continue to offer mindful individuals innovative and exciting non-alcoholic drinks that fit their lifestyle.